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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

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Read: Phill Jupitus is a master of the tall tale

If you missed Phill Jupitus on stage for the New Zealand International Comedy Festival you may regret it because during his Auckland show he declared he’s giving it all up to study Arts. Of course Jupitus has a way of taking a grain of truth about his life and embellishing it so much, it’s night on impossible to know if what he says is legit.

He began the evening slagging off Brexit, suggesting that had the issue been a film it would have been a weird hybrid of Mad Max Fury Road and Downton Abbey. Jupitus was clearly embarrassed by the politics of his homeland and rightly assumed that the rest of the world would find delight in what he described as ‘imperialist karma’. 


He promised to tell just two stories for the evening and then he’d fuck off.  Since this was stated five minutes into a 70 minute show, it was obvious the stories would be long and, true to form, somewhat rambling.

Jupitus delivered what he does best, weaving stories from his own personal experience with a mix of memoir, a smidge of slapstick and a heap of hyperbole. He’s not a laugh a minute stand-up comic, but the audience is drawn in to his complicated narratives and self-deprecating observations of his own social awkwardness.  He natural charm and his seeming authenticity makes it tricky to work out which bits are pure comedy fiction and which are the real him being a bit of a dick around other people. 

A case in point was the first of his two stories. This involved a hilarious retelling of the day he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Canterbury. This Canterbury Tale started with his incredulity at receiving the news via phone and meandered through to his disdain for press interviews and his delight in praying on the media. It concluded with the ceremony itself and a day that was packed with many excruciating and very public faux pas. The funniest anecdotes included almost blinding the University Chancellor with a stale bread role, and recounting a moment where he simulated masturbating at a reception in his honour.

The second story covered his move to Scotland a couple of years ago to a village full of people so desperate for news they’ll ask the most inane and obvious questions. What followed was a hilarious description of the locals, and incredibly funny impressions and noisy simulations of the local wildlife. Included in this was a side-splitting description of how God might have created  Puffins. This segued into an encounter Jupitus had with some American tourists in which he impersonated a Scotsman and told them the Puffins had disappeared because the locals had harvested them. It was pure gold!

So in seventy minutes Jupitus delivered anecdotal stories that were just dripping with observations on life and on himself. In some ways they were very simple narratives with not a lot of plot, but he told them so well and with such comedic flair, their were fascinating.  

As I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, Jupitus said he was giving comedy up to study the arts – it could be true, but then again, as with the story about masturbating at the university, he may have been yanking our chain.

Phill Jupitus had only one show in New Zealand, but you can see a huge range of acts during the Comedy Festival – just click here to find out more. 


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