Chris Parker has been acting and performing for a number of years now, but 2018 seemed to be his year. Regular TV appearances and a role in a big-budget musical would be highlights for anyone, but Parker was truly launched into the mainstream after winning the Fred Award for Best Show at last year's Comedy Festival.
Camp Binch was a comedic and often emotive monologue exploring his time growing up gay in Christchurch. I reviewed that a year ago and definitely enjoyed it, but was a little surprised when it claimed the top prize. It was unquestionably a witty and powerful show, but one that felt trapped by a one-hour time frame and the festival setting that held it back from fully exploring the themes Parker wanted.
Yet, shortly into Parker's 2019 return, Iconique, there was no doubt in my mind that I was witnessing something truly glorious. Parker has taken the camp elements from Binch and dialled them up to 11; beginning with a fluid and frisky song that featured every suffix of -onic possible, Parker launched into what may be his best performance yet.
Best known for acting, writing and improv, Parker can now add stand-up comic to his increasingly lengthy resume. The visual gags and quirkier concepts were still there, but were put literally to the side as Parker let his sharp, sassy humour and bountiful charisma own the stage.
Based around the idea of gay icons and trying to be a legend himself, Parker touched on modern gay culture, the perils of the internet and competing against straight men. Iconique is clearly built on the shoulders of Camp Binch, a smooth transition from being in the closet to living your best self. With jokes about Tony winners and being "the gay uncle," this was broad queer comedy and Parker is clearly flourishing with a more positive set.
His acting experience means that some of the anecdotes earn an extra flourish, namely the concluding story around his grandmother's funeral, that storyteller's skill that fully visualises the world. Even moments that seemed ridiculous or unnecessary at first – namely, a recurring gag featuring a sassy Alexa – built towards a massive payoff.
The show may have flowed better if the "icon" theme had been better tapped in to, that element not really reaching any sort of conclusion. Thankfully, the stories, the jokes, the shade, the songs, all work wonders on their own.
Speaking with an industry figure once, they raised whether Parker's theatre leanings could work at a comedy club. Iconique feels like a loud, proud middle finger to all those doubters, a near-flawless show that marks Parker out as a bold, defiant and very much welcome voice to the stand-up scene.
Who: Chris Paker, Iconique
Where: Q Theatre until May 11