‘Valium &’ was pleasantly distracting.
With the COVID-19 ban on gatherings of over 100 people, and the impending demise of live performance as audiences know it, it was a pleasant distraction to attend ‘Valium &’ at Paddington’s Sit Down Comedy Fringe.
Entering the upstairs space, in a function room behind the main bar, there was a small collection of brave souls who had broken their self-imposed social isolation to support local comedy. Of course, a glass of beer and some wings from the bar were requisite items for such an event! The make-shift stage, with a single mic and about eight lights on the rig made the space feel comfortable and accessible in true “fringe” style. The surroundings were set for a night of comedy with a friendly audience of well- wishers. What followed was a pleasantly distracting evening of light stand up, with some worn-in material that kept guests smiling.
First up was Steven M, who filled in for the advertised Mark Boulton. Steven showcased a laid back style full of confidence and tenacity. With the unenviable task of warming up the audience, he kept it light and cool, visiting some familiar territory (break ups, speed dating, paying out your mates) and finding chances to interact with the audience. His best bit was an explanation about why it was confusing as a child when his neighbour used to shoo the crows, which provided a delightful surprise that helped us get to know his identity and background. Sadly, that specificity was short lived, and he quickly returned to general familiarity.
Next up was “Denzo” – aka Dennis Moore. Though a self-proclaimed senior citizen, Moore had the sparkle and charm of a teenager, and seemed like a man younger than his age. Not afraid of physical comedy, as well as nostalgic references, which were explained to the millennials in the audience through more contemporary references, his humour was well paced and fun.Mostly focusing on the travails of looking for love as a mature man, he had some great playful interaction with the audience, that had us all sinking into our chairs with delight or embarrassment. A revisit or material based around his ‘Back to the Future’ look would have been welcomed by this reviewer.
With strong physical and comic presence, Luke Lewis was next to take the stage. Not that it was a competition, but Luke was easily the winner of the evening, with laughs coming in quick succession, and familiar territory (weight loss, dating, online courtship) given his individual spin. Taking us on a fun circular ride regarding his desire to get gym fit and reminding us that it’s still close enough to the start of the year to have not broken all of our New Year’s resolutions, he never lost his cheeky grin or the twinkle in his eye. When Lewis revealed that he was compared to an out of shape Jason Mamoa, he truly had the audience on his side. However, the last bit of his set seemed to miss the mark with the audience with his observations about sending nudes to prospective romantic interests. But a fringe setting is a safe place to try and test that questionable material, and see how it lands.
Finishing off this all male, all the time evening was Liam Daley (the Valium of the title). His best jokes centred on him being from Logan. Playing up to those stereotypes, Daley gave a local insight that landed with a local audience. His onstage character was vocally adept and comfortable, and he knew how to spend time with material to fossick its full worth. Daley’s take on Hunters and Collectors and the New Zealand version of Beethoven’s ‘Fifth’ were highlights, and the audience was more than willing to sing along. However, when he moved from topic to topic without thoroughly investigating familiar subjects like dating apps, the set seemed to get a bit long. Sometimes it’s better to leave the audience wanting more.
The four comedians seemed to enjoy each other’s company, and overall, though much of the material was familiar, it was a distracting night of comedy. In the future, perhaps more attention can be paid to repeated subjects amongst the comedians – speed dating and online dating were covered in nearly every set.
‘Valium &’ was a show that works best for a more mature audience (ages 30 and over), and was very much a ‘boy’s night’, which limits the audience appeal somewhat. But in the uncertain times the community is about to enter, with a global pandemic on the horizon, it was a pleasure to get out amongst like-minded audience members who were looking for a familiar distraction from the chaos around them. The Sit Down Comedy Fringe seemed to provide a space for comedians to learn their craft and explore their material.
‘Valium &’ played on Saturday, 14 March at The Sit Down Comedy Fringe. To follow ‘Valium &’ and learn about future gigs, visit their Facebook Page.