Review: Brunch – a comedy show that’s the best meal of the day

Ruth Agnew reviews the breakfast television show parody Brunch at Little Andromeda, 30 April 2021.

Brunch is the most comfortable of all meals, free of the formality and nutritional expectations of breakfast, lunch, dinner, brinner, elevenses, and supper. Two of Ōtautahi’s favourite tasty snacks, Ray Shipley and Emma Cusdin are, as their promotional material suggests, as perfectly paired as eggs and toast.

Brunch is the working title of a pilot news-tertainment-vertorial show that Cusdin and Shipley are creating in response to a totally credible sounding email from an esteemed local creative talent spotter. While the pair are an obvious choice as they essentially are just hotter, younger versions of Hilary Barry and Jeremy Wells, their attempt at claiming the coveted crown of mid-morning telly hosts doesn’t go over so easy, and both end up burnt by an unscrupulous scammer. 

Bottomless belly laughs are served up quickly and continue to flow throughout Brunch hour. Cusdin and Shipley successfully combine a relaxed, warm approach with bursts of frenetic energy (like a double shot latte?). Underneath the laughter, however, lurk some serious issues for creatives. This includes balancing artistic integrity with the need for financial recompense, the deification of a few famous names in Aotearoa, and the vulnerability inherent in creating new work. This is indicative of how cleverly constructed Brunch is; after enjoying an hour of laughter, audiences take home many more hours of Shipley and Cusdin whisking and yarning in their minds. 

Cusdin and Shipley are fabulous when they stick to their script, but beyond wonderful in the magical moments where they improvise, feeding off unexpected offerings from the audience. Cusdin channeled the frustration of every underappreciated teacher ever when Shipley received whoops for announcing their day job at the library, and I feel I have a deeper insight into the bizarre brilliance of Shipley’s mind now that I have heard them explain a joke to their mother. 

Brunch is going to be offered again soon, at the 2021 New Zealand International Comedy Festival. Honestly, if you missed this delicious duo at Little Andromeda, they are worth travelling to Tāmaki Makaurau for. I can’t imagine anything improving this toothsome couplet, except maybe a kitchen bench and a fresh moustache. Brunch: the best meal of the day, and the best Ray Shipley/ Emma Cusdin collaboration in this year’s Comedy Festival. 

Brunch played at Little Andromeda in Ōtautahi Christchurch as Brunch 2.0, from 30 April – 1 May 2021. The show plays in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland in the New Zealand International Comedy Festival from 11 – 15 May, 2021. This review was solicited.

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