"I think," said the comedian Urzila Carlson, "I'm girlier than most girls ... in my situation." Giggle, giggle, she went. Giggle, giggle, I went. Quite a bit of this girly giggling went on. She has a terribly contagious giggle which must have been hell for her teachers, but it is useful for a comedian - it spreads the laughs.
She is a comfortable sort of comedian; cosy rather than confrontational, you think when you see her. She is more likely to "take the piss" out of herself than to pick on you in the audience. She hardly ever gets heckled and this is partly, probably, because she looks so friendly. But also, I reckon, you'd heckle her at your peril. She has a pretty giggle, and face, but she also has a pointed tongue which she pointed at me, once or twice.
She is ferociously protective of her private life, at least the details relating to her fiancee and their daughter, who is 16 months old and whose name she won't share.
She did do a story for a women's mag about having a baby, but she told me off for saying that she had sold that story. She most certainly did not, she said, she did it to promote her comedy show and: "If you read it, it said nothing."
I had and it did say almost nothing. So of course I thought, oh hell, she's going to be one of those difficult, miserable comedians who tell you nothing and are deliberately unfunny - because what's the point in giving jokes away to an audience of one?
But, nah, as she often says, she's not a bit tricky and she is funny. Aside from the baby's name and her partner Julie's last name, she'll tell you anything. She's the sort of girl, even at "48-and-a-half" you know you'd have wanted to hang out with at school. She's good fun, and cheeky.
She grew up in South Africa, in Benoni, and went to boarding school, which she loved, because she's out-going and pretty laid back and, I'd imagine, liked having her first captive audience. She emigrated to New Zealand seven years ago, with another partner and her son, because she got fed up with " looking over my shoulder the whole time". The moment when she decided to leave came when her then partner's 6-year-old son came home from school with instructions on what not to do at school: Don't bring guns. Don't rape your classmates. So she thought, stuff this, I'm off and so here she is.
Her entrance into comedy came about as the result of a practical joke, fittingly. Her farewell present from an ad agency she was working at was a joke contract for a stand-up gig at an Auckland comedy club which turned out to be a competition - which she won. And now she's a regular panelist on TV3's 7 Days and gets recognised at the supermarket! She is far too level-headed to get big-headed about having a profile. And she has a very nice and decent reason for being a comedian: She is a happy person who likes to make other people happy, and that is what happens when you make people laugh. Still, who'd have thought? Not her. Not in her situation.
And what is her situation, exactly? "Ha, ha. I'm a lesbetarian." A what? "A lesbian! Because when I was younger, people would go: 'How do you identify?' And I don't think people should have to identify with anything. Why should I have to tell people: 'By the way, I'm not straight.' Other people don't have to do it. It's kind of weird that I have to stipulate. So I don't like to say lesbian or gay or whatever so I just used to tease my friends and go: 'I'm a lesbetarian.' And that has kind of stuck."
But why does she have to stipulate at all? "Because people assume I'm talking about my husband! Even if you say partner, it's kind of ... "
But she is all right about being a lesbian, isn't she? "Yeah! I don't have a problem with that!" Has she always been a lesbian? "Yeah! I had boyfriends." Blimey. Proper boyfriends? "Proper! Ha, ha! Yes." That does seem a bit weird, given that she always knew (and so did her mum who has now also emigrated and lives in the granny flat of their house) that she was a lesbian. But she said "whenever I had a boyfriend, I would really love them, but it was as a person, not necessarily because they were men, you know?"
She gave it a go, then. "I gave it a good go! Ha. Well, you want to make sure, don't you? You want to make an informed decision!" She gave blokes a good go until a boyfriend (the last) started talking about getting married and she thought: "Oh no! I like you a lot but I'm never getting married." Poor chap. He must have been terribly upset. "No," she said, giggling like mad. "No! Because since then he's come out of the closet too. We were the perfect gay couple!" Double blimey. Did she suspect that he was gay? "No. But I did think he had excellent taste in clothes!" I thought that might have been a joke but she said it was true and "we're still really good friends".
Anyway, the reason our interview was girly is that she is getting married after all, in November, to Julie. She blames the Labour MP, Louisa Wall, and her Marriage Amendment Bill which made gay marriage legal, for this and says that Wall should pay for the wedding. She griped and grizzled about the cost, which she was trying to keep under $10,000. "It's a rip off!" I wondered whether she wanted to get married and she said, "um, I want to get married because she wants to get married. Personally, I think nobody should get married. You should take that money and put it into the mortgage or something."
