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Urzila Carlson: First Edition

By | Published on Friday 9 June 2017

UK comedy fans might be forgiven for not yet being aware of the work of Urzila Carlson, given that you are more likely to see her performing on a trip to the southern hemisphere.
The good news is that she’s coming to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for the first time this year. I spoke to her to find out more, about the show, ‘First Edition’, and about her career thus far.

CC: For the Brits out there unfamiliar with your work, let’s start at the very start. How did you first get into comedy?
UC: I used to work for advertising company Ogilvy in Auckland as a graphic designer and photo retoucher, and my colleagues used to say “you’re proper funny” and that I should do comedy. I’d always protest and say “no way! I’m already nailing life with a real job!” But they persisted and when I left Ogilvy to go to a different agency, they gave me a coffee maker and a fake contract to go and do an open mic night. They had booked everything in and booked seats for 70 of them. I didn’t want to look like a bad sport so I agreed to do it.

I started telling jokes, people laughed, and it was the scariest and longest five minutes of my life. Afterwards we had some drinks and called it a night. The next day I got a call to say that I’d made it through to the next round! What we didn’t know was that the open mic night they’d picked was happening during a comedy festival where they were looking for new talent and I had made it through. I said ‘no thanks’, I just did it for a one off and it’s not a thing I’m interested in doing, plus people laughed a lot because I knew seventy people in there. But the owner said “well I was in the room, I don’t know you, and I laughed…”  He said to come back and not tell a soul and see how it goes. I did that and was hooked by the end of my second set.

CC: When did you first think of comedy as an actual career? 
UC: I didn’t even know it was a career till I was in too deep!

CC: How would you describe your comedy? 
UC: I’m a story teller and I like to talk about stuff that affects us all, so observational stuff.

CC: You’ve done TV comedy back home. How does TV work compare to live stand-up?
UC: I prefer stand-up because it’s immediate and you don’t have to wait for the edit to air and see how you’ve come out in the final cut. Stand-up can be fixed if it doesn’t go well. You can assess and go in different directions, where as television is really largely out of your hands. You can be as funny as you like but if they cut your bits up there is nothing you can do.

CC: Tell us about ‘First Edition’, what topics will you cover?
UC: Everything from travel to the turmoil that goes through us all when someone else has bad body odour.

CC: I sense from your show blurb that you will be recommending that we all start calling out people more for being arseholes. Is that right?
UC: Yes absolutely! I’m not saying don’t use manners in it, but definitely say your piece. Use facts, then point out as delicately as you can that you are dealing with an asshole.

CC: Is it OK to do that on social media, or do you mean face to face?
UC: No definitely face to face, unless it’ s Donald Trump and you can’t get to him.

CC: Are there any arseholes in particular that you’d like to call out now?
UC: Donald Trump and anyone that thinks he makes sense.

CC: Your show blurb also talks about not being afraid to share your distain for the latest hipster indie banjo band. Are there any hipster indie banjo bands you like?
UC: Fuck no.

CC: The final bit of your blurb that caught my eye was the chatter about how not to kick-off on a long-haul flight. It’s quite a long flight from New Zealand to Scotland. What are your top tips?
UC: Definitely don’t have an attitude with the customs officer. Don’t ask the dog handler if the bitch is with her. And make sure you’re prepared to watch a lot of new movie releases on a very small screen!

CC: What made you want to bring a show to the Edinburgh Fringe?
UC: My wife’s family is from Fife and she hasn’t seen them in ten years so she’s making me go to Scotland! I’m very excited because every comic I’ve ever spoken to that’s been to the Fringe has said “GO! IT’S AMAZING”. So I’m going and expecting it to be amazing. I’m also a huge fan of golf and got a round for my birthday to play at St Andrews.

CC: It will be amazing. Though a full Edinburgh Fringe run is famously hard work. Are you doing anything to prepare?
UC: Yes, I’ve been flyering my neighbours, I’ve been having too much to drink every night, and keep questioning myself in the morning about what went on the night before. And I’ve burned through all my savings so I can get used to the idea of being broke.

CC: You’ve played various comedy festivals in Australia. I’ve never been to Australia. Which is the best festival there?
UC: I’m going to have to say the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Aside from the fact that it’s well supported and everyone in the city knows the festival is on, the food and coffee in Melbourne is amazing and the people are lovely.

Urzila Carlson performed ‘First Edition’ at Assembly George Square Studios at Edinburgh Festival 2017.