As an art form, it's somewhere between theatre and rock, and, as with any art, some people make it look easy.

Lane Pilkington is one of these. A nominee for Best Newcomer in the upcoming NZ Comedy Guild Awards and performing recently in Whanganui and Palmerston North, Pilkington says he enjoys the spontaneity of comedy.

"Just being able to get up there straight away, there's no admin to what's creative," he said.

"I'll just talk to myself and think 'that sounded funny' and try it on stage and just riff it on stage."

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The growing popularity of comedy in the main centres means comedians don't come to smaller towns and cities as much as they used to.

"There isn't really a circuit in New Zealand any more," said Jamie Patterson, comedian and board member of the NZ Comedy Guild.

"There was the time gone by where people would tour a lot more, would go around and do a nationwide tour. But comedy is so established in Auckland that Auckland comedians can perform so much, that we don't really need to tour as much."

But there's just one small problem with that. Although the main centres provide plenty of places to perform, it's usually the traditional 15-minute stand-up slot, and for ambitious comedians wanting to graduate to a one hour show, that means hitting the road.

Comedian Katie Boyle is based in Upper Hutt but spends more than half of her time on the road.

"I did about a 40-day tour with my Merry Wives of Windsor, starting in Invercargill and going all the way up to Auckland."

"It just takes you everywhere, because you want to hit, especially, the little towns," Boyle said.

"Methven won't get a touring comedy show through it, because it's Methven. It's a little bit out of the way. But for us, we're going, 'nah, mate, you're going to get us' because it's Methven.

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And while the bigger names in comedy can sell out shows around the country it's not so easy for the new ones.

"Obviously notoriety and exposure gives you the option to sell tickets if you're on TV," Patterson said. "If you're on Seven Days or if you're on Have You Been Paying Attention or if you have your own show, then that's something that helps you sell tickets."

New Zealand comedy continues to go from strength to strength with international stardom for some hard-working talents like Rose Matafeo. The grassroots are growing too, with places like Palmerston North hosting its first annual comedy festival. Though there were smaller audiences, but just as many reasons to laugh.

"I always love how people can talk about things that sound bad," comedian Camilo Aristizabal said. "Things that are very taboo, but suddenly because it's comedy you can just openly talk about issues."

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