She is very sensible about things like money but I think she is secretly enjoying the prospect of the big day. She and Julie even have engagement rings and hers is a tiny, pretty, very girly diamond. Julie's is bigger, she claims. "More expense!" she complained, entirely unconvincingly, as we both admired the sparkler. She drew the line at bridesmaids. "I'm not spending my money on buying other people's outfits for my wedding. F*** that."
She doesn't know what Julie will be wearing and to avoid clashing, they went shopping separately but with the same friend. So I had better not give too much away about her frock other than to say that it is white but not "a big poofy wedding dress". They will both wear jandals. "But fancy jandals." They didn't want to get too fancy because Julie's family are farmers from Feilding and when they went to a family wedding last year and the blokes all wore short-sleeved shirts and ties with their shorts and "as soon as the ceremony was over, they went out to the truck and put a singlet on. So I went: 'I'm not putting them through that again!' We just told them: 'Wear your good shorts, and no tie.'" I suggested they might wear girly gumboots, like mine, which have flowers on them, but she said, as the wedding was in summer: "Squelch, squelch."
She and Julie are both sports mad - Julie is a fan of American football and the baby has a Patriots cap - and they met at a pub which was screening a rugby game. She later said to a mutual friend: "Who's the girl with the light hair?", got her phone number and called and asked her if she'd like to go and watch another rugby game at the pub. Julie wasn't a lesbetarian then. "I'm a converter! But there has to be an inkling."
They might have another baby, but she has no desire to give birth. "No! Ha, ha. What's the point of having a girlfriend if she can't be the baby factory?" I had better point out that that was a joke. I don't want to be held responsible for the wedding being called off. I'm sure Julie is used to her jokes. She sometimes tells her to tone it down. You can see she'd be just a tad irrepressible. She is funny at home (she couldn't not be) but if she tells Julie one of her jokes and she says, "'yeah, it's all right', I know it's amazing".
She can be very silly and go off on mad tangents and Julie is very logical; they are both practical and maybe just a bit careful with money. Julie's from Scottish stock, she said, and "it's catching".
Despite her professed reluctance to ever get married, she says, actually, she'd make a perfect wife. This is because in response to the question: What are we going to do this weekend?, she'd say: "We're going to go watch a [rugby] game, have a few beers and check out some girls!" Was that one of her jokes? "No."
She doesn't often do lesbian jokes. She does do fat jokes. She has always been fat. She maintains she was born fat. "I was the biggest baby ever born in the Queen Victoria hospital in Johannesburg."
She is the youngest of three and her brother and sister are both tall and skinny. She says she doesn't mind being fat, as long as she's fit and healthy, which she is, but she doesn't like being in photographs with her siblings. So maybe it bothers her a bit. Her fat jokes might be a bit defensive. "I just think if you address the obvious ... people can go, 'okay', and move on. If I had a bung eye, I'd talk about the bung eye."
"No, Julie is not fat! Yes! She's skinnier than me. There's a word in Afrikaans for what Julie is, because in English it's very limiting - you're either thin or you're fat. But in Afrikaans, you're mollig, so that means you're sort of cuddly. You're not skinny, you're not fat, you're in sort of in that nice in-between. I think a lot of South African women were built to last the distance! Ha, ha!""
I said: "Is Julie fat?" That earned me a bung-eyed look. I was just wondering what she looked like! I couldn't imagine her with a skinny sheila of the sort she used to work with in advertising, who were always on diets. "Those ones. You can smell the shit through their ribs." She said: "No, Julie is not fat!" Is she skinnier than her? "Yes! She's skinnier than me. There's a word in Afrikaans for what Julie is, because in English it's very limiting - you're either thin or you're fat. But in Afrikaans, you're mollig, so that means you're sort of cuddly. You're not skinny, you're not fat, you're in sort of in that nice in-between. I think a lot of South African women were built to last the distance! Ha, ha!"
It is a good word, for her too. She's cuddly, with an edge, and funny and quite delightful. She's built to last the distance and I wish her and Julie a very happy, girly, jandal-wearing wedding day.