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Ben Hurley: Comedy Festival review

Comedian Ben Hurley

Ben Hurley Actually, I Do Mind Transmission Room Auckland  

Well, there can be nothing better than knowing the first night of your comedy show has sold out and the waiting crowd are there to see you and lap up your act.

So it was for Ben Hurley's first show as the New Zealand International Comedy Festival kicks into gear - don't forget you can read more about the festival, the acts and watch free comedy clips here.

A lot's changed since I saw Ben Hurley's show Boom last year mainly with Ben to be honest - he's now married for one does this suggest a level of maturity?

Whereas Boom was all about the routine, Actually, I Do Mind is Ben breaking the mould a bit after 8 comedy festivals and doing something a bit more personal, which in his own words, "scares the sh*t out of me."

After a powerpoint presentation opened proceedings at the Transmission Room by asking us how we were, exaulting us to make some noise, Ben made a triumphant return to the stage, complete with arms wide open and a big grin.

And then he got hit by technology issues after the remote wouldn't turn off Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit.

But Ben's so affable and likeable that while internally he may have been somewhat annoyed, externally he turned it into part of his act and when it was finally turned off, he casually remarked, "Smooth as f***ing silk".

That's the thing with Ben Hurley - he's fast becoming a Kiwi icon and it feels like you're watching your mate on stage as the boy from the Naki does his stuff. He clearly had the support of the audience (aside from one Aussie heckler who was dealt to early on) and his years of doing shows both here and in the UK have paid off in spades with a degree of confidence that's matched by his material.

After beginning with some initial audience interaction and putting us all at our ease, Hurley pretty quickly explained his modus operandi for this year's show and explained how we were all about to step into a time machine and head back to the 1990s (again thanks to the multimedia slide show).

It was from then on that we took a trip back in time and saw key international events mentioned in the same breath as local events in both New Zealand history and Ben's own personal history.

I don't want to go too far in depth as this would spoil the choices Ben's made (both personally and internationally) as they're very amusing (although a gag using the lyrics of the Fresh Prince was perhaps one of the only ones to fall flat) but suffice it to say that Ben's comedy path this year is one of personal humiliation.

Previously, his act has consisted of the observational type comedy but this year, this shift towards a more personal slant works terrifically in his favour.

He explores Hurley home life in the 90s, his adolescence in the Naki, his relationships and jobs - and he has a great line about how slow the internet was in Taranaki ("It was so slow it was like the internet had been brought in in a milk tanker") and it's these depths of personal revelation - coupled with the extent of the humiliation he endures at times -which make Actually I Do Mind such a triumph.

There are so many memorable bits to this show - and then there's Jordan Luck and Karl Burnett formerly from Shortland Street.

As part of Ben's time travel trip he interviews two of our NZ icons about their past life in the 90s and believe you me, when it comes to Jordan Luck, you really have to see it to believe it..

Granted for a first show, Ben still has a few technology issues to deal with and as he mentioned, he felt some bits went better than others, but Actually I Do Mind is probably the first essential show of the festival and a reminder of why Ben Hurley is an unmissable part of the comedy landscape.

Actually I Do Mind runs at Aucklands Transmission Room from Tuesday 5 - Saturday 9 May at 8.30pm