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  • Guy van Egmond

Review: Ben Pope: Holy Cow

Picture credit: Ben Pope

Words by: Guy van Egmond (he/him)

Perhaps I shouldn’t have gone to this show. Because, truth be told, I knew I was going to love it. I’ve watched hours of Mock the Week and Taskmaster and Live at the Apollo: that gloriously dry, deadpan British humour is my shit. 

But not just mine, apparently. More than 65 people turned out for Ben Pope’s Holy Cow on a Wednesday night; a pretty solid turnout which Ben wasted no time in bullying us about (who goes to a comedy gig on a Wednesday?!). With some strategic table placement, Fringe Bar felt basically sold out: the perfect, cosy little venue for a deep dive into love, death, the endless void of existence, and a day in the life of a Westminster hype man. 

Mister Benedict Pope (yes, that is his full name) took us on a tour of a life inextricably tied up in everyone else’s weddings. He’d been there as a waiter, a singer, a best man and an obligated friend, because everyone is turning 30 now. His three main stories wove quite seamlessly between discussions of unconditional love (reserved for dogs only), God and Jesus (the Catholic brand ambassador), and bullshit astrology (“Sorry I cheated on you, but I’m a Cancer and we’re spontaneous”, said his ex). 

It was an incredibly well-written show, very clever and surprisingly clean. He played his deadpan and cheerful deliveries well against each other, and balanced rapid-fire jokes with slower punchlines. His stories devolved into greater debauchery every time, but with enough conclusion between chapters to let us breathe. 

Which I mean literally for the two women behind me. By the halfway point of the show they’d lost all sensibility, in a feedback loop that kept them cackling uncontrollably. Even Ben had to stop and wait, which did highlight his biggest flaw. His crowd-work was little more than a reactionary quip here and there, which made it feel very much like a ‘show’. Totally fine, but an intimate venue like Fringe Bar lends itself very well to a bit of back-and-forth banter; he definitely missed out on riffing with some too-drunk patrons. That said, he opened with some really nice local stuff, Absolutely Positively taking the piss out of the Wellington wind and kiwi kindness. 

Ben Pope is not, as he called it, a ‘drugs fellow’, but his Holy Cow show felt like the conversation you have at 2 in the morning, lying in the Botans with your friends, stoned off your faces. It was absolutely delightful. Unfortunately the man was only in New Zealand for the week, and this may have been the last time he performed Holy Cow. However, it might come back as a recorded show on Youtube, so keep an eye out! 


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