Rhian Wood-Hill turned up to Whanganui's Lucky Bar + Kitchen for his Thursday night gig soaked to the bone after trudging 18km through heavy rain from Whangaehu.

Turns out walking 500 miles to the Proclaimers concert in Auckland is harder than the New Zealand comedian originally thought.

Wood-Hill will tell you he is walking most of the North Island as the result of a lost bet over a few drinks with friends.

"It's ironic that I lost a bet to become a comedian too...I'm essentially the world's worst gambler," he said.


But dig a bit deeper and there is a sobering punch line to the comedian's journey. Behind the self-deprecation is a man donating half of his earnings at stand-up gigs along the way to Lifeline Aotearoa.

That's because Wood-Hill knows better than most the pain of losing loved ones to suicide. He has had friends and family members take their own lives, including a sister.

The walk was a tribute to his sister who lived partly with Wood-Hill's father growing up and took her own life before he was able meet her.

When he was 18 there were three boys of similar age who died.

"One had been a childhood friend. It rocked my community," he said.

"If you take out the romance of the song it's just a song about how much you'd do for another person."

"I believe everyone has a mate who they would walk 500 miles for if they were in mental pain."

The story of his relationship with his estranged father, who he didn't met until he was 21, makes the basis for some of his stand-up routine in what was an autobiographical comedy.

So far he was on schedule, aside from a few detours. Going from Te Horo to Ōtaki he thought it would be nice to walk along the beach, but failed to conquer the Ōtaki River mouth and was forced to turn back and head towards the State Highway.


"I have the audio books going for about six hours then have a break where it is just myself," he said.

Wood-Hill, a professional poker player and top swimmer in the past, is donating half of the money from ticket sales from his shows on the tour to Lifeline Aotearoa.

He is also raising funds through a Givealittle page with almost $2000 already raised.

Wood-Hill is not taking an easy route to Auckland. He started at Raumati Beach and planned and left Whanganui yesterday before a detour to Napier on the way to another gig in Rotorua.

Comedian Rhian Wood-Hill lost a bet and is walking the long way to Auckland. But he's using his journey to bring awareness to Lifeline.
Comedian Rhian Wood-Hill lost a bet and is walking the long way to Auckland. But he's using his journey to bring awareness to Lifeline.

Lifeline Aotearoa receives more than 10,000 calls per month and helped an average of six people a day at high risk of suicide.

With no government funding, Lifeline relies on donations as it costs an average of $25 to respond to each call.

The community helplines (0800 LIFELINE, Suicide Crisis Helpline, 0800 KIDSLINE) is free and answered by trained volunteers and qualified paid staff from call centres in Auckland and Christchurch.


Show Review: Rhian Wood-Hill
Venue: Lucky Bar, Thursday
Reviewed by: Simon Waters

This was not your usual stand-up comedy.

And to be fair this was not strictly a comedic act.

Rhian Wood-Hill's story-telling show played out in front of no more than a dozen patrons at Whanganui's Lucky Bar on Thursday night, and while punctuated with moments of levity, came with lashings of tragedy, hope, poignancy and inspiration.

The Wellington comedian is walking 500 miles raising awareness of Lifeline and suicide awareness.

At 13, he learned his biological father was a Mongrel Mob member. Some years later he learned of a sister. She took her life before they could meet.

It is against this backdrop that the white kid from an adopted middle-class Timaru family explores his new found Samoan roots.

Between gigs Wood-Hill pulls in a few pennies writing gigs for tv comedy shows, or playing on much more lucrative cruise ships.

The 500 miles refers to a song by Scottish band The Proclaimers, who play in Auckland next month and where Wood-Hill's journey will end.

By then he would have had a chance to hone his material, spread his message, and hopefully play to venues of more than 12 people on a wet Whanganui Thursday night.

His show, raw and in-your-face, deserved a wider audience.