Show with stand-up and intimate story

NATURE VS NURTURE: Comedian Rhian Wood-Hill brings his show How I Met My Father to Gisborne next week. He describes his show as an intimate story with bits of stand-up comedy. Picture by Ruby Productions NZ

A MAN brought up in a white, middle-class family in Timaru meets for the first time his biological father, a Samoan, former Mongrel Mob member from Porirua.

That encounter could go either way but for comedian Rhian Wood-Hill the meeting provided rich material for a story that had to be told, which is why the former professional poker player turned comedian will bring his show, How I Met My Father, to Gisborne next week.

“The show includes stand-up bits but it’s an intimate story with some weird and some sad elements,” says Wood-Hill.

He describes his account as a coming-of-age story, a quest to find what he meant to his biological father and what the man meant to him, and an exploration of the nature/nurture question.

Prior to the encounter, Wood-Hill knew only three things about his biological father, he says. He was Samoan, a criminal and he was charming.

“He wasn’t brought up often in conversation.

“He wasn’t a dark secret or anything. He just wasn’t talked about often.”

In the year before Wood-Hill met his Samoan, criminal, but charming, father, he met his half-brother Jacob.

When the then 21-year-old Wood-Hill met the man whose lifestyle was a world away from that of his mother and stepfather, both school principals, Jacob’s mother said “you have to write a story about this”.

“My skin tingled the whole day,” says Wood-Hill.

“I had been looking at a haggard, brown version of myself. The story seemed to write itself.”

He laughs when asked if he ever had any gang affiliations himself.

“I’m a teacher’s-aide at a decile 8 school. But we do have much in common. I used to be a professional poker player. My biological father was a gambler-pool shark. And he loves to tell stories.”

Wood-Hill discovered a taste for stand-up comedy after he returned from overseas where he played poker for a living. He landed a dead-end job, hung out with his mates and played pool.

“A friend said ‘you are so unfunny’. The next day I walked past a poster for open mic night at a club. The contrarian in me said ‘I’ve got to do that’. I’d done drama from when I was 10 years old to 18, so I was comfortable on stage.”

He worked up five minutes of material, none of which was very good, but everyone has to start somewhere, he says. His stand-up comedy debut was in a basement bar where he played to an audience of four.

“Two of them were flatmates. Eight people were waiting to get on stage.”

Experiences like that can be soul-destroying but you keep going, he says.

“That’s where my poker experience helped me. Poker is a game based on a law of averages. Even if you do it right every time, one out of five times you’re not going to win.

“If I keep doing the right things and continue to learn, I will win.”

A MAN brought up in a white, middle-class family in Timaru meets for the first time his biological father, a Samoan, former Mongrel Mob member from Porirua.

That encounter could go either way but for comedian Rhian Wood-Hill the meeting provided rich material for a story that had to be told, which is why the former professional poker player turned comedian will bring his show, How I Met My Father, to Gisborne next week.

“The show includes stand-up bits but it’s an intimate story with some weird and some sad elements,” says Wood-Hill.

He describes his account as a coming-of-age story, a quest to find what he meant to his biological father and what the man meant to him, and an exploration of the nature/nurture question.

Prior to the encounter, Wood-Hill knew only three things about his biological father, he says. He was Samoan, a criminal and he was charming.

“He wasn’t brought up often in conversation.

“He wasn’t a dark secret or anything. He just wasn’t talked about often.”

In the year before Wood-Hill met his Samoan, criminal, but charming, father, he met his half-brother Jacob.

When the then 21-year-old Wood-Hill met the man whose lifestyle was a world away from that of his mother and stepfather, both school principals, Jacob’s mother said “you have to write a story about this”.

“My skin tingled the whole day,” says Wood-Hill.

“I had been looking at a haggard, brown version of myself. The story seemed to write itself.”

He laughs when asked if he ever had any gang affiliations himself.

“I’m a teacher’s-aide at a decile 8 school. But we do have much in common. I used to be a professional poker player. My biological father was a gambler-pool shark. And he loves to tell stories.”

Wood-Hill discovered a taste for stand-up comedy after he returned from overseas where he played poker for a living. He landed a dead-end job, hung out with his mates and played pool.

“A friend said ‘you are so unfunny’. The next day I walked past a poster for open mic night at a club. The contrarian in me said ‘I’ve got to do that’. I’d done drama from when I was 10 years old to 18, so I was comfortable on stage.”

He worked up five minutes of material, none of which was very good, but everyone has to start somewhere, he says. His stand-up comedy debut was in a basement bar where he played to an audience of four.

“Two of them were flatmates. Eight people were waiting to get on stage.”

Experiences like that can be soul-destroying but you keep going, he says.

“That’s where my poker experience helped me. Poker is a game based on a law of averages. Even if you do it right every time, one out of five times you’re not going to win.

“If I keep doing the right things and continue to learn, I will win.”

Comedian Rhian Wood-Hill presents How I Met My Father, the Dome Room, August 3 at 8pm, $14 presale tickets at Eventfinda, $18 at the door.

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