Sydney Comedy Festival Review: Cameron James ‘Nite Zoo’ – The Factory Theatre (04.05.13)

Sometimes it’s the little shows that can take you by surprise with their quirkiness and ability to combine the things we love all into a neat little package. Cameron James brings us Nite Zoo a stand up comedy performance that twists the tv chat show format into an interactive live action extravaganza with music and games and deep probing questions.

The show opens with James’ cohort and provider of music Jared Jekyll beatboxing his way into an introduction. Then our leading man comes out onstage only to promptly thank us for coming and then pretending to leave us only to have an onstage discussion with his musical compadre and the lighting guy as to how they can improve on the show. Cameron promptly exits the stage and then returns moments later to kick things off proper, it’s almost like an encore, but in reverse.
As with all tv chat show formats we’re treated to an initial monologue from James which devolves into an impromptu quasi marriage proposal between James and his coompadre Jekyll that results in James covered in a glass of water when it all goes pear-shaped. But it’s the special guests that James brings on to partake in his Zoo that make the evening interesting.

First up is fellow Sydney Comedy Festival act Laura Hughes who gently steers us through some awkward but amusing moments involving masturbation and providing relationship advice to her friends after marrying. She then sits down with James a la chat-show interview and falls victim to James’ rejigging of the classic schoolyard game of ‘F*ck, Marry, Kill’ to ‘Make Love, Make Dead, Make Babies’. Hughes is shown a grouped set of 3 individuals and asked to pick. The “religious group” of Jesus, Vishnu and L Ron Hubbard choices are particularly amusing and I’d have to agree with Hughes that Vishnu is a good choice to make love with courtesy of all those extra arms.
Our next guest is a familiar face on the ABC and Channel 10, Dan Ilic has been around the comedy traps both onstage and onscreen. Ilic is put through his paces with ‘Nicolas Cage or a Caged Animal’ and soundbites played with Ilic having to determine the difference. Goats that can scream like a person will never not be funny, Youtube it kids if you haven’t seen it. But it’s Ilic revealing his childhood trauma of never celebrating Christmas that results in a surprise from Saint Nick himself and a head of iceberg lettuce being worshiped; fed to audience members and then smashed to pieces. I’m not sure how lettuce is tied in with Christmas but for some reason we’re all in hysterics and covered in salad material. The stage is a mess with shards of lettuce everywhere but that doesn’t bother Benny Davis of The Axis of Awesome fame, there’s no need for pleasantries here though. Benny is here to rock out with his melodica and play us some amazing songs. As a former busker he laments being tormented to play unchallenging material like Stairway To Heaven or ACDC and instead opens it up to requests which results in our audience throwing every popculture theme song you can think of. Game of Thrones, Round The Twist, Ship To Shore and even Zelda get a the melodica treatment and all sound phenomenal. No seriously, Game of Thrones in particular was a personal favourite for me.

Overall this performance isn’t so much about James’ ability to keep the jokes flowing but the combination of guests who provide a talking point and some of their own comedic wit and expertise to make the show interesting and funny. I think that perhaps James could’ve had a little bit more involvement, particularly at the start of the show just to make sure that his Nite Zoo still knows who its head zookeeper is. Though the incorporation of popculture topics and memes helps to keep it relevant to the young predominantly Gen Y audience. Another interesting point is that the guests rarely delve into anything too crass or rude to get their laughs, something which is a nice change from a lot of the larger name acts who resort to gutter-humour. I think giving the opportunity for the audience to get a taste of other Sydney Comedy Festival artists makes for a unique comedy experience too.

Cameron James ‘Nite Zoo’ has one more show on 11 May 2013 with other guests to be announced and possibly more salad shenanigans.

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