Good belly laughs at Winter Fest’s Good Oil debate

Hearty and rambunctious belly laughter echoed from the TSB Showplace last night as the region’s newest festival kicked into gear.

The Good Oil Comedy Debate was a smart choice for the first night of Winter Fest and it certainly warmed up the masses of comedy lovers who packed into the theatre to hear about Taranaki’s most controversial resource.

Hosted by Mark Sainsbury and featuring an outrageously talented line-up of some on New Zealand’s best comedians, the debate was at times as slick as baby oil, and at times as crude as well, crude oil.

The verbal warfare saw Jeremy Elwood, Ginette McDonald and Pax Assadi on the affirmative team face off against Michèle A’Court, Kura Forrester and Jesse Griffin on the negative team.

And the topic of the night, or the moot as it’s more formally known – That everything is better with oil.

The glossy, oil sheen shiny highlights of the night came from the stories that were (very, very loosely) related to oil.

Kura’s romp with sporting star Sonny Bill Williams was the standout score of the night. This weird and yet hilarious tale is one many of us will never forget – especially when digging into a nice oily pizza, or sitting on one of those wheelie office chairs.

The other best-story-of-the-night award also involved nether regions – but this time they were canine.

Oily anal glands were not what we were expecting to hear about at this debate, but Ginette’s story about her dog Fifi was everything we needed – hilarious, informative and a bit of a cringe moment. Hearing Lynn of Tawa talk about dog bums (and later cow bums) was worth the admission cost alone. Well, that and her equally hilarious misunderstanding about what team she was on.

Both Jeremy and Michèle were excellent first speakers for their teams, and Michèle seemed to have the most logical and well thought out arguments. She also had an almost Shakespearean segment on the reasons she loves Taranaki – all of which had absolutely nothing to do with oil.

The husband and wife duo had their fair share of laughs too, with Jeremy’s line about rising sea levels only meaning a shorter walk to the beach bringing the house down.

Pax bought the topic of rising sea levels back later in the night with a zinger of a joke about stingrays, Steve Irwin and destroying all the sea animals. Although some of his jokes didn’t land he was ludicrously hilarious and had the audience eating yummy lunch right out of the palm of his hand.

Jesse’s stabs at the other team, his own team mates and indeed himself were so good they left us laughing with, not at, Mr Ginger Nuts Griffin. He was also a bit poignant and talked about when winter was actually winter, and how if Trump loves oil then he hates it.

As Mark pointed out right from the get go, Taranaki is the region in a potentially “life and death struggle” when it comes to oil, so what better place to drill down into the pros and cons of this natural resource, and potentially pour oil on these troubled waters.

Oil wasn’t always the topic of conversation, and it was hardly a serious debate, but it didn’t matter because the jokes were more plentiful than the black gold in the Taranaki basin.

But, gently massaged into those jokes were some potentially hard to swallow home truths for a Taranaki audience. After all, we love the convince of a good car and lots of jobs in the industry, but we all want a better future for our grand kids and to help create a more sustainable world for them.

That’s why the irony of flying seven comedians around New Zealand to perform this debate wasn’t lost on Jeremy. Or why the many single use plastic drink bottles on the stage stuck out like a sore thumb, especially when they go against the ethos of the festival team at the Taranaki Arts Festival Trust.

And as a small aside, after flying seven artists to Taranaki for this debate it would have been nice to see them do something else for Winter Fest while they were here.

Kura is an exceptional actress, who has done some great performances in Taranaki in the past, with the likes of Massive Company, while Ginette and Michèle also have a bevy of world class acts that no doubt would have sold extremely well.

Either way, those small qualms didn’t detract from the fantastic night that was The Good Oil Comedy Debate.

It was an exceptional way to kick off Taranaki’s latest festival and long may the enjoyment continue.

The Good Oil Comedy Debate
Winter Fest
Reviewed by Taryn Utiger

  • Winter Fest 2019 is on at the TSB Showplace 15 – 25 August. Tickets are on sale now