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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.


 

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.


 

Anika Moa Unleashed


Anika Moa first burst onto the recording scene at the age of 21, when she released her debut album Thinking Room in 2001.

 

 

It reached the top of the New Zealand Singles Chart, yielding four hit singles. She’s remained perched at the top of Kiwi consciousness ever since.

Although life has changed considerably since those days, the now mother-of-four juggles being knee-deep in nappies with the same offbeat sense of humour that has made her a beloved presenter, MC and now radio host.

But nothing has changed perhaps more than her music.

Rather than lust, love and heartbreak, her latest album is jam-packed with witches, monsters and Mrs Heather Fiddly Widdly Bum’s Song About Veges.

Released in November, it’s her third Songs for Bubbas album; last, but not least. “I love working with babies and kids,” Anika says.

“It fills my heart and makes me proud of myself. I love singing to them and connecting with them; that’s when I feel my happiest.”

The journey from ‘grown-up’ country-pop-rock albums to children’s music was a fairly natural progression, Anika explains.

“The only way I can write is from what I know. When I was a youngster, I was well… young! Youthful you’d say!

“Life was learning how to control my emotions or even learning how to have safe emotions and to go through a lot of lust, love and heartbreak. It’s all so dramatic and rough, then you have kids and you dive into that world. You grow up quickly, but I am a child at heart so that will never leave me. So having children inspired me to write songs for my bubbas and it grew from there.

“I am a baby whisperer… just saying!”

The 39-year-old’s ‘bubbas’ include five-year-old Soren and nine-month-old Marigold with wife, TV news reporter-turned-producer Natasha Utting, along with eight-year-old twins Barry and Taane which she shares custody of with her ex-partner.

You can’t really imagine Anika not having fun, but I still ask, how much more fun is writing and recording children’s music?

“Every kind of recording is fun, whether it’s adult or kids’ music! I still have a wine at the end of the day!”

So how different is Anika Moa post kids to Anika Moa pre kids?

“Before I had kids I had a vision of zen, peace and lovely, well-behaved kids, but the reality is a lot more ‘cray cray’,” she laughs.

“Toys everywhere, screaming, tantrums, sugar highs, sugar lows, devices, more screaming (from me lol) and lots and lots of laughter and snuggles and love. It’s a really fine balance of ups and downs.

“Keeping it real and being kind to yourself is my mantra. Also – whoever smelt it first has to change it!”

Music too is a big part of life for all her children.

“My dream is for all my children to learn an instrument and to be as passionate about music as I am, but they will have their own dreams so I’ll go with them and their hearts. As long as none of them are gay. That’s disgusting,” she deadpans in a way only Anika Moa could possibly get away with.

Amongst the adults, she’s arguably better known today as a television presenter and radio host, having recently joined Stacey Morrison and Mike Puru as part of the Drive team at The Hits.

“I’d compare it to swimming in the deep ocean and just keeping your energy levels up with a heaving chest, then you go under, but voilà, up pops the head and you continue swimming… repeat that a million times a day and that pretty much sums it up!” she laughs.

“I do love my new job with Stacey and Mike. It’s nice to get out of the whare.”

Meanwhile, her unconventional interview series Anika Moa: Unleashed has proven so popular that TVNZ OnDemand has given the greenlight for Anika Moa: Reunited next year, and you’ll often find her face popping up on Seven Sharp, where she’s a fan-favourite guest host.

So how does a day in the life of Anika Moa look these days?

“Haha… wake up two to three times a night with Marigold; wake up; do kid things (food, walk, drop offs etc) then head to a filming or an ad or a song recording or an MC event or whatever you have for me, then head to The Hits, then drive home, put the kids to bed and have a wine, if I’m honest; talk to my wife for four and a half minutes then pass out, exhausted.

“Weekends are for gigs, MC work etc… so no days off, and making time for my mental health is very important to me, so I’m trying to walk more, talk more and have massages, lots more to unwind. Did I mention wine?”

Raised in Christchurch, she loves our little slice of heaven and gets down here whenever she can.

Her BFF Nicky Claridge, who took this photo and the cover shot, lives in Omihi, in North Canterbury.

“I love Ōtautahi! I love my memories of growing up there; the Cathedral; Hagley Park; New Brighton Beach; Scarborough Hill; Lyttelton; gosh there are too many beautiful spots to name. It is a sometimes dark city but very inspiring for a writer like me.

“A sensational part of the country/world, plus the rugby!”

So how does the next 12 months look in the Moa household?

“How long have you got?” she laughs.

“I started filming Anika Moa: Reunited – a show about reuniting some of Aotearoa’s finest bands! It’s awesome so far but a lot of work! I am going to tour songs for Bubbas 3 during the school holidays and I have a new baby business I am developing for Kiwi parents. I want to release a few books and merchandise and I’d love to record a country album…

“That’s just the first half of the year!”