Ursula Carlson

BY Will Cook 

Urzila Carlson is far from a losing. The first woman to perform a full run at Melbourne’s Town Hall, a Netflix stand-up special, regular roles in Australian comedy series.  

Set to alight Sydney’s Opera House this June, Urzila’s new show Loser is far from biographical. Instead, the national tour focuses on the real losers in life. The low-lives who cut in front of you in traffic, or don’t say thank you when you open a door for them.  

Ahead of her national takeover, Will sat down to interview the South African born Kiwi about losers, storytelling and the wave of success Urzila is riding.  

You are riding a wave of comedic success, so why have you decided to call your show Loser? 

There is so much bullying. The word loser is inherently negative. When you lose your keys you say “oh I am a loser”. But when you lose weight it is always a positive. Even that show The Biggest Loser is about fat people. I think we should move the spotlight and focus on the true losers. Like the ones who don’t say thank you, or push into traffic. We need to focus on them and not on fat people.  

In terms of comedy are you a specific type of performer?

I’m a storyteller. I love telling observational stuff. I find that the things that people can relate to. The stuff that happens to all of us is the most engaging.  

You are a South-African New Zealander, why are you making the voyage back to Australia?  

The coffee is pretty good. I like the people are nice. The weather reminds me of home. And the dollar is stronger than ours which is always good too.  

You are collaborating with Netflix with your own series and appearing in their Just For Laughs Series. Are you finding that you are able to maintain your comedic authenticity? 

Yeah because with Netflix they don’t give any input into our material. They say write half an hour and then perform that half an hour. I was in on the edit from start to finish. I would say to them cut from there to there. I was impressed with that because I have had less freedom with regional television. But I think that is part of their success. They keep the creative integrity of the artist.  

You say that you classify yourself as a storyteller. What story did you want to tell on such a large platform?

I always say to people who come to my stand up shows that my goal is firstly, is it funny and will it make people feel better when they leave the show. Those are the things that make people laugh from start to finish. So, when I write a show, occasionally there will be a message in it but you aren’t going to learn anything new. You are going to come in for an hour and forget about your problems. Have a wine. Have a relax. Laugh your tits off.  

Is that the type of comedy you enjoy watching?

Yes. If I want to have a serious discussion I’ll head to my therapist. 

What has been your biggest loss in comedy?  

I have been really blessed. I haven’t had a lot of hits or knocks. You’re only as good as your last gig. So, as long as you keep getting up and keep gigging. It’s the same as any other industry. If you work hard it will pay off.  

What did you learn from performing alongside such well-known performers? Did you have any moments of epic fangirling? 

I have had heaps of those moments of epic fangirling. I have opened for Alan Carr and he is one of my favourite comics. The big thing that I have taken from working with any big comedian is taht all of those people work really hard. At the end of the day there is only so much luck in any industry. You cannot succeed if you are not ready.  

Are you ready to make the next step into something else creatively or happy doing what you are doing? 

I don’t know what the next step is, and I am in the mindset of trying to take on most of the opportunities that come my way. I am always keeping my eyes open. 

I have to ask, you are a regular on one of Australia’s biggest shows HYBPA. Has this show helped you establish an audience? Why do you think the show is such a success? 

Anything on television is a great platform is great for comedians. Making good use of any type of exposure is the key. HYBPA gives you the freedom to learn and they let you explore everything. They don’t destroy what you say and over edit it. They let our creativity flow. They are such a great crew and everyone has been friends for years. So, when you get in there, you are entering a circumstance of friends not just a group of friends.  

Is that how you try and treat your audience in a live show? 

100 per cent. Every show I try to treat as a conversation. It’s like I am at a BBQ and we are standing around and having a yarn. But at this BBQ I don’t give them a chance to speak. So, it’s exactly like a BBQ at my house.  

Speaking to a student audience, do you have any advice on how to break into demanding and creative industry?

If there is one thing I always say to people who are starting out it’s don’t be an arsehole. Normal stuff applies of course, like get enough stage time as you can. But once you start do not be an arsehole. You cannot believe how quickly people can turn. The get to a point where they think they are too good. Remember what you mumma taught you.

Ursula Carlson is touring nationally and hits Sydney in June. Get tickets HERE.