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Print Version

NZ International Comedy Festival 2014

at San Francisco Bathhouse, 171 Cuba St, Wellington
From 6 May 2014 to 10 May 2014

Reviewed by Maraea Rakuraku, 7 May 2014

You'd think I'd know by now, timing is everything when you go to a comedy gig. Turn up too early, awkward; late, that will draw attention of the comedian and not in a good way; or, as in this case, on time but the only seats available to you are at the front. I immediately and predictably, as I have no doubt that someone of Urzila Carlson's calibre will pick-on those in the front, panic.

Reluctantly, I take my place. Having never been to a seated gig in the San Francisco bar before, I find the trestle tables are arranged in such a way that it reminds me of a wedding; in fact those at the table are like wedding guests: strangers brought together for a specific purpose; tittering politely at the best man speeches till everyone gets a little pissed and leery.

After outing herself as a “Lesbitarian” and assuring us she won't be picking on those in the front row (that's bullshit, she does, it's just more a gentle prodding than a full scale spotlight situation) Carlson is away, kicking off with a rather hilarious analogy about the strength of firemen and lesbians as she explains emergency procedures for the venue.  

Observations about baristas, shit coffee, her new baby, in-laws and kids follow. Yet it's the stuff around relationships that gets the most laughs; read groans of recognition.  Especially that around fighting and more specifically, fighting in the car or, as she describes it, the bubble of hate. We've all been there.

When Carlson describes an octo... octo… octogen..., old fella at a party asking someone, “Do you know …? You look like …” then four hours later..., my Australian work colleague nods knowingly.  E ki. I know it's what we do as Māori, I had no idea it's a Niu Zillund thing. 

Explanation of the title, Poise Control or PC, leads to some clever riffs on what it means. It does get a little thin as she repeats stuff and it's apparent it could do with more development, though I'm always in awe of how comedians can tie it all in together at the end.

Riding on one's charisma only carries so far before more depth is needed, well demanded by an audience who are up for it. That said she is a seasoned professional and I can only imagine being a full time professional comedian must be a little boring, repeating the same jokes over and over – and surely you get over hearing your voice? 

She's exactly as she is on TV. No wonder those fellas on that show quake a little. She's one of your smartarse mates or the whānau in the kitchen at the Pā, just hangin' and chillin'. She touches on how few women there are on the NZ circuit and that has me wondering too because – apart from my relation Mapu – the funniest people I know are wahine. 

She goes on to explain you just have to talk. A lot. As we know, it's more than that. You also have to like talking and there's also the matter of charisma which Carlson has in bucket loads and – well obvs – you have to be funny. Then, there's fighting for your space which I suspect, with all those penises /peni /whatever wingle wangling, gets a little tiresome. Bit like any job really.
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 Naomi Cohen