Comedian / One half of the musical comedy duo – The Fan Brigade
I grew up in Mangawhai where I lived until age five, then we moved to a little town called Te Kauwhata in the Waikato which is about fifteen minutes north of Huntly. It sounds really dodgy, but we basically packed up and moved to this little town in the middle of nowhere overnight and I still don’t know why. We went from having this amazing three story house with a balcony overlooking the ocean in Mangawhai, to this tiny farm house in Te Kauwhata with paint peeling off the walls. It definitely caused an ‘oh my god,’ reaction.
I did all of my schooling in Te Kauwhata and absolutely loved it. I was a big drama and music nerd who loved folk dancing, making teaspoon holders out of pottery for the school principal and being the lead recorder player. I think I was just a very nerdy show-pony!
My interest in music was always there. I took piano lessons from age five before quitting when I turned fifteen because it wasn’t cool anymore. I was always singing, that was my biggest passion. As for the comedy, my whole family is just full of idiots. We all have a really good sense of humour and we’re all quite witty with our banter. To be fair, being funny and having a sense of humour for us was also a little bit of a survival thing. We didn’t particularly have the happiest childhood, so comedy sort of presented itself as a necessity.
Brought up on MASH, Benny Hill and all of those classics, I used to wake up once my parents had gone to bed and watch Pulp Comedy on TV. That was when the only real New Zealand comedians were Mike King, Brendhan Lovegrove, Jan Maree, Irene Pink and Ewen Gilmour, I thought they were so cool. I would go onto the Classic’s website and look at the Raw Comedy Competition they held but never ever had the guts to enter, despite thinking it was something I might be good at.
On Twitter I used to write stupid tweets every now and then. I never thought I was that funny, but Amanda [the other half of Fan Brigade] seemed to, and sent me a message saying I should enter the Raw Comedy Competition. I thought she was the funny one, so we ended up going back and forth telling each other to enter before deciding that we should get together and write our own six minute set. From the moment we met we got on really well. Our tribute song to Tamati Coffey was written during our first meeting. Then two weeks later, the third time we’d met, we were on stage together for the competition and ended up getting through to the semi finals and we just haven’t stopped since.
Our comedy is very relevant to us, our lives and our personal opinions. A lot of it is also just stuff that people are thinking, but have never really known how to say out loud. So when we do come out with it, a lot of women respond with, ‘finally someone said it!” which is very cool.
Amanda and I are best friends, we talk all day and every day. A lot of our material comes from when we’re together. So much ridiculous stuff comes out of our mouthes that we realise would make a great piece or a good song. When we actually sit down, focus and say, ‘okay, we need to write a song about this,’ and try make it happen, it never comes. It truly all stems from nowhere when we’re just being idiots. We we work really well together in the sense that I just happen to have a higher singing voice and she happens to have a lower one. She is pretty cool with playing the ukulele, whereas I’m just lazy.. But I am trying to bring in more instruments!
At the Comedy Gala this year we’re performing a song which is about a real life experience of what happened to us when we went to an RSA together. Our new show that we’re bringing to the Festival, Feminazi Bitches, offers a little bit more of a backstory. Our shows so far have mostly been about our opinions, but this one is more of a backstory about how we became the Feminazi Bitches, which is a term that has been placed on us by strange men on the internet. They’re calling us Feminazi Bitches like it’s a bad thing, but thanks to them we now have a great title for our show!
Social media for people in the arts has been incredible. You tell someone you’re in comedy and their response is that they haven’t seen you on 7 Days. But comedy is so far beyond what they’re showing on mainstream television. There’s so many great comedians that I only knew existed because of Twitter and that’s why social media is such a great place to see what else there is on offer. We never had that before. On the downside, you get harassed everyday! We’re lucky because we have a pretty thick skin and we find it funny, but we get all sorts of comments and even death threats. I seem to get more comments from men about how they would like me to die, so – ‘I hope you get run over by a car,’ whereas Amanda gets them more along the lines of, ‘I hope you die of lukemia bitch.’
Comedy is so subjective. If people don’t like what we do, then cool, that’s fine. We get everything thrown at us, from, ‘unfunny bitches’ to ‘fat bitches’ and it shouldn’t be how it is, but it is what it is. Also, if you’re putting stuff up online then you’re basically opening yourself up to criticism and people will take that opportunity and run with it. But honestly, the negative comments are such a small amount of our feedback and when it comes down to it, their opinions don’t mean anything to us because the rest is so positive. People try to say that we’re singing about hating men. No, we’re singing about hating assholes, no matter what gender they are. And if you get angry about that, then obviously you self-identify as an asshole!
There’s two times that we remember where audiences really hated us. One was when we started our show with jokes about Tony Veitch, which we feel is fair. The people in the front row actually folded their arms and turned their backs to us, they were so mad we were making fun of their beloved Tony Veitch. The other time was in Queenstown at a casino. A very well known comedian gave us advice, which we didn’t take because we thought we knew better. So then we went out and did a song which did not go down very well at all. We were very new back then and Ben Hurly was on at the end of the night so people just wanted us to get off the stage. I’m grateful there’s two of us. I really feel for solo acts that have jokes which don’t do down well, because they come off and they’re just so isolated with that feeling on their own. Whereas, we know two times over if it was shit and can come off stage, laugh about it and then move on together.
The songs aren’t funny to us anymore because we’ve played them so many times. We make sure that we play the absolute shit out of every single one of them before we take them on stage, so we don’t laugh. Because our lyrics are so absurd we often piss ourselves laughing when we’re writing, so we just play them over and over again until they’re no longer funny to us and they’re just words.
We do actually have a pre-show ritual that has nothing to do with music. We repeat a bunch of hilarious quotes with a series of hand gestures, it’s so ridiculous, but it is the best routine. We always do it in secret, in a dark spot just before we go on stage. The only two times we have not done the routine before a show, I shit you not, was before the Queenstown show and the show where the Tony Veitch jokes bombed!
I never realised how cool the New Zealand comedy scene was until I talked to some international comics. In the UK comedians are basically ranked. They’ve got classes, tiers and there’s a hierarchy. In England the high-up comics wouldn’t dare talk to the raw comics, which just seems so ridiculous. They come here for our comedy festival and there’s raw comics who have done less than 15 gigs hanging out at the same party and talking to Rhys Darby, which is completely normal. It’s always said that we have the friendliest industry and everyone is very kind and supportive. I have found some amazing, life-long friends through comedy. Everyone, including your comedic heroes offer you so much advice and wisdom that you don’t even have to ask for because they genuinely want you to succeed and do well.
As a single mum to a fourteen year old, being a parent is always the job that will come first for me. I’ve had a lot of support and think it’s slightly easier because she’s older. She is also very supportive of what I am doing with comedy which I think has driven me to push even harder. I think it’s really healthy for her to see that you can be a single mum with a job and still continue to chase your dreams.
Comedy has done wonders for my confidence. To get up on a stage and make people laugh for 7 minutes, 20 minutes or an hour and to know that I’m going to be surrounded before and after by amazing hilarious people, you’re aware that you need to meet the audiences expectations. And just by doing that I’m achieving something there’s no way in hell I would have had the guts to get up and do three years ago.