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Comedy: Raybon Kan

One of New Zealand's premiere comedians is coming to Shanghai this week and, yes, he has met Flight of the Conchords. He even starred with them in this new movie, Diagnosis: Death, along with my really good friend Jess, not that this is about me, but I am from New Zealand, and the person in China who looks most like Bret McKenzie. So.

Kan has spent years honing the craft of observation-based comedy, rarely if ever lapsing into a Seinfeld monotone. He'll be emceeing a function for the Shanghai Cricket Sixes, as well as performing a public gig. Here he gives us some tips on the finer points of comedy.

What are your themes these days? 

A lot of things to do with first impressions of travel. And then all the basic universal human truths and hypocrisies.

You haven't been to Shanghai. Any idea what you're getting yourself in for?

It sounds like playing in Shanghai will be like performing in a duty free shop – it’ll be very cosmopolitan and global.

There should be a lot of alcohol too. Have you ever performed to people who don’t have English as a first language?

Well it can often seem like that in Britain. You do want to give them a sentence or two to get them tuned to the Kiwi accent.

Though it's not quite such a speech impediment as it was before Flight of the Conchords.

If I said to you two years ago that there would be an American TV show about two New Zealanders, speaking in New Zealand accents, living in New York, you would not believe it – it is just not believable. Their achievement is phenomenal. There is nothing close to what they’ve achieved artistically and for the culture and image of New Zealand.

How do you vary your show for different audiences when you travel?

You do a little bit of profiling of your crowds in a lot of these situations. You kind of do know what the occasion will be and you do have a pick on what they have in common. There will be a range of people no matter what it is but they will have something in common and that will tend to exaggerate when they’re in a group. It’s just about establishing a rapport on that wavelength and then moving on. You can’t ignore what they have in common. If they’re all gathered for cricket you can’t pretend that’s not happening. That doesn’t mean that at the end of it the jokes were all that different, but you first establish a rapport. 

And if you don't establish a rapport? 

Comedy is very honest. You get instant, honest feedback, and you know where to move. 

Sometimes too honest? What's the worst gig you've ever had?

 I couldn’t even begin to answer that. That’s quite a competitive category. It depends how you define worst. I’ve had people throw glass at me. That was years ago, in Edinburgh, I was doing a gig at three in the morning. They just want to express themselves with whatever comes to hand. And then there are ones where people are just deadly quiet. There are so many ways to have a terrible gig. I don’t even think I’ve had them all yet.

You can find out more about Raybon here and here. We're reliably informed this show is going to sell out, so book your tickets now. To win one, email your favourite (smallish) joke to [email protected]. We'll publish the winning entry on Tuesday.

RaybonKan. RMB 300. 8pm, Thursday, 22 October 2009. Malone's, Tongren Lu. Contact: [email protected]

UPDATE: And the winner is....

Sarah van Praag. Her joke:

How do you kill a circus?

Go for the Juggler!



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