James Mustapic at the beginning of his show at the Q Theatre Vault promises a sensible hour of stand up. No gimmicks. That is until a ghost inside his projector turns up to roast Mustapic and drag him through his repressed memories for an hour of hauntingly good comedy.
These repressed memories segments are in fact a common thread in his previous works – most notably his online videos for The Spinoff. As someone who has viewed a collection of these videos, I was initially worried that this live show would simply be a re-treading of previous work. Two segments I was aware of were his repressed memories of Sensing Murder and his continued video series Shorty Street Scandals. However, he found ways to bring in new flavour and commentary to these topics which was greatly appreciated.
As someone who has received a great deal of his audience recognition from the aforementioned videos, it is no wonder that he is able to natural work tech into his show so well. His cues were near flawless, something that was necessitated by the dialogue he was having with his pre-recorded ‘ghost’. The same technique was used with a matched level of success in Donna Brookbanks’ show Heroic and it just goes to show the care and practice two of this years’ Billy T nominees put into their respective shows.
Although the titular ‘Blair Witch’ ghost in the projector immediately added an inventive twist to the standard stand-up routine, really it was used as a way to segue, allowing for Mustapic to leap from topic to topic. In an important moment, he looks the audience in the eye and makes a straight (but not really) and passionate plea for the investment in and improvement of mental health support in NZ. Because “zoinks” the ghost isn’t a crooked criminal to be de-masked, but the literal – or rather, technological – embodiment of his anxieties.
Mustapic lays himself out there quite a bit, finding brilliant ways to poke fun at himself and the people who have been cruel to him throughout the years. The problem with being such a visible figure online means that Mustapic has certainly exposed himself to the myriad of muck that exists on the internet. He is excellent at lancing these comments and the people who say them, of turning insults into jokes and throwing them back at the perpetrators. Although Mustapic is very good at making a funny show out of all of this, it is important to remember that there is an actual person who must receive and read this deluge – one who is predominantly being targeted for being out and visible on the internet. It all only serves to emphasise the need for greater mental health support in NZ.
Mustapic immediately had the audience roaring with laughter and they continued to roll in their seats for the rest of the show. Mustapics ‘acting’ of being scared at the ghost wasn’t the best, but that’s not really what this show was about. He could have simply stood up there with just a mic and been hilarious, but as it was, he was hilarious with an entertaining premise and polished production to boot. The show is certainly slanted towards a more modern audience, and he is able to integrate projection and tech in uproarious fashions. Mustapic is hysterical and it is clear why he is one of this year’s Billy T nominees. This show is definitely one to go see at the Festival and Mustapic has a bright future ahead of him.
Who: James Mustapic
When: 8.30PM, 21-25 May
Where: Q Theatre, Vault
Review by Grace Hood-Edwards