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Guys World: Lets Hear It For The Stand-Up Comics

To get on stage and attempt to entertain an audience, alone with nothing but a microphone, seems pretty ballsy to me.

Stand-up comedy must be the toughest form of performance. The comic can’t hide behind his instrument or loud volume like a rock musician; or hide behind the protective shields of “art-happening” or “avant-garde” like a performance artist can. There’s no faking being funny – if you suck, you’re gonna bomb.

When I saw Very Serious Comedy 3 advertised I just had to go. I had to go because the opening act, with her very first performance, was Rachel Callinan, a seemingly shy and unassuming girl who I used to work with at the Brass Monkey Café. It seemed to me like masochism for Rachel to do stand-up. She’d never said anything when we worked together to make me think she was a performer, and I’d never really picked her as a joker.

But performance is a funny thing. People will show you things on stage you’ll never see in their everyday life, and the sink or swim nature of being on-stage can inspire people to reach beyond themselves.

And damned if Rachel didn’t prove me right. With the exception of closing act Michael Shadbolt, who was a real pro, Rachel did the funniest stand-up of the night. Her comedy was fresh and honest, and embarrassingly close to home.

Like a lot of female comics, Rachel mined the rich territory of gender for much of her humour. Rachel conjured an idyllic image of the female urinal – a pleasant little room with comfy couches with holes, where chicks can pee together in tranquility, where everything smells of roses, because they’re girls. Then a fat lesbian from the Porirua Women’s League barges in, with all the grace of a rhino, smashing Rachel’s diaphanous little daydream. Rachel had the crowd in stitches with the punchline: a rustling pierces the silence of the ladies urinal. It’s the fat lesbian – rolling her own tampon.

Rachel said she often gets mistaken for a lesbian because she has short hair and wears trousers and flat soled shoes. That made me wonder If she’d heard of the Just Gay Enough (JGE) man. Yes Rachel, it’s just as confusing being a man, when women tell us we have to be just a little bit gay for them to want to jump our bones.

That said, if Todd Blackadder is a New Zealand sex symbol, the JGE probably wont be catching on outside Posonby or Aro Valley any time soon. If women are honest with themselves, they are always going to like a bit of rough; and if men are honest with themselves, they will always like long haired nymphets. No matter how sophisticated we like to think we are, those old cliché’s are hardwired into us.

Michael Shadbolt, the closing act in Very Serious Comedy 3, is a very funny guy. He had a great line in impersonations, from a Vegas lounge singer, to Yoda the Jedi master refereeing the rugby … to Aaron Neville as the missing link.

Michael’s spot-on interpretation of Aaron Neville’s distinctive warble effortlessly segued into an out-of-control chimpanzee. This was really cracking me up, because a friend of mine, Myles, used to always leave exaggerated Aaron Neville messages on my answer-phone. Myles, an expert impressionist, also does a fantastic monkey, but he’d never made the Neville connection. Myles prefers to do Aaron Neville as a chicken. It works just as well.

Mrs Peacock did the comedy singing duo thing. I gather these guys must be posties in their other life, because they did a song about a disgruntled postie. In the song, the postie was introduced to civilisation and language, and lost his grunt. This joke was going around when I was a postie, but I didn’t mind hearing it again. Mrs Peacock’s songs were nice and light, and vaguely funny.

You have to admire a great improviser, whatever the field. Theatre sports team Raw had a couple of fantastic improvisers in their ranks, and they succeeded in turning an audience member’s boring day at the bank into hilarious mock Shakespearean theatre, milking the inherent pomposity of the form to maximum effect.

Very Serious Comedy 3 was the first local stand-up show I’ve ever been to, but I’m keen to come back for more. All the acts were funny at least some of the time, and the audience was great. They wanted to be entertained, quite a refreshing change from a cynical alternative rock crowd.

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