Where do I start? I laughed so much. I laughed so hard at one point I nearly threw up.
It felt like the show started before we had even entered the Montecristo Room. 15 minutes before the show El Jaguar was circling the bar cracking jokes at the venue announcements. The stage was decked out with paper balloons and the mood was incredibly festive. Looking at the props placed around the stage we knew we were in for a treat, and there were actual treats. El Jaguar set our expectations for the show straight away.
I’d be selling El Jaguar short by calling him an improvisational comedian as his act isn’t a bunch of games taking cues from the audience. Instead he builds the majority of his show on audience interaction. That might sound lazy or simplistic to the average person but to any performer it’s well known that crowd work is one of the hardest and most daunting parts of a comedian’s job. Most newbies to the craft spend dozens of open mic gigs working up to the dreaded lines, “What’s your name & what do you do?” It takes an incredibly fast wit and charismatic presence to keep the room engaged with just audience interaction; not to mention great balls of steel to base your entire show around it. I know El Jaguar has them because his leotard left little to the imagination.
It would have been too easy for El Jaguar to focus on individuals he could embarrass to call back to throughout the show but he didn’t stoop to that comedy show cliché. He made each person feel heard and enabled us to collectively laugh at ourselves. It wasn’t all shits and giggles mind you. El Jaguar was fearless in genuinely asking who had a crap year and why; and shit got real. By the end of the show I knew everyone’s name and a bit about who they were. I knew Jessica had friendzoned Alex the accountant; Miriam keeps a positive outlook on life as a paediatrics terminal care nurse with the help of her boyfriend’s jokes and shower beersies; Troy has had a hard life but is incredibly pragmatic about it; and Roary has admirably stepped up to the plate for his dear mum. I could go on but you get the idea.
El Jaguar’s performance was never limited to the stage for more than a couple of minutes at a time. After the show he said the only reason he builds his shows this way is because he can’t write jokes like other comedians. I can’t help but feel his style is much more impressive than repeating the same set to a different audience each night. The format demands so much of him in such a short amount of time and no two shows are ever the same.
The New Zealand International Comedy Festival is in it’s third and final week, if you’re worried you’ve missed all the good stuff fear not El Jaguar has only just started his five night run. I can’t recommend this show enough. Go. Laugh. I did and came away with a couple of shot glasses and magnets I’ll treasure forever.
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