I can be pretty funny, but I'd never have the courage to take to the stage. And I'm certainly no match for the snort-inducing humour of comedian Urzila Carlson.
We meet for coffee before her International Comedy Festival shows and I'm wearing minimal mascara so I don't look like a fat female version of Alice Cooper if I cry with laughter - because Carlson is by far the funniest thing with tits on 7 Days, the TV3 comedy gameshow based on the week's news.
Within minutes she's judged me by my coffee, which is soy. "I'm thinking about you a little differently now," she deadpans, after earlier having indicated she thought I was okay, for a journalist.
Carlson has been in New Zealand four years, having emigrated from South Africa with 3158 others in 2008 (the highest rate of arrivals ever), disturbed by the crime and the life she saw ahead for her then-partner's son.
There's not a lot of comedy in the story she recounts. A 10-year-old girl had been raped by three 10-year-old boys at school. Carlson was working as a graphic designer at a newspaper and the paper was not allowed to report it. "Then my partner's boy started school and I knew what had gone on. In the back of the kid's homework book they have these school rules that say, 'You are not allowed to sexually violate a classmate, you are not allowed to take a gun to school ... I'm like, 'He's 6 years old'.
"I decided right then and there to emigrate. I didn't know where." The next day an ad in the paper called for people to emigrate to New Zealand and six months later they did.
Unlike many other South Africans, she didn't choose to settle in Howick or on the North Shore, citing an encounter with some of the attitudes in her homeland she was trying to escape from. She lasted a week on the Shore. Four years on, she's with a Kiwi partner and lives in Blockhouse Bay next door to her sister and two young nephews. Her mother spends six months a year in Auckland.
Carlson's life has changed in a "feel the fear and do it anyway" kind of fashion. She's become a regular on 7 Days, at the Classic Comedy Club and in comedy festivals including Adelaide and Melbourne, and now New Zealand.
She'd been working as a graphic designer at Ogilvy ad agency, providing her workmates with regular laughs. "We worked in pods and we would always have a good laugh. When I left, they gave me a coffee-maker because I am a total coffee addict, but they also gave me a fake contract to do an open mic night at the Classic."
Open mic night on Mondays involves comedy newcomers getting up and having a crack. "I could think of nothing worse, honestly, but I thought, 'I don't want to be a dick and not go'. It was peer pressure. I was booked in to do five minutes." About 70 workmates turned up and she had them in hysterics. "What we didn't know was it was the start of the Raw Comedy quest. The next day I got a call and the owner says, 'You're through to the next round'.
"I go, 'What?' then 'No dude, I'm not interested in comedy, why don't you give it to someone else?' And he goes, 'No, come back'.
"I thought I would go and do it with no one I knew there to see if they'd still laugh. So I went back and people still laughed."
She didn't win, but the Classic kept booking her ... and she'd designed herself a whole new job as a standup comedian.
"You get really hooked on it. It gives you an adrenalin rush. I don't sleep for more than four hours a night after it ... you can't just go home and crash, especially if it's a really good gig. But if it's a really bad gig you don't want to sleep either."
This will be her first comedy festival in Auckland and Wellington but she hasn't completely left South Africa behind. One show in each city will be in Afrikaans.
At first she was worried people might not go to see her, but is stoked to learn that her I'm Going to Need a Second Opinion shows are nearly sold out.
"I track the sales through Ticketek's website. It's really obsessive, I keep hitting refresh to see how many are left," she roars with laughter, knowing she's only half joking.
She can still scarcely believe she's being paid to have a laugh. "If somebody had said to me four years ago this is what I would be doing I would have said you're out of your fricken mind," she says, toning down the language - briefly - for a young fan nearby.
But the 37-year-old is as pragmatic as she is funny, keeping up with her design work too - she designed her own festival poster and that of several other comedians. "I never want to turn work down. I may well be flavour of the month this month, but you know ..."
I ask her how many hours a day she does in her new "job", and make the mistake of using my hands to indicate quote marks around the word job. "I love how people put the word 'job' in quotes when they talk about what I do, like I just f*** around all day!"
A flick through her diary shows it's chocker.I am suitably chastised.
Her first gig saw her get paid $40, but these days she does pretty well from TV and corporate gigs. And she's not too fussed if the recession sticks around.
"Ever since the recession hit, comedy has taken off," she says. Guess we all need a laugh, and you'd have to be pretty humourless not to get one from this lady.
HAVE A LAUGH
WHAT Urzila Carlson: I'm Going to Need a Second Opinion
WHEN/WHERE Q Theatre, CBD, Saturday, April 28, Tues May 1 to Sat, May 5, 5.15pm and 8.45pm (Tues show in Afrikaans)
HOW MUCH $20, call 0800 TICKETEK (842 538)
Thanks to the South Africa Shop in Rosedale for the location and props.