It starts with a bad date, and ends with a bloated body swinging from the rafters—is it a typical night out in Auckland, or is it Johanna Cosgrove’s new show Hi, Delusion!?
“The type of man I attract is the sort that wears a tailored vest, has a waxed moustache and plays hacky-sack,” Johanna quips. The house erupts in laughter as Cosgrove does an impressive imitation of a hacky-sack game in her towering 6-inch platform boots. I am equally awed by both Cosgrove’s commitment to the bit, and her willingness to admit sexual attraction to a man who would spend more time waxing his moustache than eating pussy. There are a few patrons in the front rows that are laughing a little too hard. Through the hazy purple lights of the upstairs space at Basement Theatre, I imagine I can see the stiff hairs of just such a wax moustache. If nothing else, Cosgrove really knows her audience.
Hi, Delusion!, the new show from Johanna Cosgrove for Comedy Fest 2023, is a delightful, deeply funny peek into the everyday delusions that are required for 21st-century living.
Resplendent in a custom Gloria by Kristine Crabb dress, a black tulle veil and thigh-high vinyl boots, Cosgrove commands the small space of Basement Theatre as only a truly delusional person can. After all, what is performance except an absolute and unwavering conviction in yourself? Only the best performers—and white boys with a SoundCloud—understand this, and Cosgrove uses her own personal brand of delusion to stunning effect over a raucous 60 minutes.
Considering it’s opening night, the crowd is as ready for Cosgrove to succeed as she is, as she shimmies her way across the stage, squats to take deep gulps of ‘wine’, and waits for her damn phone to come off hold. It’s a grand atmosphere, and people are ready to have a good time. Luckily, Cosgrove has no issue giving the people what they want. And it turns out what the people want includes a surprisingly convincing French accent, some well-placed physical comedy, and a five-minute strip routine to Mumford & Sons. (The wax moustachioed dudes really liked that one).
“Cosgrove commands the small space of Basement Theatre as only a truly delusional person can.”
Though Cosgrove’s material treads over the well-worn themes of many millennial-white-women comics—dating, sisterhood and the horrors of the housing market—she does it with such style and charm that it almost escapes notice. The set is also well-paced, with each bit, skit and joke flowing effortlessly into the next.
It’s also clear that Cosgrove and award-winning director Jess Joy Wood have put a lot of thought and care into the performance as a whole. The lighting cues are well-timed, as is the music, use of space and audience interactions. Throughout the show, Cosgrove calls back to previous skits and jokes, tying the separate parts of the performance together. My only wish would be that the themes of the finale (no spoilers) were better integrated into themes at the beginning of the hour. Sorry, Cosgrove, if you’re reading this—and anyone else who might be allergic to constructive criticism—take an antihistamine now.
But after all, the purpose of a comedy show is to be funny, not to build a world as complex as James Cameron’s Avatar. So as much as I’d have loved to see a stronger thematic connection, in the end, I can’t complain. Because Cosgrove is funny. The sort of funny that has you laughing out loud, snorting, cringing, hiding-behind-your-fingers and avoiding eye contact with your “woke”, “left-wing” date. (Yes, I was personally victimised by this part of Cosgrove’s set).
So if you’re going to be delusional, you might as well have fun doing it. And Cosgrove’s Hi, Delusion! is the very definition of fun.
Featured photo courtesy of Johanna Cosgrove and the NZ International Comedy Festival.