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Comedians coming to Carterton

Ahead of the evening of stand-up comedy he’s hosting in Carterton next Saturday, veteran funnyman Jeremy Elwood caught up for a virtual chat with old university chum NICK GRANT about what punters can expect.

The Carterton gig is part of an initiative by Humorous Arts Trust [HAT] “to bring prominent and well-recognised performers to regional New Zealand”. So how are the provincials responding to having the prominent walk among them so far?

I’ve done Westport and Invercargill already, and have Timaru and Fairlie coming up soon, and thus far there’s been far less doffing of hats and waving of garlands as I would have liked. Maybe it’s the hat I wear offstage? It’s almost as if regional New Zealand is the same as bigger centres. Weird.

The press release describes you as “New Zealand comedy royalty”. So where are you in the line of succession, and how many people need to die or abdicate before you’re crowned comedy king?

Part of an outdated system that people tolerate but don’t really respect anymore? I guess I’d be one of those random 30th-in-line cousins who only get spotted at weddings, funerals, or major sporting events.

As I recall, your material tends to comprise acerbic societal and political insights. What subjects are you specifically skewering at the moment?

It changes from week to week. We’re living through such strange times that it’s hard to keep up, to be honest. Generally, I joke about things that would otherwise make me angry. So there’s no shortage.

Any topics you just won’t touch?

Yes, and they probably aren’t the ones you think, but listing them would be touching on them, so I’ll leave that to your imagination.

You’ve clocked up almost three decades in the comedy game. What first inspired you to make people laugh for a living, and what keeps you keeping on?

You were there pretty close to the start! That Otago University Capping Show you directed was one of the first times I thought there might be more than a hobby to this. These days I keep at it because I still think it can matter – making someone laugh at the world also makes them look at it a bit more closely. Well, that and my employable skill set is pretty limited.

Various polls suggest New Zealand is an increasingly grumpy and divisive place, but I’d argue a touring comedian gets a better sense of the national ‘vibe’ than any amount of statistical analysis. So how do you reckon the country’s bearing up?

I hate to say it, but we are more divided. And rather than being grumpy, far too many people are taking a sad amount of glee from the divisions. I will say most of the so-called divisive issues are so patently ridiculous and so obviously wrong that I have hope that they will be short-lived.

Part of the job of a comedy gig host is to be a hype man for the other comedians on the bill. So what are your promos for Eli Matthewson, Sameena Zehra, Adam Wright, and Ben Tito Caldwell?

Eli is fantastic, but he gets a lot more TV work than I do already, so that’s all I’m going to say. Sameena is a wonderful storyteller, which is lucky because her life is fascinating and it would be a real shame if she wasn’t. Adam has tried to retire from comedy a couple of times, but Wellington wouldn’t let him, which either says a lot about him or about Wellington. And Ben lives in Fielding.

    Saturday Laughs, 8pm, Saturday, August 5, Carterton Event Centre. Tickets: $40 [plus booking fees] from the centre’s website.

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