Li’i Alaimoana – Minority Rapport
“I think it’s pretty rich, you of all people judging comedy”, a friend recently said to me. Well, yeah, fair point, but someone needs to do it. And I’ll boldly go where few men have gone before.
On a dimly lit stage stood a mic, a keyboard and an acoustic guitar: “A bit of a Flight of the Conchords approach perhaps?”, I thought. I must’ve arrived early, judging from the empty seats. “How many uncollected tickets do we have up there?… Yup… Yeah, alright”, the venue staff whispered into a radio. Looks like I was on time, and the show would begin with just the first of four rows of seats occupied.
Li’i took the stage. You’d expect to see someone his stature tear up the rugby field, not deliver jokes on a comedy stage! He started playing slow, soothing minor 7th chords on the keyboard while introducing himself, and telling us about being a Samoan man growing up in Wellington.
As he moved onto the guitar, he warned us of the darkness of his forthcoming content: being struck as a child. I suppose I could see the retrospective humour, but they were more so the kind of jokes you’d make to cope with an unpleasant experience, than side-splitters for attendees at a comedy festival. Most of his jokes were funny, but I felt there were inconsistencies in his style and delivery. On a serious note, I quite liked the use of humour to bring to light otherwise unapproachable, unapproached or ignored issues.
Perhaps that’s what Li’i struggled with. Perhaps it was the small audience number that put him off. But around the 40-minute mark of his 60-minute show, Li’i seemed like he was running low on content. He got a couple of people from the audience up on stage and ran a gag about “words beginning with the letter”, which felt more like a time-killer than a clever impromptu effort. It wasn’t that funny, I thought. If the audience could make themselves laugh hard, they wouldn’t pay to come to a comedy show…
This went on for 10 minutes. He then went around asking audience members their names and where they were from, one by one, making the occasional relevant quip. I felt like the show was dragging on at this point, and he didn’t have much to add in the way of improv. Just as I was about to mobilise my exit, Li’i concluded and thanked us for attending.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s a funny guy! I just feel like he should’ve delivered his jokes while they were on topic, and quit while he was ahead on a high note, instead of trusting the audience with being funny. Perhaps a shorter, 30 minute set would’ve been more fitting, but I was there for an hour and felt quite tired and somewhat disappointed after the show.
I’m confused how to sign off… I want people to see Li’i, because there’s definitely a market for his humour, and he is positively funny, as the view I have linked above attests. He’s also a Billy T award nominee. But I don’t want people to sit through that dreaded second half. I also don’t want people showing up and then leaving disrespectfully 35 minutes into an hour set. Li’i, if you’re reading this, I hope my humble opinion as an audience member is of some value, and not just me being a grumpy bastard.