Tony Lyall is a comedian that I have a lot of time for. The two-time NZ Raw Quest semi-finalist is a tornado of energy onstage, and his crowd work is a thing of legend, so I entered his first solo NZ International Comedy Festival show on a crisp Thursday night in good spirits, keenly anticipating a good night out.
Tony’s hour of comedy did not disappoint.
I entered the room beer in hand, the venue was the Cellar, the same venue I had found myself in a week before but this time without the mugginess. The stage was set up with a large blackboard at the center with the words ‘Happy hour’ emblazoned upon in. It was a nice personal touch that while not 100% necessary, did set the mood and give me something to stare at while I waited for the show to begin.
As it turned out the blackboard was more than simply an aesthetic choice, as was revealed as Lyall introduced himself and the concept of the show. Lyall asked audience members to shout out the things that made them happy noting them on the blackboard, setting himself the challenge of weaving them into his stand-up throughout the night. This clever piece of audience interaction let the audience feel a part of the show straight away and created a palpable sense of anticipation – anything could happen tonight (and much of it did!).
The show largely concerned itself with an examination into Lyall’s life as a 30-something married man with a child, with an eye on the property market and interesting opinions on a range of subjects (sleep, tardiness, horses, and a good meat pie to name a few). He also dipped into his past, playing out the moments and experiences throughout his life that shaped him as the person he is today. This was primarily conveying this through anecdote and digression and we’re intricately weaved into the central theme of the night – what it means to be happy.
Lyall’s performance was full of energy, with impeccable timing, as he was able to change gears with seamless precision, from banter with the crowd to a passionate tirade against McDonald’s and their sauce policy. I was blown away by the ease at which Lyall was able to interact with the audience – he was quick, attentive, and earnest in his engagement with them – using the contributions from the audience to great effect.
Happy Hour was a unique and entertaining hour of comedy, aided by Lyall’s spirited, self-depreciating style and inventive concept. This is a show that I would recommend for those who like to feel involved in their stand-up (while resisting the urge to heckle like a dick of course – because Tony will destroy you). It’s hard not to be swept up in Tony Lyall’s infectious energy and he handled his first festival show with great aplomb. I highly recommend it.
What: Happy Hour
Who: Tony Lyall
When: 2 May – 6 May
Where: The Cellar at Q Theatre