The first time Urzila Carlson did stand-up she felt like she was under water getting stared at by sharks.
It was intense — particularly as she’d been bulldozed into it by persistent work colleagues.
The comedian, who is originally from South Africa, says she’s never been more nervous.
It didn’t help that her first gig was on St Patrick’s Day and many of the audience had pre-loaded before arrival.
Fast forward 10 years and she’s a New Zealand household name, a regular on TV series 7 Days, author of Rolling with the Punchlines and a stalwart of the local and Aussie stand-up circuit.
She didn’t view her nationality as a barrier to understanding Kiwi humour — or performing to a local audience.
“I just try and keep it to what I would find funny. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but usually I find we all have the same funny bone that likes to be tickled in the same sort of way. The human condition is international; we all go through the same shit with our partners, our dogs, our kids. The only people I’d say are different are Russians and Germans,” she laughs.
The self-deprecating performer prefers to pick on herself rather than the audience.
Carlson doesn’t like the thought of them being targets.
The mum of two is bringing ‘Studies Have Shown’ to Queenstown next week.
It’s an ode to radio DJs who have been getting “on my tits” for too long.
She reckons they are the only people who use what she describes as rubbish research or stats. Studies that have shown your dog is happier than your cat is pitched as one example.
“Who gives a shit,” she responds.
Her material ignores that type of nonsense.
“I deal with a lot of things that are not as nice to discuss. Some medical things that I have seen online. It is nothing too gross but mainly to do with constipation, I’ve found some interesting facts.”
Despite her impressive CV, stand-up will always be her first love.
“It is instant, you tell a joke, you get a laugh. With everything else you have to wait for the public to get to it via an editor, or television. But when you tell a joke on stage it is people sitting right in front of you and you have that immediate connection. It is like having a conversation with 200 people at once.
“When you look someone in the eye and they snort and I can see their face because I’ve just told a joke, there is nothing more rewarding than that.”
Urzila Carlson’s Studies Have Shown, next Thursday, Queenstown Memorial Centre. Tickets $40