REVIEW: Wilson Dixon’s Back Catalogue (NZ International Comedy Festival)

Review by Matt Baker

Wilson Dixon

[Catch-up on your Dixon]

Performing a selection of songs from his various pun-titled albums, Wilson Dixon’s Back Catalogue is an excellent opportunity for those unfamiliar with New Zealand’s favourite American country and western comedy singer to catch up on over a decade of anecdotes. The Cripple Creek comedian is the stereotypical modern day redneck, with an astute eye on small town ways.

As a back catalogue, the show revisits some of Dixon’s best stories and songs (with the exception of Life), but as a fan of Dixon I was left wanting more. This is, however, a personal want and not the intention of the show. Performing at Montecristo, an excellent addition to the New Zealand International Comedy Festival spear-headed last year by New Zealand comedian Jesse Griffin, the venue provides the atmosphere of an unspoiled comedic oasis, requiring that little bit more effort to get to in search of comedic gold. With this, Dixon will hopefully find a new audience with whom he can introduce his work.

Relying predominantly on wordplay and absurdity, Dixon maintains a simplicity to his syntax, yet still requires an attentive intellectual engagement from his audience, and it pays off in spades. What makes Dixon so appealing to audiences of all ages is not only his naturally affable demeanour, but also his observations on American ways of life and reflections on how they are perceived. Again, as a back catalogue, you can’t expect anything new, but it feels like a lost opportunity to not hit out at the American presidential primaries, especially for a comedian with such witty deconstructions.

There’s a certain sentimental cadence in Dixon’s American drawl, which, in addition to the quintessential themes of love and loss in country and western music, provides an unexpected, albeit minimal, pathos to an otherwise light-hearted comedy show. However, for all their comedic value, the songs often lack a narrative ending, which, if employed, could potentially elevate Dixon’s work to something more lasting in the hearts as well as the minds of his audience.

With such a variety of shows to choose from in the comedy festival, Wilson Dixon’s Back Catalogue is a tried and true show for audiences both old and new.

Wilson Dixon performs at Montecristo on May 5 & 6 as part of the NZ International Comedy Festival 2016. For details see Comedy Festival.

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