REVIEW: Yeah Nah Pavlova (NZ International Comedy Festival)

Review by Anjula Prakash

Photography by Amanda Billing

We’re almost at the end of the International Comedy Festival which has been packed with a number of outstanding shows, and Yeah Nah Pavlova is no exception. Loud Jess (Jess Loudon) and Sandra Pace make an incredibly likable duo from the get-go, starting the show with warm, gregarious, and larger-than-life energy. I grew up in Otaki, an hour’s north of Wellington, and it quickly became reminiscent of that small town hospitality I dearly miss. 

The show is framed within the age-old question of whether pavlova was invented in New Zealand or Australia. Being Australian, Jess, of course, represents her country in a loud and unapologetic fashion, successfully charming and insulting the kiwi audience at the same time. Sandra, who immigrated here from the UK, counter-balances Jess with a calming, quick-witted, and sharp-tongued quality. The two play off each other well, and their exchanges give the show some of its brightest moments.

The set is simple. Two microphones adjusted at comically different heights, and a table laid out with cue cards. Crowd work isn’t a large component of the show, but the cue cards are used to prompt the audience to join in with colloquial expressions. This includes yelling “good c**t” at the top of your voice – a satisfying experience. Once we’re acquainted with the setup, the comedians take us through their journeys of moving to New Zealand, and the similarities and differences in culture, which is something every immigrant can relate to. It was particularly hilarious to hear comparisons of the dating scene and prevalence of STDs from country to country.

The show is dotted with dark humour. The subject of politics is candidly explored, and they look back on the era of Covid lockdowns, amongst other things while talking about their lives here. Their mention of Clark Gayford made me wish I’d brought my mum along (are all elderly mothers really into Clark Gayford?). More serious topics weren’t off the table, though I can’t give too much away. The topics paint a colourful picture of what it’s like to move to NZ from the UK or Australia, and particularly in the second half, builds momentum towards understanding better who our comics are as people. 

I was surprised to learn this is Jess and Sandra’s first ever comedy show. Jess is an accomplished actress appearing in The Brokenwood Mysteries, Blind Bitter Happiness, and Shortland Street, and is also a theatre actress. A story about auditioning for the Pop-up Globe makes it into the stand-up mix too. Sandra and Jess met on the set of Brokenwood and then five months later met in the green room of The Classic, both doing their first standup gigs. They went on to be semi-finalists in the Raw Comedy Quest 2023. 

I would love to see more iterations of this show. The show has wide appeal and would do well on tour in New Zealand. The magical ingredient of chemistry and quips between the comics is there, and I even got future Kath and Kim vibes (Gina Riley and Jane Turner). There is a lot of potential for these on-stage characters to develop. As for whether pavlova was invented in New Zealand or Australia, I can’t give away the ending, but we do get an answer as promised.

Yeah Nah Pavlova was presented as part of the New Zealand International Comedy Festival 2024 16th – 17th of May

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