Civic Theatre, Auckland
Ben Elton now lives in Australia most of the time and when the NZ:AUS bubble became a reality – a tour of NZ venues happened last month.
To give a little bit of context ladies and gentlemen most visiting acts will come to Auckland certainly and might also perform in Wellington and/or Christchurch/Dunedin. Ben did 13 venues and multiple shows. Bill Baliey has also been here for an extended time recently.
Ben Elton’s live act is him, alone on stage, talking non-stop for 90 minutes. Then there’s an interval and he’s on for another hour. Logistically, it must be the easiest show in the world to put together.
The themes are old age and how society has changed so quickly. He talks of an episode of the The Thin Blue Line being shown after the 9pm watershed because the words ‘cock’ and ‘arse’ were used in a joke.
Twenty years later and the opening scene of Fleabag is about anal sex…while the main character is having…anal sex. If you Imagine the pace and volume at which Elton speaks and the pauses, you can hopefully appreciate how funny that is. A great deal of the humour is double-take incredulity over the way things are now.
By way of explanation. he claims that 20 years passed while bringing up children and then he returned to mainstream entertainment to observe these things. I think the comedian in him concocted that scenario a bit because being a parent isn’t 24/7 Wiggles for years at a time.
He breaks off into politics, as you’d expect, but the themes are more global and society-based now. He makes jokes that Bernard Manning would make about things like gender issues but surrounds it with self-effacement and cast iron disclaimers – but I get the feeling that he still wants to make the Bernard Manning joke. This is a way to crossover to the politically right-of-centre majority.
“Switch off your phones. Please. I really don’t care about your children – or, let’s be honest…your GRANDchildren.” Not for the first time I am part of an audience of old people and I do not fully take on board that I am one of them.
It made me think..
Humans are amazingly flexible and resilient and we cope with changing circumstances easily. Observational comedy pretends we don’t have this natural talent and highlights extreme examples of societal change from the cartoonish perspective of a monocled Victorian Dad. We find it funny because overall, we’re OK with what’s happening. If the same material isn’t played for laughs
it would be possible to whip up a crowd for political gain, so I am thankful that Ben Elton is using his talents for good.