Urzila Carlson heading to Gisborne

Comic has had a long journey from South Africa.

Comic has had a long journey from South Africa.

Comedian Urzila Carlson. 10 March 2015 Herald on Sunday Photograph by Michael Craig

SOME people are born comedians. Some have comedy thrust upon them. For South African Urzila Carlson, who performs in Gisborne next month, it was a bit of both.

She was working in advertising before friends and workmates got her into comedy.

“They bullied me into my first job. As a leaving gift they gave me a coffee mug and booked me into the Comedy Club. I did it then I got a call to say I was through to the next round.”

She wavered. The organiser told her the audience loved her act. Carlson said that was because 70 of her friends and workmates made up most of the crowd. The organiser said he wasn’t one of them and he loved it.

Speaking on the phone from a restaurant in Arrowtown, she says people now recognise her when she walks down the street.

“People call out my name and ask for selfies. I’m like ‘hell, yeah!’ You don’t get that working in advertising.”

Asked if New Zealand comedy reflects something of the populace’s temperament with its anxious style of delivery presented by the likes of Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, Rose Matafeo and Joseph Moore, the geekishness of Guy Montgomery, Jesse Griffin and Guy Williams or Josh Thompson’s off-the-chain method of madness, Carlson says no.

“I’ve had the privilege of travelling with comedy all over the world and, except for Russia and Germany, every country says ‘we want to laugh at ourselves’. I don’t think there is a specific flavour to New Zealand comedy.”

Whether your accent is Irish, Scottish or South African, having an accent helps though.

“I have a scary accent. People laugh because they think I’m going to hit them. You work with what you’ve got.”

Comedy goes through fashions, she says. The 1980s saw the rise of the alternative comedy boom that in the UK featured acts such as Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson who began as The Dangerous Brothers before becoming The Young Ones; the slightly menacing but surrealistic Alexi Sayle and political ranter Ben Elton.

“The 80s brought hard-hitting, sketch comedy.”

She particularly enjoys the panel show variety of comedy in New Zealand’s weekly satirical show 7 Days.

“With stand-up you’re alone. On 7 Days, if you say something that doesn’t get a big laugh, Paul Ego or someone turns it into something. You’ve got six of your mates there who can make it funny.”

Carlson is on tour with her Studies have Shown show but says for her Gisborne appearance she will include off-the-cuff material along with prepared material.

“It depends on the gig whether I can turn it on.”

New Zealand audiences are good though, she says. They don’t shout out like they do in the UK and Australia if they don’t get a joke.

SOME people are born comedians. Some have comedy thrust upon them. For South African Urzila Carlson, who performs in Gisborne next month, it was a bit of both.

She was working in advertising before friends and workmates got her into comedy.

“They bullied me into my first job. As a leaving gift they gave me a coffee mug and booked me into the Comedy Club. I did it then I got a call to say I was through to the next round.”

She wavered. The organiser told her the audience loved her act. Carlson said that was because 70 of her friends and workmates made up most of the crowd. The organiser said he wasn’t one of them and he loved it.

Speaking on the phone from a restaurant in Arrowtown, she says people now recognise her when she walks down the street.

“People call out my name and ask for selfies. I’m like ‘hell, yeah!’ You don’t get that working in advertising.”

Asked if New Zealand comedy reflects something of the populace’s temperament with its anxious style of delivery presented by the likes of Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, Rose Matafeo and Joseph Moore, the geekishness of Guy Montgomery, Jesse Griffin and Guy Williams or Josh Thompson’s off-the-chain method of madness, Carlson says no.

“I’ve had the privilege of travelling with comedy all over the world and, except for Russia and Germany, every country says ‘we want to laugh at ourselves’. I don’t think there is a specific flavour to New Zealand comedy.”

Whether your accent is Irish, Scottish or South African, having an accent helps though.

“I have a scary accent. People laugh because they think I’m going to hit them. You work with what you’ve got.”

Comedy goes through fashions, she says. The 1980s saw the rise of the alternative comedy boom that in the UK featured acts such as Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson who began as The Dangerous Brothers before becoming The Young Ones; the slightly menacing but surrealistic Alexi Sayle and political ranter Ben Elton.

“The 80s brought hard-hitting, sketch comedy.”

She particularly enjoys the panel show variety of comedy in New Zealand’s weekly satirical show 7 Days.

“With stand-up you’re alone. On 7 Days, if you say something that doesn’t get a big laugh, Paul Ego or someone turns it into something. You’ve got six of your mates there who can make it funny.”

Carlson is on tour with her Studies have Shown show but says for her Gisborne appearance she will include off-the-cuff material along with prepared material.

“It depends on the gig whether I can turn it on.”

New Zealand audiences are good though, she says. They don’t shout out like they do in the UK and Australia if they don’t get a joke.

Night of Laughs with Urzila Carlson, Hospice Tairawhiti Annual Event. Also featuring comedian Vaughan King and comedian-magician Jarred Fell. War Memorial Theatre, July 7, 8pm.Tickets available from Stephen Jones Photography and ticketdirect

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