New Zealand Herald critic Ethan Sills dived into his second week of reviewing the NZ International Comedy Festival. Check out his highlights below.

"Matthewson is a talented and clever stand-up, and excels when working with an hour of sharply honed material. He has taken an easily marketable idea and twisted it perfectly, seen best when contrasting mythology and Christianity. I wish that element had been the sole focus, as personal stories always make a show more unique but many of them here, such as growing up gay and Christian, are glossed over due to the various other topics that get touched on.

Yet, even though the other jokes do diverge drastically from the theme, the majority still work wonders. A detailed aside involving British reality TV and The Chase are ultimately side notes to the overall storyline, but Matthewson's perfect delivery and wicked imagination ensures they still feel necessary. A wonderfully meta ending also subtly brings the show together in a tight package, an unexpected twist that lets all of Matthewson's best qualities as a stand-up and performer shine."


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Space Couch

Disasteradio and Tim Batt host Space Couch. Photo / Supplied
Disasteradio and Tim Batt host Space Couch. Photo / Supplied

"[Tim] Batt proved a confident and engaging host, aided by Rowell as the perfect sidekick. The two could easily sell a chat show on their own, but every time the more sketch-y, pre-recorded bits reared their head, the show felt like an entirely different beast. Real comic opportunities were shrouded away beneath random elements like a game that saw them wear shock collars and try to guess what story went behind a clickbait headline.

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Space Couch feels like a work-in-progress, and would undoubtedly be a fine chat show given the opportunity outside the Comedy Festival. It has all the makings of a great weekly feature at The Basement freed from the more surreal elements, and I'd love to see what Batt, Rowell and their comrade couch can do if they let the talk show speak for itself.

Ross Noble

Ross Noble's live show is practically made up on the spot. Photo / Getty Images.
Ross Noble's live show is practically made up on the spot. Photo / Getty Images.

"If you've never heard of Ross Noble before, you'd probably recognize him. He's been a staple on British comedy panel shows, like QI, for many years. But what makes his live show so incredibly unique is that it's practically made up on the spot. The two hours I saw last night will be almost entirely different to the shows tonight and tomorrow. In this day and age, when everyone's selling their comedy shows off to Netflix, Noble proves it's still better to see a performer live on stage, as opposed to watching a recording.

"Noble's a 'randomist', and has previously said that the planning for his show is a few words scribbled on a piece of paper. This means that most of the show is constructed from random tangents. Last night, his stream of consciousness delivery covered off topics including lime scooters, pre-natal classes, Star Wars, the band Queen and pretending to be a wizard. As I said… surreal.

"The audience plays a very important role in the creation of those tangents. Anything that draws his attention to you will most likely make you a character in the show. Last night, someone's distinct laugh led to several minutes of off-topic joking. Late-comers and early-leavers both became major parts of the show as well. And when I say you become a character in the show – that's no understatement. Noble must have the most incredible memory, as tangents overlap and are referenced throughout the night. Frankly, I was exhausted by the end of it all."

- by Stewart Sowman-Lund