By Thomas Airey
Beloved Kiwi comedian Ben Hurley is coming to town for Toitoi's Laugh Your Mask Off festival at the end of July. Hurley is MC for the festival gala in the Opera House on Thursday, July 28. He will be headlining a show on Friday, July 29 at the Assembly Ballroom. He spoke to Hawke's Bay Today about a long-awaited return to Hastings.
Ben Hurley would never go as far as calling his standup comedy therapeutic, but he is happy to be back on stage making audiences laugh.
"Last year was incredibly disrupted and it's so nice to get back to normal now," he said.
With Covid-19 forcing the cancellation or postponement of countless events in 2021, Hurley is back into regular touring this year, including the 7 Days Live Tour's stop in Napier last month.
He said he is happy to be an entertainment option for people once again.
"Humans are social animals and we love to see other humans' faces. Being stuck in your own house, as necessary as that was, it was not natural. You really do miss those environments of socialising and being around other humans," Hurley said.
"I do genuinely notice a vibe, an atmosphere that people are wanting to go out and stretch their legs a little bit."
Without wanting to suck up, Hurley said Hawke's Bay audiences are genuinely some of the best in the country.
"Always a fantastic time coming to the Bay," he said, adding it has been the best part of a decade since he performed in Hastings and he is looking forward to being back at the Opera House.
"I would like to be reminded of how great that theatre is, how unique that city is," Hurley said.
As MC for the Laugh Your Mask Off festival's opening night gala at the venue, Hurley said he will be doing more of a workmanlike job facilitating all the other acts.
"You've gotta set the night up, make sure the crowd's warm so it's the best possible environment for the comedians to come on and strut their stuff," he said.
Hurley said he knows our local comics are very talented from regular performances with them at the Cabana in Napier.
"It's a bit of a thing nationwide now that in most large regional centres there's little comedy scenes cropping up and they're relatively sustainable," he said, adding it was really encouraging and cool to see.
"It used to just be Auckland and Wellington and a little bit of Christchurch."
The Laugh Your Mask Off festival includes 19 shows at four venues in the Hastings CBD from July 28-31.
Tickets for every event are $25.