The 2016 NZ International Comedy Festival will be hitting our shores from 22nd April – 15th May, showcasing dozens of local and international comedians. In the weeks leading up to New Zealand’s biggest comedy event of the year, I will be talking to several acts about their upcoming shows.
The Fan Brigade is what the world needs right now. Livi and Amanda are the fantastic musical comedy duo who you may recognise from the 7 Days segment Slice of Seven, or their numerous performances around Auckland in the weeks leading up to their NZ International Comedy Festival show “Ask the Fan Brigade” from 9th – 14th May.
The Fan Brigade has been a successful double act since Livi and Amanda met on Twitter two years ago and entered the Raw Comedy Quest, an annual competition for the best amateur comedy act. Mistaking this competition as a search for the best new comedy act that had never performed a gig, ever, just two weeks after they had actually met in person and subsequently written their first song, Livi and Amanda were pleasantly surprised to find themselves advanced to the semi-finals amongst well-practised amateur comedians.
Their festival show is a combination of many things. One inspiration for ‘Ask the Fan Brigade’ was Livi and Amanda realising that so many women have experienced random men Direct Messaging them on Twitter for life and relationship guidance. They’ve taken those unwelcome calls for advice into consideration whilst writing the show;
Amanda: We decided to be an advice column…
Livi: …but make up our own questions.
Amanda: Because we don’t want to answer their questions.
The talented musical duo confirms that every song has a message and even though they have a few low-key ones (for example, trash-talking pandas that just won’t help themselves), many bring to light a lot of unjust and inappropriate human behaviours that not enough people are addressing. They know as well as anyone that comedy is a way to address these issues effectively;
Livi: We have a lot of heavy topics. We talk about rape, domestic violence, men killing their wives or girls that reject them – because it happens. It happens in real life. People don’t talk about it enough but people are willing to sit down and listen to a ridiculous song [about it].
Amanda: If it’s funny you can talk about it.
Of course, when they first met they didn’t sit down and plan out how they would launch a two-person campaign to end sexism, rape, and violence through comedy songs but The Fan Brigade raises these issues so effectively and hilariously that it’s hard to believe they’ve only been doing this for two short years. A lot of thought goes into presenting them in a way that doesn’t alienate their audience and The Fan Brigade admits that this as a real challenge when writing their sets.
Amanda confirms they are adamant about keeping on-side with the audience,
“They come along to have a good time and feel happy… we want to make the experience fun for them.”
“We’re very careful never to victimise anyone,” Livi added.
Despite 100% of pandas not liking their material, The Fan Brigade’s awareness for the audience’s comfort has certainly paid off when singing about sticky issues. Amanda reveals that the reaction they’ve had from women has been 100% positive. They go on to mention that while most men love their sets and are incredibly supportive of the messages they promote, they’ve had a few men who have not reacted well to their sets.
Considering the fact that they are bringing light to real issues of unjust human behaviour in a non-discriminatory approach, it begs the question, who would be opposed to addressing rape, sexism, and violence and saying it’s not okay? The Fan Brigade tends to disregard feedback from people who don’t agree with raising awareness of them, which I agree is fair enough.
“Most men really enjoy it,” Livi mentions, “But the odd ones that don’t… there’s probably some self-recognition going on there”.
All in all, the response to The Fan Brigade’s sets from both genders is overwhelmingly positive. Their content is original, hilarious, and undeniably powerful.
Livi confesses that another challenge when writing is to balance Amanda’s sarcasm with her own self-professed absurdity and create jokes they both find funny. However, this ultimately is a great thing as the jokes that make the cut into their shows will reach out to many types of humour.
“We know that when we both find it funny that it’s going to appeal to a wide range of people.”
It may be a challenge, but they will continue doing it out of pure adoration for comedy itself and each other’s company. Livi and Amanda love what they do and they make a point to commend the New Zealand comedy industry for being so supportive. Amanda wonders if comedians abroad have the same experience,
“I wonder if the New Zealand comedy industry is completely different to other comedian industries? It’s so tight and supportive and everyone’s so bloody nice to each other. We thought we’d have to stick together because everyone would be out for themselves but it’s just not like that at all – Not how we see it, anyway.”
“Meeting your idols and having them be so kind in real life has been a really cool thing for me,” Livi agrees.
I assure them that has been my experience too, one I am very grateful for and has encouraged me to keep performing. Amanda mentions that the kindness of the comedy community is probably the reason that it is still growing as a significant national industry,
“The better you do in comedy, the better comedy gets overall. Everyone wants everyone else to do a good job.”
The Fan Brigade’s show in May will be an excellent one, and the first performance on Monday 9th May is a fundraiser for Auckland Women’s Refuge. It will have a longer run time of 90 minutes, offer goodie bags, and will be hosted by the wildly funny Justine Smith. Get in quick though, half the tickets for this special show have already been snapped up. If you don’t manage to catch them for this fundraiser event, they will be performing “Ask the Fan Brigade” until 14th May.
Livi: It’s probably going to be the greatest show that ever existed.
Amanda: What do you mean ‘probably’?
Livi: It will be the greatest show of all time.
Amanda: Come along, we won’t make you feel like shit. Or maybe we will, we don’t know. It’s not finished yet.
I love their honesty, because I’m right there with Livi. It will probably be the greatest show of all time.