“Balls to the wall and go do it!”: An Interview with Comedian Urzila Carlson

12 March 2018

Urzila Carlson is a South African comedian based in New Zealand, and she’s performing her show Studies Have Shown at the MICF later this month. Australians will recognise her from regular appearances on Channel 10’s Have You Been Paying Attention? and ABC’s Comedy Up Late and Spicks and Specks. A professional comic since 2008, Urzila has performed sold-out shows all over Australia and at MICF for five years running.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

The show is called Studies Have Shown, can you give us a brief rundown of where that came from?

I wanted to write this show because I travel so much. I always hear, “Studies have shown…” on the radio and I want to know A: why are you keeping us in suspense, and B: is somebody doing research on this? Who is paying for it? I heard: “Men and women are different. After the break we’ll tell you how different…” We know!

The most recent one that I heard is, “Studies have shown the effects of cocaine on honey bees.” I didn’t even know honey bees have nostrils! Number one, who has leftover cocaine? And number two, who has millions of dollars to spend on this study? We’re already having problems with the number of honey bees, should we really be giving them cocaine?

I just thought that it’s one of those topics that’s forever changing. I could basically do a brand-new show on this every year for the rest of my life and none of it would be a repeat.

Aside from your show, is there anywhere else we’ll be able to catch you while you’re in Melbourne?

I am doing the Oxfam Gala, and I’m not sure I can say for sure yet that I’m doing The Great Debate.

A lot of students, myself included, would know you from what you’ve done on Aussie TV. Will you be doing more of that? Where will we be seeing you in the next couple of years?

It will always be a lot of stand-up. That is my first love and I’m doing a national tour. I’m also in the process of forming a sketch show with Nazeem Hussain. But there’s a lot of television; I’ll definitely be back on Have You Been Paying Attention? I’m in the lucky position where I’m working in both Australia and New Zealand. But I won’t do any ridiculous shit, hopefully no-one will get sick of me!

That’s definitely what we want to hear. Have you done much work around Melbourne?

I haven’t done a lot of clubs, but during festival time I try to do as many as I can. If there’s an opening going I will go and I will definitely go do some spots during the festival. I think it’s so good to perform in front of an audience that’s not necessarily just yours. My audience comes to see me, whereas if you want to test yourself it’s better to go and do it in front of strangers.

Definitely. You only started doing comedy in 2008, so that’s ten years ago now. How was it that you managed to get so much traction so quickly?

I guess I was lucky. It was never a dream of mine to work in stand-up comedy. I used to work in advertising. And when I left one agency to go to the next, they booked me in for an open mic spot as a sort of company prank. It’s your textbook peer pressure situation. I did it, but I didn’t know it was the start of RAW Quest. So, the next day I got a call from the owner of the club saying I’m through to the next round! I went back and did a new five minutes, and people still laughed, and they kept booking me. I ended up winning best newcomer.

That’s awesome! Before I let you go, a lot of students around Australia and New Zealand have ambitions of getting into the media sphere. Do you have anything you’d like to say to them?

If it’s something that you’d like to give a go, you just need to go balls to the wall and go do it. A lot of people don’t start coz they don’t know how it’s gonna go, but every single night you don’t know how it’s gonna go! I’ve been to open mic nights where pros go out and they die on their ass, but somebody that’s never done comedy goes out and smashes it out of the park. You don’t know how it’s going to go until you give it a go.

Thanks a lot Urzila. We’ll definitely be looking forward to seeing your show when you’re in Melbourne!

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