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Urzila Carlson's Kiwi love story

The South African funny gal is embracing Kiwi life with her new family.

By Laura Weaser
Urzila Carlson has a motto: that there is no bigger waste of time than regret. It's this life mantra that first brought the South Africa-born comedienne to New Zealand and, eight years later, has seen her tackle every aspect of Kiwi life head on – including our love of adventure tourism.
"I'm s* scared of heights," she admits. "But when I did the Comedy Convoy with Jeremy Corbett, we were offered the chance to go on this comet line in Nelson [a swing across the Buller Gorge]. At first I thought, 'Sweet, I love a good swing.' Then we got there and I was like, 'Hell, no!' I wasn't going to do it, but then Corbett said, 'This is a great opportunity – you don't want to regret it.' He was talking to my core! So I did and loved it."
It's this attitude that has taken the 38-year-old out of her comfort zone from day one. When she first arrived in New Zealand in 2006, Urzila famously spent three weeks on Auckland's North Shore – the unofficial South African hub of the city. It took her more than a week to encounter a Kiwi and, keen to meet the "locals", she decided to head west, where she's been ever since.
Home is where the heart is – Urzila believes west is best.
"I love everything about it," the outdoor enthusiast explains. "My favourite beach is Muriwai. I love the Waitakere Ranges, and the people, of course. You can't walk three steps without someone stopping to talk to you. I love that. My neighbours are really great – they keep an eye on he place when I'm away."
The Weekly's newest columnist is now the proud owner of a spacious three-bedroom Henderson property, which she bought in 2012 and shares with her partner Julie and their 16-month-old daughter.
As she treats us to a tour, it's clear her West Auckland paradise has become a home away from home. She's even adopted a bit of Kiwi ingenuity, building an at-home bar for entertaining and developing her front yard from a concrete slab into a grassy area for her wee one to play on.
"I'm a DIY specialist. I'm not very good at it, but I love it," she laughs. "My friend asked how I got the concrete out. I said I used a jackhammer and she was like, 'How do you know how to use one?' I said, 'It's not complicated. You just hold on and it goes!'"
When asked if she's embraced the Kiwi lifestyle, Urzila answers "100%" without hesitation, adding, "I even took a partner from Feilding. That's embracing the hell out of it!
"I think life is 10% how you get it, and 90% how you make it. As soon as I landed, I thought, 'What a great opportunity. It's like a clean slate.' So I've taken every opportunity that has come my way."
Urzila's sister and mum have now joined the comedian in New Zealand.
Although an endless number of family members, including her brother, are still living in South Africa, having her mother join her in October last year has been nothing but a joy. Together with her sister, who also lives in New Zealand, Urzila sponsored her mum (59) to come halfway around the world in order to be closer to her grandchildren.
Currently living in a granny flat adjacent to the main house, Urzila's mother plans to buy her own place nearby, once she's sold her town house in the city of Benoni, 30 minutes east of Johannesburg.
"It was a big worry with her being over there by herself," Urzila explains. "Say she'd joined a bowling club there, she'd have needed someone to drive her, because she wouldn't be safe by herself. Here she can live the life she wants. She embraces the New Zealand lifestyle more than anyone I know. When she visits my brother in South Africa, he always sends me messages saying, 'Oh, God, she's going on about New Zealand again!'"
A concern for her own child's wellbeing is one of the reasons that Urzila has started her new life. "Realistically, if you want to raise kids and not look over your shoulder every five minutes, you've got to move."
It's also because of safety concerns that Urzila takes a firm stance on privacy. She's not keen on pictures of her daughter being published, but is happy to admit that having a child has changed her for the better – and not only because she can "watch kids' programmes and not feel guilty about it".
"It's weird having a whole new person who lives with you, and now we have her for however long she stays with us – 18 years, 35 years. Not judging," she says with a laugh.
"It's great having her. It makes you focus more. She points stuff out when we travel and you're more in the moment with her. It makes you appreciate your surroundings."
With her "second family" – the 7 Days crew.
It's also enabled her to be part of the "7 Days Dad's Club", joining Jeremy, Paul Ego, Dai Henwood and Ben Hurley, who are among many of the other panellists that now have children of their own.
"For the first year or so, there were only one or two dads in the van when we were on tour. Now everyone makes the call at 6pm to say goodnight to the kids."
The tight-knit comedy community and "extended family" will also come together to celebrate Urzila's wedding next month, when she and Julie tie the knot in a "relaxed Kiwi beach wedding – out west, of course". But celebrations will be tinged with sadness as the absence of close friend and their wedding celebrant Ewen Gilmour has left a gaping hole in Urzila's big day.
"It's going to be awful on the day," Urzila admits. "We just got our marriage licence and his name is still on it. Julie and Ewen had talked about it five years ago, when he and I were doing a gig in Thames and he said, 'If you guys ever get married, I'm gonna be [the celebrant].' It'll be hard. We'll have a beer for him."

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