Saturday, 10 May 2014

The New Zealand Comedy Festival - Sue Chef.

When you've only got a month in a foreign country, and you're working every night there, you have to spend your time wisely. That's why a comedians outing was planned yesterday. All of us got up early and travelled to Waiheke, a tropical island about 40 minutes away from Auckland. It has golden beaches, beautiful vineyards and is quite rightly thought of as paradise.

I say all of us went. I didn't. I went to see the film Chef instead.

That was a huge mistake. It was a mistake to say no to paradise, it was a mistake to go to watch Chef and it was a mistake that anyone at all let that film ever get made. Imagine a more schmaltzy Love Actually, a less funny Keith Lemon: The Film and a more offensive Nigel Farage statement and you're about halfway to the godawful, manipulative headache that is Chef. If Chef was a human being it would be Rupert Murdoch. So much bullshit, self satisfaction and money. If Chef had a friend, that friend would kill himself rather than be seen in public with it. If Chef was an animal, vegans everywhere would applaud it's slaughter. I said no to paradise and yes to Chef. What the fuck was I thinking? It's like the time I said no to seeing The Smiths and yes to seeing Nik Kershaw all over again. I'm a fucking idiot. Look, in case you're thinking of seeing Chef, let me just tell you about it...

Jon Favreau, THE MAN WHO MADE IRON MAN, plays a chef who quits his job at a popular restaurant because his boss won't let him create imaginatively in the kitchen. His boss knows he's brilliant but he just wants him to make the same boring, popular meals. After getting one bad online review, the chef realises that he must stand by his principles so he quits this stifling, frustrating, tedious job and goes off to make sandwiches in a van. No. You're right. It makes no fucking sense at all. He's an artist who wants to be taken seriously so, TO PROVE HIMSELF TO THE WORLD, fucks off to make really boring beef and cheese sandwiches. That's like Picasso saying fuck you to the art world and going off to do caricatures in Covent Garden. IT MAKES NO FUCKING SENSE. And that is the very least of this film's problems.

It's all about a man who got hurt from a bad review and now wants to run away and take all his toys with him. Jon Favreau doesn't just star in this film, it's also written, produced and directed by him. Instead of reading the reviews Iron Man 2 got, taking them on board and making a good film again, Jon Favreau has decided to basically make awful beef and cheese sandwiches. And these are incredibly cheesey sandwiches. Not only is the chef a tormented artist but he's also a divorcee and a dad who has never had time to get to know his son. Favreau has mistaken these things as layers. Failing at your job, your marriage and your one and only actual responsibility doesn't mean you have layers, it just means you're shit at everything. Still, the chef does get lucky. Despite being pretty repugnant looking, shit at everything, obnoxious, unfunny and a man who mistakes being a cunt for being right all the time, two of the most beautiful women you're ever likely to see are in love with him. That's right. Writer, producer and director Jon Favreau made the artistic decision to have Scarlett Johansson and that woman from Modern Family want to bang him. Again, that's nowhere near the most offensive thing in the film. Chef is so clearly bankrolled by Twitter that I wanted to troll it and then block it. At one scene the chef and the son he doesn't know are sitting together discussing Twitter. "I have an account", says the 8 year old boy. "Can you set one up for me?" says the chef AND THEN WE ARE TOLD, BY THE FILM, EXACTLY HOW TO SET UP A TWITTER ACCOUNT. "Is it like texting?", asks the chef. THEN THE SON EXPLAINS WHAT TWITTER IS. Favreau then steals from Sherlock and has his tweets appear over his head every time he writes one. You even hear the proper tweet noise when he presses send. Another mistake I regret making was staying to the end of the film. If I'd just walked out then I could have just lived the rest of my life assuming that the chef's sandwich business had failed, he'd died of starvation and his unloved son spent every day pissing on his dad's grave. But no, I stayed and, to my horror, found out that people love boring sandwiches and the chef's business was a massive success. Suddenly there are hundreds of people queued up outside his sandwich van, all totally psyched about buying a fucking sandwich. "How did they even know we were here?", asks the chef AND HIS SON THEN EXPLAINS HOW YOU ADD PHOTOS AND MAP LINKS TO YOUR TWEETS.


And it never ends. To get the Cuban feel of the film right, Favreau chose the first Now That's What I Call A Tourist In Cuba music compilation he could find and threw it at the soundtrack. Tony Stark is in it - NOT ROBERT DOWNEY JR - it's definitely Tony Stark. And Favreau has written, produced and directed his own idea of a best friend into the film. A man who constantly agrees with chef, tells him he loves him every ten seconds and high fives every clearly stupid decision he makes or line he says. If you had a friend like that you'd have him sectioned. BUT...I guess that's what happens when your ego is huge and the words of a blogger can hurt you. A successful filmmaker, THE MAN WHO MADE IRON MAN, who would even read an online review let alone give a fuck what it said and THIS is how it effects him? He doesn't just laugh and think "I'm Jon fucking Favreau, the brilliant filmmaker who made Iron Man. I made a great film before, I can do it again". Instead, he cries and asks the internet for money and makes this? When Tony Stark is kidnapped and stuck in a cave in Iron Man, his fellow prisoner says to him " are a man who has everything...and nothing". Tony listens, dusts himself off and makes something incredible.

I'm just saying.

By the way, apparently paradise was quite good, by all accounts. But I chose Chef instead. And while those other comedians all have their memories of that paradise, I left that film with nothing. Nothing.

