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Lighting up the dark

In times of darkness we all just need to have a good laugh, says South African-Kiwi Urzila Carlson. And the multi award-winning comedian is certainly up to delivering on that brief. She speaks to Metropol about how humour can get us through.



From her Sydney hotel room on the last day of her mandated isolation, Urzila Carlson is typically hilarious – and busy.

Her two-week stay in a sunless room saw her continue her regular appearances on Australian, New Zealand and South African television, as well as, “podcasts, heaps of podcasts”.

She maintained her regular panellist slot on comedy show Have You Been Paying Attention? Australia and New Zealand, as well as conducting radio, television and podcast interviews.

These interviews centred around her upcoming rescheduled New Zealand tour and the success of her recent hour-long Netflix comedy special, Overqualified Loser.

Her feature on the global streaming platform makes her the first Kiwi to get a coveted hour-long special, a format known for featuring the trade’s biggest names (Jerry Seinfeld and Adam Sandler) while launching lesser-known names into the spotlight (like Australian Hannah Gadsby), too.

“I was blown away when they offered it to me,” Urzila says.

“I did the 30-minute one [Comedians Around the World] then thought, ‘that’s it, I’m happy with that’, but then when they gave me the hour…wow. It’s such a good way and platform to open up comedy to the world.”

Not that Urzila necessarily needs to be introduced to the world.

Since first stepping on the stage in 2008, she has won the NZ Comedy Guild’s Best Female Comedian award six times as well as the coveted People’s Choice Award at the NZ International Comedy Festival two years in a row.

She has won the Sydney Comedy Festival’s Director’s Choice Award, was a nominee for Australia’s Helpmann Award for Best Comedy Performer in 2018, and has sold out seasons in London, Edinburgh, Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Auckland, Wellington, Queenstown and Christchurch.

But undeniably, the show will introduce her to a new horde of fans.

“No matter where you go, people ask you, ‘do you prefer English or American comedy?’, and I’m like, ‘you realise there’s other regions?’.”

And in her experience, audiences don’t discriminate. When performing in Hong Kong and Singapore recently, she had sold out shows with predominantly local attendants.
“People just enjoy comedy.”

And it’s this philosophy she believes will see us all through the current uncertainty of Covid-19.

“My job is, when people have had a rough week, they can have a laugh. People just want to go out and have a laugh, they don’t want to be reminded of what’s going on – it’s not a news broadcast.

“My job is to make you laugh flat out for an hour.”

Those laughs often come from Urzila making fun of herself. Her self-deprecating humour – especially in Unqualified Loser – often centring around body image.

“I don’t really tell jokes,” she says. “I tell stories about my life.”

“We all go through the same experience, and this whole virus thing is proof of that. It’s really showing us we’re all going through the same thing.

“People laugh at the stuff they can relate to. If you’ve seen, heard or felt it you’re going to laugh at it.

“[Body image] is such a big thing, there’s not one human being on the planet, regardless of what they look like, who doesn’t have a hang up.

“We all have an issue with one part of ourselves. You could look at someone and say, ‘you’re perfect’ and they will say ‘I’ve got this weird droopy butt cheek’. Yes, we need to cut other people some slack, but also we need to cut ourselves some slack.”

When she comes to Christchurch, her “home away from home” as her mother and sister live here, she says her show – originally planned to be performed in July – will look at another universal experience: modern rage.

“As a society we’re angrier than ever, especially after we’ve survived something. In Christchurch after the earthquakes people were angry…and we’ll see it now after the virus, too.

“I think the world is going to suffer from PTSD after the virus because they had no outlet. Everything around you is facilitated to help your day go easier and smoother.”

She explains how humans used to have an outlet, doing household work like chopping firewood, now our rage stays put – until we get on the internet.

While that’s where the show’s spoilers end, Urzila promises attendees, “…just a great laugh”.

“There’s no life lessons to take away from it – just watch it, laugh and have a good time.”

Sounds like the perfect medicine for our times.

Urzila Carlton is scheduled to perform at the Christchurch Town Hall on December 10. Get your tickets from Live Nation.


All about Ashburton

We catch up with what’s happening in our favourite little southern spot


Marty Down Under – NZ Harvest Farmers Bash (South Island)
Date: 7 March
Location: 160 Main Street, Methven, Ashburton District (Mount Hutt Memorial Hall)

Marty Mone has many titles; singer-songwriter, performer, agricultural contractor and trucker. Uniquely in a category of his own, this singer from Castleblaney is heading to little ol Ashburton as a part of his Marty Down Under tour.

Evening with Lance Burdett
Date: 9 March
Location: Hotel Ashburton

If you’re a TED talk fanatic and wished there were more events like it in New Zealand, then we have a solution for you. Lance Burdett is a leader in his field and a safety, wellness and resilience expert. He’s worked with the police, the military, emergency services, prisons and even the FBI. Get a better understanding on how the human brain deals with pressure and handles situations. Leave feeling enriched with knowledge.

