Nicole Henriksen defies categorisation. As her seemingly inexplicable show title suggests, she is her own breed of miscellaneous “high-energy-hot-mess-alt-comedy-variety-show comic” (in her own words), who leaps across her intimate stage with the high-octane vigour and excitement of a child in a candy shop – and we are the sweeties.
This show is a violation of your facial muscles.
Her set has no recurring theme to bind the material together – instead it’s an hour-long eclectic assortment of eccentrically colourful characters, songs about her complicated relationship with “white boys” – whom she both obsesses over and despises with equal hilarity – and undeniably amusing parodies of video art. Despite the velocity with which she pole vaults from one skit to another, we have neither the time nor opportunity to stop and think about how disparate each quirky segment really is, and nobody can argue that it feels at all fragmented.
Henriksen’s Honeycomb is the definition of in-yer-face comedy (literally: she gets in your face). Between transformative character switches, she makes a habit of clambering onto the audiences’ chairs and making cosy body contact with the crowd on an all-too personal level; she strokes, she pokes, she flashes her bra whilst groping her own breasts (“Jesus didn’t have titties like these!”), all the while sprinkling magical dust of “advice” and offering out pearls of wisdom and “tastes” of the show on imaginary plates, watching with hungry eyes as we are forced to play ball and pretend to nibble on them. At times she feels a little bit like a magician at a children’s party – indeed, it would come as no surprise if she’d have begun blowing up balloon animals halfway through the set and asking us what our favourite colours were. It’s immersive, but somehow never patronising.
The Australian accent is perhaps to blame, but there is more than a hint of Rebel Wilson rife in Henriksen’s cheeky, devil-may-care persona. She’s an outrageous, outlandish, and outpouring chameleon of interchangeable personalities – from a whacky cult – sorry, religion – recruiter who believes that she is the Jesus Christ of the modern age, to an overly enthusiastic hype man-type figure, who just wants our help to push her big yellow button so that she can play us a song.
Although it’s hard to imagine Henriksen the person – not Henriksen the performer – outside of the comedy circuit, doing serious “grown-up” things like laying down a mortgage payment or attending an important job interview, she does ooze an air of familiarity and playfulness that makes us feel as if we’ve known her for years. She’s that crazy mate we all have who never quite grew out of her childish abandonment for authority and who always seems so effortlessly laid back in the most dire of situations. She could set fire to her own eyebrows and we’d roll our eyes and laugh, “oh, classic Nicole!”
The occasional deadpan, super-crude, tasteless joke – a la Frankie Boyle – feels jarringly out of place and extraneous, but in general Henriksen’s observational quips are surprisingly sharp – such as people wanting to ask her about the origins of her skin colour (“where are you from? Like, where are you from?”). Her eagerness to mock herself is one of her most engaging features. She is self-referential about her own silliness.
As I walk out of the venue, it suddenly dawns upon me that my cheeks ached. I can’t tell whether it’s from the tightly strung grin I wore throughout the set, or the result of wincing with anxiety that I would be picked on next by any number of Henriksen’s bizarre alter-egos. Either way, this show is a violation of your facial muscles.