Al Pitcher

Note: This review is from 2004

Review by Steve Bennett

The most striking first impression of Al Pitcher is his familiarity with the sparse audience. The friendly, good-natured Kiwi immediately sheds any potential malicious intent or pretensions of grandeur by strolling towards the stage, exchanging high-fives with those in the front row. From that moment on, he is everybody's friend and, because of this, everybody is prepared to forgive him for the show's occasional shortcomings.

Pitcher always seems at his best when bantering, genuinely interested in those who have paid to see him. When asking what show the man positioned beside the exit is keen to rush off to, Pitcher is simply trying to make both pleasant conversation and a new friend, in an exchange that leads to an amusing confusion of George Orwell (who wrote 1984) and Orson Welles (who did not).

His biggest laughs are mostly garnered when involving others, although he also seems to instinctively anticipate comedic dead-ends, allowing himself to quickly move on rather than destroy momentum - abilities that make him an exceptional circuit compere.

Pitcher's amiable delivery does him huge favours when it does come to the actual material. Often, it appears that he is unfamiliar with his own show, resulting in a stilted performance punctuated with frequent "umms" and "errs" that, to many comics, could obliterate any sense of comic timing. However, he recovers from this pitfall with a clear passion for his stories and concentrated desire for everyone to comprehend, explaining smaller details such as currency and geography, more often than not finally getting the laugh that he desires.

Although, in its conclusion, he claims that the show is without theme or moral, the large majority of his material is concerned with idiosyncracies in his Kiwi heritage, articulated through stories from his past. Whether it be tales of extreme sports or of talent contests gone horribly, horribly wrong, Pitcher gives the impression that this could only happen in New Zealand.

Some of the material is fantastic, simultaneously hilarious, personal and off-the-wall, but, particularly towards the middle, it lets him down and forces him to struggle to recover the audience's attention. This is part of a larger problem that sees Pitcher grappling with the concept of forming a coherent, one-hour show. Although, there are attempts at the conclusion to neatly round up all that has gone before, the material just does not consistently flow, leaving Pitcher to cover the missing links with banter.

Overall, this is a respectable debut from a blooming comic talent. There are some real moments of belly laughter, derived from fantastic, personal stories enhanced by a delivery that, hopefully, will soon not have anything to cover up for.

Review date: 1 Jan 2004
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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