First things first – Finding a parking space in Auckland’s CBD when the film festival is on and some major event has crowds swarming Aotea Square isn’t something I’d recommend. Especially when you’re running out of time for a comedy gig you’re meant to be reviewing and you know there’ll be a door lock-out when time is up. What began as a nice evening of comedy in the company of a good friend ended with said friend dropping me at the front of Q Theatre to get the tickets, while he continued the hunt for a park. A little while later he texts me. The nearest parking space was in Ponsonby. I was flying solo for this show.
So in I went, on my own, by this point cold, grumpy, tired and keen for bed soon. As resident ginger Nic Sampson took the stage to address a sold-out 400 capacity audience I was simply thinking, “this better be good.”
And it was.
Established about two years ago, Snort is a regular improv group that adopted a format from New York that does a great job of getting rid of the slow, awkward moments of improv that seem to often get stuck and spend a lot of time going nowhere. The premise is simple – a word is thrown out by an audience member. Someone from the group provides a monologue based on that word. The group then act out quick, multiple scenes based loosely on what was said. The audience is taken on a ride of fast-paced tangents, where nothing quite makes sense but laughs come regularly. The kind of ride where the word toothpaste somehow begins with Chris Parker (fueled, he tells us, by five coffees earlier) manically describes his fear of the school dental nurse and ends with scenes playing out where an undercover cop planted as a five year old in a kindergarten where the truly bad-ass kids have illegal teeth-brushing parties.
Thanks to the sponsors of the night, All Good Gingerella, the group’s resident ginger Nic Sampson hosted the night and handled the job brilliantly (except maybe for the slightly awkward attempt to get the crowd joining in a mass “Fuck Bunderburg” chant). The show lasted a little over an hour and standout performances have to go to Sampson, who a few times managed to jump into failing scene and bring it back to ridiculous and amusing, Guy Montgomery for a great take on the word popcorn that took the audience on an aural trip from the movie theatre to the suggestion that Nesian Mystik reform to create “vegetable music” and Chris Parker for a brilliant toothpaste monologue and an infectious energy throughout the performance
Guest monologuer Jesse Griffin was also a highlight – tackling the word “colposcopy” like a pro. “I went to school with a boy named Colposcopy.” He was Polish, Griffen tells the crowd. And sang songs about beetroot and ate borscht.
Basically, the Snort crew have managed to take what tends to often not work with improv – the death of scenes that spend too long going nowhere – and speed it up, moving quickly from scene to scene – simply killing a scene when it’s time to move on, rather than struggling through finding a natural conclusion. There’s plenty going on and no way to tell where one scene will move from the next. Each set of scenes tends to come to some kind of natural conclusion after about 15 minutes – extra points for the ones that managed to find recurring themes and lines to somehow bring the end back to the original monologue.
What was impressive was the way the group worked seamlessly together – perhaps a result of having been working together with this format since 2013. They had chemistry and read of each other incredibly well – two vital things when it comes to good comedy.
Comedy isn’t easy at the best of times. Good comedy, in a group, with no previous idea of what you’ll be doing, is understandably many times more difficult. It’s a testament to the member of Snort that they can take such a format and provide an hour of entertainment with very few failed moments. Well worth checking their regular spot at Basement Theatre if you get a chance.
Amberleigh Jack is TDBs reviewer