Kiwi audiences know and love Paul Sinha as The Chase's quiz superstar "The Sinnerman", but he's also a long-time comedian who made his New Zealand debut on Saturday night.

So does the quiz master have what it takes to get a Kiwi audience belly-laughing? Stewart Sowman-Lund went to Sinha's first NZ Comedy Festival gig to find out.

"Who are we seeing tonight exactly?"

"You know, it's that guy from The Chase."

I heard several iterations of this conversation while queuing outside The Classic to see Paul Sinha.

'The Sinnerman', as he's better known from the popular British quizzing show, is in New Zealand for the first time. But it's even more than just his first time in New Zealand; he says it's his first solo international show ever.

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While he might be most well-known for his intellect, Paul Sinha's had an incredibly diverse life.

Born to conservative parents, Sinha followed in the family line and became a GP. He gave that up to pursue comedy – much to the disappointment of his parents - and later became a competitive quizzer.


Despite having such a wide range of general knowledge, it's Sinha's own life that he draws on for much of his show. And I'm glad – it's apparent early on that his life has been about a lot more than just being smart.

Throughout the course of an hour, Sinha regales us with stories of his family, past relationships and the mishaps that come from being a minor celebrity. It's all accompanied by intelligent wit and some very cleverly crafted punchlines. He doesn't need to tell us he's smart as it's evident from his storytelling.

His delivery is somewhat rehearsed and uptight – there's little room for audience interaction and he doesn't seem totally relaxed onstage.

While that could make the room feel disconnected if Sinha was simply standing at the front telling jokes, by letting us all in on his personal life he manages to pull the audience into his performance.

He's not much of a 'joke teller' – though he does tell some. It's a show about his life, with a beginning, middle and end. And while he doesn't tell many jokes, that's not to say the show isn't funny. It really is.

But more importantly, I feel like I know the Sinnerman a lot better after an hour in his company than from watching him for hours on the TV. For that, I'm grateful.

4 stars