Danielle Wright: Having a laugh with the kids

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Danielle Wright introduces three boys to stand-up and finds them as funny as the comedians.

I have a confession to make. If you tell me a joke, I will laugh at it - no matter how bad it is. This means I normally avoid stand-up comedy routines - I can't bear the neediness of the jokesters on stage, desperate for a laugh.

Today though, I have taken my son and his friends to see Stand-Up for Kids at Q Theatre.

Kids are a much tougher audience than I am - they don't give their laughs out for nothing.

As we take our seats at the back, comic magician Jarred Fell comes on stage, then off, then back on - to plenty of delighted squeals from the kids in the audience, who are soon ordered to the front of the room, away from their parents sitting in tidy rows behind them.

In a red and white striped T-shirt, braces hanging from his skinny jeans, and trainers, Fell looks like a bigger version of the kids in the audience.

The children lap up his every joke. He's very funny and has plenty of energy and enthusiasm.

Next up is Steve Wrigley, winner of the 2008 Billy T Award and resident funnyman on TV3's 7 Days. He attempts to blow up the audience with pretend fireworks and picks on a kid at the front, saying he's got a wild imagination and asks why he thinks it's raining toasters and fish.

"Why is it raining toasters?" asks one child, confused. "Why is it raining fish?" asks another, and then the questions inevitably turn more personal: "Why do you have a beard?"

Wrigley defends his bearded status by telling us: "It's a choice not to have a beard, to have a beard is not a choice, it's just laziness."

Appeased by this answer another shouts: "What the heck is happening on your chest?"

His T-shirt has a picture of Darth Vadar polishing his helmet. Wrigley takes the insults that follow and banters with the kids, especially a double-act at the front who start a dance competition that gets faster and faster until the comedian gives up with, "You win."

He tells the kids to spin around and then makes jokes about them putting ants in his pants.

He turns his back on the room and eggs the kids on, daring them to come up on stage - which they do.

I think he regrets it as soon as they jump on him.

He retreats behind the curtain where I see a couple of older kids giving him a good kicking.

Offstage, Wrigley declares his self-esteem is hurt and that's the last we see of him.

The kids loved his humour, but it set up a strange atmosphere when Fell came back out with a horn to try to gain back some control.

The kids didn't seem to know whether it was more fun and chaos Fell was after, or whether they did indeed need to calm down and take a seat. The look in Fell's eyes was mild panic, I thought.

I pitied the next fellow to come out, as kids had begun to take over the microphone. Enter Aussie Lindsay Webb, carrying a toaster, delivering fart jokes and and gruesome tales about eyes popping out.

Last up, Fell comes back to wrap things up and, annoyed with a little boy down the front, who admittedly does ask questions incessantly, says: "Shut up, kid," and ejects him from the room.

Taking the kids away from their parents and then directing them to cause mayhem is a recipe for disaster.

You can't encourage them to speak up and then get annoyed when they do - especially out of reach of parents to control them.

Some sort of referee figure could have been in the wings to control the wayward hecklers too young to know where the joke began and where it finished.

After an hour of planned hilarity, I find I still prefer my laughter to be more unexpected than forced. Even though I did find it genuinely quite funny, I still ended up feeling a bit sorry for the comedians up on stage - children can be a tough crowd, especially when they are enjoying the show as much as these kids are.

Further information: Stand-Up For Kids is on today and May 19 at 3pm, Loft @ Q Theatre, 305 Queen St. Adults at kids prices, $19.50. Call Q Theatre on (09) 309 9771 or visit qtheatre.co.nz for bookings.

- NZ Herald

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