Urzila Carlson’s comedy career sprung from an unlikely beginning back in 2008. Then working in a busy office as a graphic designer, Carlson’s workmates took it upon themselves to sign her up to the local open mic comedy night.
“It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life – I still break out in a cold sweat just thinking about it,” the South African-born comic told the Star Observer.
“After that first gig, I just kept getting calls from the pub asking me to come back and do it again. It just went from there. When I went back the second time and people still laughed, that was it – I was hooked.”
In her early days as a fledgling comic, Carlson didn’t realise she was allowed to repeat jokes from gig to gig, meaning each time she took to the stage she was armed with entirely new material.
“After the first few spots I had a good half an hour’s worth of material – but only because I’m an idiot, not because I’m hardworking,” she chuckled.
While still relatively unknown here in Australia (2013 marks only her second appearance at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, and her solo debut after sharing a split bill last year), Carlson’s been wholeheartedly embraced in New Zealand, the country she’s called home since migrating from South Africa in 2006.
“People always stop me in the street to have a chat, and because I’m social anyway, I love it. But I think people are too shy to ask for a photo for themselves, so I always get ‘My mum loves you, can I have a photo?’
“I understand it, though. I met Wanda Sykes at the Melbourne Comedy Festival and asked for a photo ‘for my sister’. Meanwhile, I’m actually totally obsessed with her…”
As you may have guessed from the Wanda Sykes fangirl crush, Carlson is – in her own words – ‘a professional lesbiterian’. She said that from that first gig onwards, she’s never had a second thought about discussing her sexuality on stage.
“From the get-go, I’ve talked about me. I think it’s a safe topic and I won’t end up offending anyone. But then, people do still take offence – one woman made a complaint after a show I did on the weekend saying she wasn’t happy that I was a lesbian. Well, I’m not happy that she’s an ignorant fuck. That’s not a complaint – that’s some woman being a dickhead.”
But the dickheads are far outweighed by those who love Carlson, including perhaps one of the biggest lesbian icons of all time: Lucy Lawless, famous for playing Sapphic goddess Xena: Warrior Princess.
“She got in contact just to tell me she loved me, and then she mentioned it in an interview too a few days later. I was blown away – she’s just lovely. And she immediately gave me heaps more lesbian fans – I mean come on, I’ve got the stamp of approval from Xena herself!”
INFO: Urzila Carlson, Melbourne Town Hall, March 28-April 21 • www.comedyfestival.com.au
PRESS PLAY: Watch Urzila Carlson’s hilarious set at the 2012 NZ Comedy Gala.
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