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James Nokise: Comedy Festival review

James Nokise : The Adventures of Jimi Samoa

Following on from the success of last year's Beige Against the Machine, James Nokise made a somewhat nervous return to Auckland for the 2009 NZ International Comedy Festival.

He seemd a bit out of sorts to start off with but that was probably due to the fact he got to the venue for his show about the consequences of refusing to grow up and found that the backing CD he needed for the show was elsewhere.

However, after what he described as a budget opening (where he introduced himself) he bounded onto the stage at the Comedy Underground and immediately endeared himself to the crowd by having a bit of a chat with them.

From them on, it was a nostalgic trip into his past and growing up as a slightly different teen in Lower Hutt.

Sure the gang life gets a smackdown - but in a way which highlights Nokise's unease at his place in the world around him - growing up he'd prefer to read while out with the gangs rather than listening to the gangster rap - which fortunately saw him kicked out very early on.

The other major theme of this endearingly heartfelt show is the emergence of James' other persona, the Jimi Samoa of the show's title.

This character allows Nokise to say the kind of outrageous things when out with mates and get away with it - because the lads he's with lap it up. Jimi would allow him to mock the Pacific Island community and such luminaries as Savage (You sound like the cookie monster) and get away with it.

But it's at this point that Nokise really opens up to the audience - and reveals that this persona came at a bit of a personal cost to him.

Through a very poignant latter part of the set, Nokise tells of relocating to the UK, girlfriends loved and lost and of a near breakdown that nearly saw him in real trouble.

It's at this point that I felt he really reached his peak - by opening up more than I've ever seen another comedian do with their audience - and while the sympathy was there in the room in floods, it was never solicited but was deeply merited.

Current politics and pop culture get a serve from him too - with mentions of Diplomatic Immunity, Frank Bainimarama and Fiji and of course, the Tony Veitch saga - Nokise's long been outspoken on the issue of domestic violence during his stand up - so there was no way this wasn't going to warrant a mention at some point.

Sure, there were a couple of technical issues which nearly tripped him up early on - but it's the mark of this comedian how he rolled with the punches and incorporated it with ease.

There's plenty of self deprecation on offer here and plenty of wry observations and emotion - but I guarantee you won't see a more heartfelt show at this year's festival.

James Nokise: The Adventures of Jimi Samoa plays at Auckland's Comedy Underground to Sat 9th May, and in Wellington at HAPPY from the 12th of May to the 16th