For God's sake, stay away!

Stuart Goldsmith brings a warning from New Zealand

I'm writing this in the laugh-torn festival hell-hole that is downtown Auckland.

The sunset beats down relentlessly. A brief crackle of applause from a nearby venue lights up the evening sky. Tonight's sold-out crowd (the fourth full room of our run at The Big Show) are out there somewhere, drinking responsibly and getting ready to be appreciative...

Though I fear for my safety, I'm risking this brief connection to the free and fast hotel wifi, to get this one message back to civilisation: whatever you do, don't come to the New Zealand International Comedy Festival.

Where's the challenge in performing to warm, easily-won audiences? Where's the fun in having people respect the fact you've travelled 12,000 miles, and consequently listening attentively?

And if you were thinking of getting some writing done while you were here? Forget it! With breathtakingly beautiful scenery, dolphin-watching ferry trips, mountains to climb and hot springs to bathe in, this has to be one of the least efficient working environments on the planet.

But don't think you'll be getting any exercise in the thick of the festival – all major venues and both artist hotels are within one square kilometre, so you'd have to be lugging a grand piano around to get your heart rate up.

And don't get me started on the people. Jesus! Who wants to come to a festival where the open-plan office of the festival directors is teeming with people so agreeable and fun to be around that you just know they're plotting against you? Why else would someone take 15 minutes out of their day to help you choose a costume for one of the weekend late-night parties? Pricks!

Remember when you were 14, and your mum let you hold a party in her garage and you dragged a sofa in there, and put a purple light-bulb in the fitting, and invited all your mates round? Exactly! Who wants to meet people in a festival environment like that, with no PR, no oneupmanship, and no-one talking to you whilst looking over your shoulder?

I'm going to say it, people – this isn't a real festival!

Where's the desperate last-minute flyering to saturated crowds? Where's the bitterness? Where's the agonising over reviews, the make-or-break career decisions, the self-flagellation?

No – it's just galas, extra performances, 17 sold-out shows on the penultimate Saturday, and some venue manager you know from Edinburgh but never get to hang out with, who insists on buying you a homemade passionfruit vodka.  Next you'll be telling me there's a Japanese sushi bar that hand-delivers gyoza to the stage door.

It's hell on Earth, people. For the love of god, stay the fuck away.

  • Stuart Goldsmith would also like to suggest giving Tringe Festival a miss. There's nothing for you there. 

Published: 16 May 2013

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