International Comedy Magician: Brendan Dooley
Date: 13 March
Location: Ashburton Trust Event Centre

Who doesn’t love to laugh? Combine that with a bit of magic and you’ve got a family-friendly event that has become an audience favourite worldwide. With ‘NZ’s Top Comedy Magician Award’ in his back pocket, it’s hard to deny this is an act that you must see.


A grand palaver!

Local comedic favourite Shay Horay presents his latest busker’s baby – Palaver Grand. With a handful of showbiz buddies, in the style of Graham Norton, riotous banter and sparing of wit will entrap the audience in the Spiegeltent on 14 February. The two-hour show promises hearty belly laughs.


Photographer: DEAN MACKENZIE


It’s for one night only and it’s going to be one heck of a line-up,” he says.

Shay is best known at the World Buskers Festival as Rubber Band Boy and, in 2019, packed the house with busker show The Revolver Club.

He recently hosted his inaugural Palaver chat shows in Lyttleton’s intimate Wunderbar – delving into the minds of colourful kiwi celebrities, one on one. Peter Rowley, legendary funny man and co-writer/sidekick for the Billy T James Show, was one of his victims.

“Shay’s a great smooth-talking, cool, good-looking guy,” Peter says.

“The show was sensational. He delved into drawers from the back of my mind that I never knew existed!”

He will be under the microscope once more for Palaver Grand, uniting with an eclectic cast of four on the couch – in front of a much grander audience.

Other guests for the R18 show include favourite television host and comedian Dai Henwood, actor Jonny Brugh, aka Deacon the Vampire, of film What we do in the Shadows fame, and from Daredevil Chicken Club from USA – sensational improvisers and regular busker act. House band Lawrence Arabia will entertain.

“These are all people I’ve loved performing with in the past,” Shay says.

“Palaver means to talk unproductively at length – exactly like the open and free-flying nature of the show.

None of it is scripted, I just cut and edit a loose script as it goes on.

These are stories the audience wouldn’t normally get to hear – personal information and funny bits. And because it’s from the horse’s mouth, it must be true!”

As the Rubber Band Boy, Shay has smashed two Guinness World records for the most rubber bands strapped to a human face, and took the stretchy show to 30 countries.

He asked a plastic surgeon if it was OK.

“It was a great thing for my skin, he assured me, and would probably keep me looking younger!”

Hailing from Geraldine, he cut his comedic teeth at Burnside High School, where his parents sent their talented son to for the renowned drama department.

In 1996, while still a student, he hit busker bigtime.

Now a quarter of a century later, he’s just turned 40. “I’m over the hill now – so I’ve got to start ticking off all the boxes.”

He lives in Lyttelton with Riley the dog, who also has a few talented tricks.

Shay’s a wicket keeper for Heathcote Cricket Club, where he also volunteers.

Always having a side-splitting project on the go, he recently starred as butcher, florist and masseuse in NZ on Air shortlisted The Woolston Complex, filmed at The Tannery.

Aspiring to launch Palaver as a live-audience TV series, he loves the concept of a chat show.

“There’s nothing on TVNZ like it at the moment. It is closest in format to This Is Your Life”.

Except this show will be a grand palaver of life’s more funnier follies.


The Court Theatre

Something fishy in the city: The Court Theatre’s latest comedy ‘The Biggest’ will get you laughing hook, line, and sinker

Calling all fisherfolk – it’s time to call it a day; throw the small ones back, reel in your line, remove your waders and swap your tackle for your tux, ‘cos The Court has caught the best catch yet and you don’t want to miss any of the action!

The Court Theatre

Described as a small town, good Kiwi comedy, The Biggest promises a night of entertainment and laughter as we follow the escapades of Poppa, Pat and Mick in their quest to land the biggest fish, and thereby win their mate Stu a replacement boat for the one he wrote off.
It’s a great plan… except for two small problems – their collective lack of fishing skills and no actual means to catch the fish.
Written by award-winning playwright Jamie McCaskill, this hilarious, huge-hearted new comedy is a story of tough Māori and Pakeha men navigating life in small-town Aotearoa.
The cast is top-notch, with renowned Kiwi actor Mark Hadlow playing Stu; Rob Lloyd as Poppa; Phil Grieve as Pat, and Apirana Taylor as Mick. Nick Dunbar and Juanita Hepi play Jan and Cassie, respectively.
Directed by Ross Gumbley, The Court Theatre’s Artistic Director, The Biggest opens 16 June and runs through to 14 July.
For ticketing information visit Book online or call The Court Theatre Box Office 03-963 0870.