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Urzila Carlson’s secret suffering

The comic’s life hasn’t all been fun and games.

She’s one of the funniest women in New Zealand, regularly selling out theatres and auditoriums around the country with her trademark deadpan humour, as well as making us laugh in our lounges with her frequent appearances on 7 Days.

As the Weekly takes a few snaps of Urzila Carlson in the West Auckland home she shares with her wife Julie, their two children and their pup Molly, she is regaling the crew with joke after joke.

“Don’t forget to mention the new lawn! It’s beautiful!” the 40-year-old cries as she poses on her couch, legs in the air and eyes wide.

“Actually, can you please go and get that fancy tea cup out of the cabinet?” she asks.

“Real writers drink a lot of peppermint tea. I’ve seen it. I have to look authentic,” she explains, before bringing the empty cup to her lips as she gives what she thinks is her best “writer-y” pose.

So you’d expect Urzila’s newly-released memoir, Rolling with the Punchlines, to be a laugh-a-minute literary riot.

And a lot of it is.

There’s the time she almost shot a police officer – it’s a bit funnier than it sounds – and how the wedding cake topper of her likeness kept sinking into her wedding cake. Or how she was, and is to this day, the biggest baby to ever be born at Queen Victoria Hospital in Johannesburg – she was four weeks premature and weighed 5kg (11lbs). And, of course, her habit of mishearing popular sayings, most notably, “whatever tickles your fancy” – just with a different word that also starts with the letter “F” at the end.

Though the light-hearted moments are plentiful, the South African-born, self-described “lesbytarian” has written an extremely frank autobiography that describes the parts of her life that were far from funny – from her abusive father to failed relationships and the heart-breaking miscarriage she and Julie suffered through in 2015.

“Initially, I thought I should keep it light,” Urzila explains, putting down the empty tea cup and swapping it for a mug with a real brew in it.

“But then I thought, if this is my only book ever – and trust me, it will be – then I don’t want to make light of the s— that happened. Which was quite hard, I am really private, and in the book, I say there’s certain things I won’t discuss – I won’t give my children’s names. What if they grow up and they’re really shy? I can’t ever take it back once it’s out there. But if it happened to me, it’s in the book.”

The most difficult parts to write, Urzila says, were the chapters about her father, who passed away earlier this year.

She candidly describes how, when her mother Lettie was pregnant with her, her father took off and didn’t come back until she was six months old. But his return also meant the return of his alcoholism and abuse – leading to Urzila, her mum and her brother and sister fleeing in the middle of the night.

“It was really hard, writing about my dad. But do you know, no-one ever talks about the bad stuff.”

That “bad stuff” also includes the devastating miscarriage Julie suffered on October 15 last year, which, cruelly, was International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

“We talked about whether we were going to tell people about it, and when we did tell our mates, people that had been our friends for years, told us, ‘Oh, yeah, we lost four early on.’ How did I not know this? I’d been to a gynaecological visit with them! But support can only come when people know what’s going on.“

Still, Urzila reckons she’s had an amazing life, with many of the best things that have ever happened to her coming all thanks to her decision to move to New Zealand.

“We’d just had an armed robbery at work in South Africa, and I was over it,” she tells. “I opened up a newspaper and there was literally an ad that said, ‘Want to emigrate? Why not New Zealand?’ So I thought, ‘Yup, all right!’ I’d never even met anyone from New Zealand and the only movie I watched before I came here was Whale Rider. Oh, and a Tourism New Zealand DVD I found at work.”

But three months later, she arrived with her former partner in Auckland and instantly, Aotearoa was home.

Ten years on, everything has worked out incredibly for the ever-popular comedienne, who, along with appearing regularly on 7 Days , also makes frequent trips across the ditch to Australia to appear on comedy current affairs show Have You Been Paying Attention?

“It’s a quiz show – you have a buzzer, so you’re not fighting to talk like on 7 Days!” she laughs.

Add the new book, her two kids – her youngest was born only 10 weeks ago – and an ongoing kitchen renovation, and life is frantic.

“It’s very busy and very great. There is a lot of travelling… My frequent flyer status is almost at Gold Elite,” she says laughing. “Air New Zealand, step up and help a sister out… Oh, wait,” she says, glancing at her Airpoints balance on her phone.

“No, I’m 423 points away. That might be asking too much!”

And she says she’s “bloody happy” that the book writing process is over.

“I’m the world’s biggest procrastinator. I had just over a year to finish it, but I wrote most of it in two weeks,” she grins.

“It was scary – you know, if you tile a kitchen, you can ask someone if you’re stuffing it up. I had no idea if the book was good or not, but I figured, well, I’ve been around books and I’d heard of a library… so, yeah, buy it! I’m sure your mum would like to read it.”

Rolling with the Punchlines by Urzila Carlson (Allen & Unwin, RRP $32.99).

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