Comedy with a heartbeat

It may not be exactly the life he dreamed of as a kid, but for Markus Birdman, comedy’s practically meant to be.

Returning to New Zealand for the first time since 2017, Bridman’s prepping to play a run of shows here, including a one-off gig at Arthurs Point’s Canyon Brewing, followed by one at one of his all-time favourite venues, Fiona and Jimmy McDonald’s woolshed at Te Anau’s Davaar Station.

The Englishman’s spending about three weeks on NZ shores during his fifth visit, and says he can’t overstate how great his experiences have been so far – “so don’t let me down”.

He almost accidentally became a comedian, originally starting out playing in bands and “probably talking a bit too much between songs”.

A friend of a friend pitched him to do stand-up, entering Birdman in a comedy competition which he was initially against, but ended up placing in.

At the final in Edinburgh, he spoke to comics who make a living out of stand-up, and with music not bringing in the cash, “it felt like the scales had fallen off my eyes”.

From there, Birdman’s spent years travelling doing comedy, but still admits “if my fairy godmother clicked her heels and said, ‘what do you want to be’, it would be a rockstar … either that or a tennis player”.

The last few years have been up and down for the comic, who suffered a second stroke in June, 2021.

Now, however, it’s one of the themes in his shows.

“It’s my experience of trying to make some kind of sense [of it] … people say, ‘how can you talk about it’, but how could I not?

“It’s the biggest thing in my life.”

He’s not intending it to be cathartic, nor flippant or disrespectful, and finds it helps him process the experience and recovery, as well as connect with audiences.

Birdman’s comedy fest show has taken him a couple of years to write and get right, and he’s excited to bring it to Kiwi audiences.

He says he holds us in high regard, especially coming from Britain where audiences and critics can be tough.

“To go from that to how one is treated in NZ … you couldn’t be more welcoming, couldn’t be more accommodating [and] helpful.

“NZ is one of the nicest, if not the nicest, place to do it … I just find you really funny and positive, even down to the reviews.

“It feels like a better version of the UK,” he laughs.

Being here is also an opportunity to satisfy his love for red wine, as he raves about the North Island grapes and promises to give Otago’s a good nudge.

Birdman’s in Queenstown with the International Comedy All-Stars tour, joined by Ireland’s Danny O’Brien and Scotland’s Ray Bradshaw, whom he knows well and is expecting a rollicking good time with.

He says his own contribution to the show has a “little bit of heart to it – no pun intended”.

“I have a little story to tell and it gives the comedy a little bit of honest … I’m not trying to be big and clever, I’ve had an interesting experience and I try to tell people in the funniest way.

“Plenty of light stuff as well, though.”

International Comedy All-Stars, Friday, 7.30pm, Canyon Brewing. Tickets $35 plus transaction fees from

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