The New Zealand International Comedy Festival is under way, bringing with it a plethora of world-class comedians from home and abroad. The three-week festival takes place across the country, with Auckland and Wellington as focal points.

For a new episode of our TimeOut in Conversation podcast, we sat down with comedians Rhys Nicholson, James Roque and Eli Matthewson to talk about their new shows in the festival.

Topics of conversation included:

Melbourne's Barry Award controversy:
Rhys Nicholson: "The Melbourne Comedy Festival has changed the name of the main award; it used to be called the Barry Award, and then [Barry Humphries] said a bunch of awful shit in a row. I was once at a nominations ceremony morning, and Rose Matafeo was nominated for best newcomer, and when he - Barry Humphries, comedy icon, standing on stage - was going through the list of names, he said, 'Rose-' and then he stopped and said, 'see in my day we had more, what I would call, Anglicized names'. At a press event. I remember just looking at Rose, and she was like, 'oh.'


"People are like, 'you're forgetting his legacy!' - and it's always white men in their 60s. It's always them that are angry about, 'you can't joke about anything anymore' - it's like, 'na man, you can'."

Playing a Christchurch show a week after the March attacks:
James Roque: "I was on the fence for two reasons - one, because I was an immigrant person of colour in the aftermath of a white supremacist attack, like, I don't know if I feel safe, especially marketing towards brown people, being like, 'come to this contained room where I'll be vulnerable for an hour, and I'm not a moving target'. So that was terrifying. But also, eventually I was like, well, I can actually try to raise some money for the victims here if I do the show, so I just ended up doing it. It was kind of the start of the healing process for the people; they needed to laugh and [to] come together and go, 'if we don't do this show, the dude wins - the asshole wins.' It was real cathartic."

Making comedy that addresses your identity:
Eli Matthewson: "I used to worry so much more about being gay, because when I was starting out there were no gay men doing comedy in New Zealand. So every gig I did, I was like, 'I'm gonna be the first gay comedian they've seen probably, how do I bring it up? How do I make it easy to digest?' And the more time has gone on, the more I've been like, 'Aw... na?' From my perspective, I'm like, I'll just expect you to catch up. I'll just mention my boyfriend, I don't need to do a joke explaining that I have a boyfriend."