Urzila Carlson first felt a love of the comedy spotlight as a seven-year-old in the religiously conservative South African town of Benoni.
Comedians just hold a mirror up to society.Stand-up comic Urzila Carlson
Being the only child in her town with divorced parents created unwanted attention not just from her peers, but also an overly curious teacher.
“The teacher wanted to know why they had divorced, and so when I went home mum told me to tell the class that she wanted to be a widow but daddy wouldn’t take the poison. I knew I wanted that laughter again,” she said.
Her home town, also the birthplace of former Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe and Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron, is just half an hour’s drive from the nation’s largest city Johannesburg.
“I always say South Africa is like visiting family, but Joburg is like visiting your crazy cousin who makes you lose your entire 20s,” Carlson said.
While she claims she “can’t tell jokes”, Carlson said the rise of South African comics like Trevor Noah and Tats Nkonzo is down to the nation’s long history of telling stories.
“This is where storytelling began. We are brutally honest and blunt, and we are all from different backgrounds, it is so diverse,” she said.
A ponderer of all things, Carlson’s perspective helps her connect with the world around her.
“All life on earth all comes from the same beginnings, so you’re even related to your cupboard,” she said.
During her decade-long career she’s been lucky enough to rub shoulders with her all-time favourite comic Dave Chappelle.
“He’s just down to earth, he’s chatty and he’s relatable. If Donald Trump was a stand-up comic, who would relate to him?,” she said.
Carlson describes life in her adopted home of New Zealand as like being on an “endless island holiday”, in a place that “almost hurts your eyes it’s so green”.
It’s the place where she fell into comedy by after being made redundant from her job in the advertising world. A year after her first open mic night she was living off paid gigs.
“Comedians just hold a mirror up to society. I’ve travelled a lot, so I’ve gotten to see different people’s perspectives from observing people. We are all really the same. If we just talk to each other we realise we all have the same end goal.”
- Carlson will perform her new show ‘Studies Have Shown’ at the Bega Civic Centre on November 10.