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Published March 29, 2016

#1 Ninja bills itself as “an affordable and unlicensed 55-minute seminar” to help you “realise your full potential” and “conquer your enemies” so I have to admit I approached it with a hell of a lot of trepidation. But instead of a cheesy seminar with a few jokes thrown in, I was immersed into a set of lightning-fast skits acted out by three of the most engaging and funny actors I’ve seen on stage in a long time. The show plays out as a series of sketches, each one riffing of the previous ones but taking on a life of its own, and has three of my favourite things: hilarious women, jokes about bigotry, and murder. Some of the jokes do touch on iffy topics – sexism and homophobia being the big two – but the actors carry it off with the perfect mix of charm, silliness, and self-awareness to make it hilarious rather than horrible. Every joke, from the recurring gag about love on the Titanic to the pitch-perfect piss-takes of office life had the audience in stitches, and even the sound and lighting crew cracked up over some of the improvised material.

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Performers Andy Balloch and Dan Pavatich (who also wrote the show) were side-splittingly funny and each got their own moment in the spotlight, but it was Ivy Latimer who was the real show-stopper. Her off-the-cuff humour had the audience, her co-performers, the crew and even herself laughing, and her comic timing is second to none. The three of them together were incredible to watch, rolling with whatever they threw at each other (and whatever the audience threw at them). There’s something delightfully heart-warming about watching an actor struggle to hold back laughter at their co-performer’s improv (not gonna lie: it’s one of my favourite things to see at a comedy show), and this show had it in spades.

Improv Conspiracy HQ is quite a small venue, which means you do become very acquainted with the individual laughs of your fellow audience members, but this creates a surprisingly comfortable atmosphere and even the small section of audience participation didn’t feel awkward or forced at all, which is no small feat in comedy. Even when Andy pulled an audience member on stage to ‘audition’ him, the show managed to avoid that awful cringing feeling that often accompanies audience participation. So don’t be afraid to fill that front row, this show will treat you well and have you leaving with sore cheeks and aching sides.

#1 Ninja is showing at Improv Conspiracy HQ until the 17th of April. Shows on Tuesday-Saturday at 8pm and Sundays at 7pm. Tickets are $20/$16 conc and are available at http://improvconspiracy.com/shows/daniel-pavatich-1-ninja 

Andy and Dan are also appearing in Improv Against Humanity, Ivy is performing in Harold Night, and Dan directed Trillcumber & A Night at Java Joe’s, all showing at Improv Conspiracy HQ throughout the festival. 

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