Urzila Carlson’s running late. She sends me a text from her Uber: “I’m on my way, so have mercy if I’m late, please.” She arrives on the doorstep a short time later in a flurry. “I thought, ‘I’ll have time to drop the kids off to school and daycare, then go home, get the dishes done and clean up,’ then I come to get in the car and … flat tyre.”
Isn’t that just the way all working mums operate? We all try to cram just one extra thing in and our best-laid plans come unstuck by the unforeseen.
Urzila has two children, a daughter and son, with her wife Julie. She guards their privacy fiercely. Right now, she’s operating in that window between their school drop-offs and pick-ups.
What I love about Urzila is that we chat for so long that when she gets home, she has no time to wait for an AA guy to come and fix the tyre, so she fixes it herself and sends me a triumphant pic to prove it.
She’s down-to-earth, thoughtful and kind, and she’s one of our most successful comics. She fills houses in London, Edinburgh and the US. They lap her up in Australia – so much so that in 2019, she became the highest-selling comedian in the 33-year run of the Melbourne Comedy Festival. Meanwhile, Kiwi audiences know her for her stand-up shows and regular appearances on Three’s 7 Days and TVNZ 2’s Are You Paying Attention?.
Urzila’s journey to comedic stardom came out of leftfield. She grew up in the old mining town of Benoni, 30 minutes east of Johannesburg. “It was the best time of my life,” she tells me. Her family – brother Quintin, sister Reinette and mother Lettie – had moved there from Natal. Her parents split when she was five.
Benoni sprang up around four lakes. “I don’t want you kids in those lakes – they’re a death trap,” Lettie told her children. Urzila reckons she spent more time there than at home. She’d play happily in the toxic sandhills of mine tailings.
She and Quintin are extremely close. “People called us the Impossible Twins,” she grins. “He’s a lot funnier than me, but too shy for stand-up.” He now lives just four blocks away from Urzila in West Auckland and is often her sounding board.
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