By Richard Martin
The Comedy Gala begins with a fabulous Rhys Nicholson confidently striding onto the stage in a sequin-covered outfit which he described as looking like the "nightmares of Israel Folau."
For the next two-and-a-half hours, he dances around the stage, offering a constant source of laughs for the audience who were hanging on his every single word.
The local acts shone brightest in the first half, with the likes of Guy Montgomery, Jamaine Ross and Melanie Bracewell delivering tight, amusing sets which played very well with the Auckland crowd.
However, it was Kiwi Chris Parker who brought the most side-splitting laughs of the first half, using his set to imagine recasting famous movies with old gay men in the roles made famous by the likes of Pitt, Neeson and Brando.
Of course, the rockstar of the first part of the gala, which launches the NZ International Comedy Festival 2019, was Paul "The Sinnerman" Sinha from UK game show The Chase, who was clearly in awe of his apparent popularity.
The feeling was mutual, with the crowd eating up the Kiwi references he dropped towards the end of his set. The man had done his research and he was rewarded for doing so with one of the warmest receptions of the night.
While Sinha may have been the rockstar of the night, the pop stars were certainly Laura Daniel and Joseph Moore, aka Two Hearts, who closed the first half on a high note with a song about the perils of being a half Rarotongan/half-white girl.
Bounding back on for the second half, Nicholson announces that he is going to start getting "filthy", and the content of the show suitably shifts.
Nicholson already commands the stage with an exuberant confidence, but when getting a bit more comfortable and raunchy with his material, he's absolutely unstoppable.
The always-dependable Urzila Carlson opened the second half with a set entirely about the mystery of what makes the Bunnings snag such a New Zealand institution.
However, it's the international comics who shine in the second half, with Demi Lardner exploding onto the stage with her idiosyncratic style of absurdist humour which seemed to be over just as quickly as it began.
Australia's Becky Lucas and the UK's Brennan Reece closed out the night, impressively managing to squeeze quite a few hearty chortles out of an audience whose energy was noticeably beginning to dwindle after nearly three hours of non-stop comedy.
* The Best Foods Comedy Gala will be played over three consecutive Fridays on TVNZ 2 starting tonight at 8pm. It will also be available to stream at TVNZ OnDemand.