Nothing except the full information on how to correctly tweet Jon Favreau and tell him Chef was crap.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

The New Zealand Comedy Festival - All Shall Pass.

What the fuck is wrong with New Zealand? I've always wanted to go there. It looks so beautiful in all the films made there (all 5 of them) and it's so far away that it feels impossible to ever go there. But, as unlikely as it seems, I'm there now. And is the scenery as beautiful as it looks in all the films (all 5 films)? Yes, it does. Flying over the north island of New Zealand felt exactly as it should. So green and lush, exotic and inspiring, kind mother hills and evil stepfather mountains. Beauty that is hard to take in because it looks endless, so much of it that it just can't be real. And yet, there it is. Nature raising an eyebrow at everyone at the Weta Workshop and asking what silly little CGI thing have they made up today? I looked out the window of the plane and I saw the most beautiful country in the world and it was breathtaking. And, as I'm asthmatic, that was New Zealand's first insult to me. The second insult was meeting the people. What the fuck is wrong with New Zealanders?

It's not like I haven't met nice people before. I've easily met maybe 7 nice people who aren't from New Zealand. I've met people with manners and warmth and kindness. People who say "after you" and look pleased to see you and they're not covered in shit and sick. But EVERYONE is nice is New Zealand. EVERYONE. So nice. So suspiciously, terrifyingly nice. OK, that's not fair. I shouldn't tar all New Zealanders with the same brush. People in Wellington are cunts but I'm talking about the people of Auckland here. I've yet to meet a normal, everyday, couldn't-give-a-fuck-about-you person in this place. And it's got to the point were I'm afraid to leave my hotel room. Of course, I HAVE to leave my hotel room because at 11am every morning someone knocks on the door to ask how I am and if they can do anything for me. EVERY FUCKING DAY. Then I leave the hotel and the staff say goodbye to me and wish me a nice day and I go to get some caffeine and the caffeine salesman asks if I'm well and then recommends things to do in Auckland and then I go to a vegan shop and they say "it's great to see you again" when I know it can't be and they invite me to their house for dinner. I mean...FOR FUCK'S SAKE. I'm just trying to lead my grey, solitary life and these Hobbit fuckers won't leave me alone. Why is someone who works in a shop happy to see ME and why are they inviting me for dinner? If that happened in Lewisham, I'd have them arrested, if they weren't already being arrested. I went into a shop in Auckland on my second day and bought a Diet Coke. The shopkeeper said "How are you?". I assumed it must be the jetlag and just carried on counting out change. Then I heard "How are you?" again. I looked up and he wasn't on his phone like a normal shopkeeper, and it wasn't jetlag, he was saying "How are you?" to me. Obviously, I wanted to knock him out for being so personal but I looked at his friendly face and I found myself smiling and saying "I'm good, thank you". GET THIS: I even said "And you?". It was FUCKING AMAZING. I mean, I didn't hear his answer because I was so proud of myself for being great but it was a truly lovely moment. Then...and if you're not already shocked by the behaviour of Aucklanders, then check this out...he said "Is there anything not available in the shop that you'd like to see on the shelves?".


He...he actually wants me to come back? And he's willing to stock more items that might interest customers?

I grabbed my Diet Coke, threw money at him, pushed him over and ran. WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON HERE? What sort of Stepford Wives country have I woken up in? What do these people want? These people who have been trained...OR PROGRAMMED...yeah, probably show fondness in their eyes and appear to actually care. They smile and they help and they offer friendship. Listen to this...on the night of our first gig here, John Gordillo asked several people what New Zealand's equivalent of UKIP is. Every single one asked what UKIP was.

John explained that they were a far right political party. Every single one said "Ah. The Tories are right wing here".

John said, "Right. And they're racist, yeah?". Every single one said "What do you mean?"

THEY DON'T HAVE RACISM HERE. That's what New Zealanders (except for Wellington cunts) are like. THEY DON'T HAVE RACISM. One guy even said "Well...what would be the point of that?". Poor John Gordillo. He was only asking a question. It's not like he's got any material on UKIP, he just wanted to go to a meeting of like minded people but John Gordillo will now have to wait until he gets home because the creepy, suspicious people of New Zealand DON'T HAVE RACISM. I mean, for fuck's sake. We've had racism since the 70's. How backward is this place?

This is genuinely what it's like here. Everyone is nice at all times, people feel the need to unite the community while welcoming new people from overseas and there is no racism. It's terrifying. Every single day I walk the streets and all I see is nice people. Friendly people who say hello in the street. THEY JUST SAY HELLO. Like hello is any of their fucking business. And then...I found him.

I was sitting on a bench, exhausted from saying hello back to people all day, when a man stepped out of his workplace and lit a cigarette. Thank fuck for that, I thought. At least they smoke. At least they've got SOMETHING. Then, when he finished his cigarette, he threw the butt on the ground.


Not in Auckland. That's not how we do things here. 

I stared at him. He looked back. I stared longer. He stepped over to his cigarette butt. I stared longer. He stood on his cigarette butt as if to hide it. I stared even longer. He picked up the butt and threw it in the bin.

Then he looked over at me and smiled and I smiled back. He said hello and I said hello back to him. Everything back to normal. Everything lovely again. Everything nice. Really nice.

Fuck. I think I'm becoming one of them. But it still doesn't answer the question: why are these people so friendly? Why are they THIS lovely? Maybe I'm thinking too much into it. Maybe they're just nice because they're actually nice. But, I mean, they're REALLY nice. They're kind. Generous. Charitable. You know, like Jimmy Savile.