There’s still an hour to go before the show starts but Little Easy has already drawn a huge crowd. However, while the rest of the audience is milling about with a drink in hand or tucking into one of their sumptuous $10 burgers, I’m here to talk to the trendy Ponsonby bar’s owner, Brendhan Lovegrove, who hosts a weekly comedy line-up here every Sunday night at 7:45pm.
I’m no stranger to these shows – I’ve been to a fair few, and would highly recommend heading down there for a solid night of laughs to round off your weekend.
Even though Brendhan has been working as a comic for 20 years, he has no trouble finding hilarious new material to fill both his weekly gigs and his upcoming festival show, “The Wild Blue Yonder”, which will be held at the Loft from 10th – 14th May.
Brendhan takes little time in assuring me, and others familiar with his work, that there are plenty of new ideas in the works and speaks of his festival show in three parts. While the show will feature Brendhan’s usual mix of cutting gags and controversial topics, he’s also looking to mix things up by introducing a new element – storytelling;
“I’m getting into a bit of storytelling which is something I haven’t really done at festivals before. I never considered myself to be a great storyteller but then about a year ago I started doing more of them because I wanted to get better at it… About a third of the show is telling stories.”
I find it admirable that despite being a prolific and internationally successful comedian for nearly two decades, Brendhan is still looking to broaden his comedy chops. He approaches this new endeavour from a methodical point of view;
“I’ve noticed that [one of the] most important things about storytelling is that the story has got to be good. And the other one is that you bring it to life. Whatever it may be, you bring it to life. So, that’s what I plan to do.”
Audiences will be excited to know that the material he has prepared, particularly in terms of storytelling, has been specifically written for the one-hour show.
“I haven’t been able to run too much because it’s not really club gear. So I’m going into a lot of it with a lot of this material unprepared.”
It sounds intimidating to prepare a show with very little feedback but with Brendhan’s years of experience as an indication, it’s a move that I’m certain will pay off.
Brendhan Lovegrove is not the sort of comedian that shies away from covering controversial topics, however, he has found this more difficult to do in recent years due to how politically correct he feels the world is becoming.
“PC in its very nature is – I think – oppressive.”
One has to have a thick skin to go against the repressive force of social norms, but I for one am glad that he is. Importantly, how genuine can we really be in our thoughts and speech while living in a society so afraid to offend anybody at any time? This fear to not offend anyone has become even more pronounced due to the enormous speed and force of public shaming on the internet, which has become more of a global force than ever before.
This obviously has an impact of comedians and even Brendhan, one of our more self-assured comics, has had to encourage himself at times to keeping speaking his mind.
“Society is getting very PC. I’m not and I don’t like catering for it… Sometimes I find myself shying away from [talking about controversial topics], but then I go, ‘Well, what am I doing that for? I don’t even agree with it’. I don’t have to conform to it just because a lot of other people are.”
Brendhan makes the point that his intention with this sort of material is not to be offensive, rather he seeks to simply speak his mind and most importantly – be funny.
“The truth has always been a really powerful weapon, that’s why people are really [against it].”
While Brendhan talks candidly about his opinions on controversial topics, when he says he’s open to discussion he really does mean it;
“I feel I should have the right to have an opinion about that. And I’m very happy to be wrong and I’m happy to have a discussion with people about this… Even on stage where I’ll go, “Okay, see me after the show”. But not the kind of hatred that [makes people retort with] no argument. I have a problem with extremism.”
However, it’s only a matter of time before controversial humour will be back in fashion again and Brendhan is looking forward to it. As with anything else, he explains that trends come and go in comedy.
“I’m sure that in time you’ll find that it will swing around and people that are getting on stage and taking risks will be the flavour of the month again.”
Brendhan has been in the comedy scene for a long time and is well aware his new material is far different from what he used to do. There’s little doubt in my mind that this approach to comedy is what has kept Brendhan at the top of his game for so long.
His ideas and opinions are forever being developed and he reveals that creating new comedy is one of the best parts of being in the business,
“I’m always happiest when I’m writing new stuff and I’m getting new laughs off new material.”
He goes on to explain how comedy has taken him to work in running venues and writing for television amongst other opportunities. And while he loves these chances to work collectively and create something wonderful, there’s just nothing quite like doing stand-up comedy.
Writing jokes and knowing you earned the laughs you got from them brings the most amazing and instantaneous buzz, something that Brendhan thrives off,
“Stand up is such an individual buzz and I think that’s awesome. The highs can be very high but the lows can be very low but – for me – that’s exciting about it. You have to develop a thick skin and I think I’ve done that over the years because I’ve had to.”
Something else about Brendhan that is evident as soon as you meet him is his genuine desire to support and nurture other comedians. Little Easy’s Sunday line-ups are a mix of pros and amateurs hand-picked by Brendhan himself.
“I think that it’s very important to look after young comics.”
He speaks sincerely about the importance of compensating the professional acts and promoting the newer ones, emphasising that everyone he puts in front of the microphone has potential. I know he’s speaking in general terms but I can’t help but feel amazingly uplifted; I was asked by Brendhan to perform at Little Easy earlier this year following an open mic set. He explains that he is now able to look at an act and know very quickly what they need to do in order get better and he is very happy to guide them with this knowledge.
“I think it’s really important to develop people to reach their potential as quickly as possible and to let them know where they’re going wrong and to let them know what their strengths are.”
This is simply one example as to why amateur acts are so keen to stay in the industry – with an internationally successful comedian encouraging and guiding us, why wouldn’t we want to?
“I’m so far into this comedy thing after twenty years that I feel – I feel, others probably disagree with it – I do feel vaguely untouchable.”
Brendhan speaks of his success candidly but doesn’t come across as arrogant. Everything he says is, of course, true.
“I don’t feel in competition with other acts, I’m not looking over my shoulder because I simply don’t have to. You know, I’ve won all the awards you can, I’ve done lots of television, and I’m happy with what I’ve done.”
In addition to this, he has only great things to say about his experience of running clubs, mentioning he would love to do it even more in the years to come. Little Easy and The Mount Social Club in Mt Maunganui have had their share of sold out comedy shows and Brendhan credits this to good management from the bar staff.
“I think it’s really important that we always support each other and there’s no competition.”
Concluding our interview, Brendhan makes a point to bring up how the popularity of stand-up has grown over the years. His passion for comedy is so wonderfully transparent and selfless; he clearly just wants everyone to embrace it.
“When I started there were very few people doing stand up. Now there are so many people and I love it, I love it… I just like that fact that I’m working with really good people who all have the same end goal, you know, everyone wants to be funny, everyone wants to get better.”
“I have been good to people and I want people – when they grow up to be comics – to be good to other comics who come along as well. I think that’s really important.”
It’s clear that Brendhan is doing great things for the industry. This, along with his kind support for other comedians and bold stance in presenting his material confirm exactly why he has been one of New Zealand’s most successful international comedians of the past two decades.
Who: Brendhan Lovegrove
What: The Wild Blue Yonder
Dates:Tuesday May 10 – Saturday May 14
Show times: 8.45pm
Venue: Loft, 1 hr (no interval)
Ticket price: $22-$28 (booking fees may apply). Book tickets here.