New Zealand comedian Ben Hurley is pleased to see the Covid-19 lockdown in his rearview mirror as he gears up for a nationwide tour.

Before entering the lockdown, Hurley was preparing for a busy New Zealand International Comedy Festival which was due to be held this month.

However, the implications of the coronavirus pandemic forced its organisers to scrap the event and more than an hour's worth of comedic content was shelved.

New Zealand comedian Ben Hurley. Photo / Katie Little
New Zealand comedian Ben Hurley. Photo / Katie Little

But as he gears up for his new tour 'straight out of lockdown', which starts on Friday in Auckland and runs until mid-August, Hurley plans on avoiding Covid-19 material for the most part.


"I'm trying not to do too much around it because I think people probably want to hear about other things," the comedian told the Herald.

On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the limit of social gatherings could increase to 100 people from midday on Friday.

Hurley, who had been preparing for a tour since the country entered alert level 3, announced his tour the same day.

The capacity at venues excluded staff according to the Government's official Covid-19 website, however, all customers must be seated.

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Those restrictions suited comedy perfectly, Hurley said, as it was difficult to perform with people standing.

Hospitality venues still needed to ensure physical distancing, meaning no venue in New Zealand is able to open their dance floors.

However, it did not appear to be an issue for summer festival Rhythm & Vines which had already sold 90 per cent of its 20,000 tickets already.

Founder and co-director of the event Hamish Pinkham told the Herald signs were looking positive for the event to go ahead over the New Year's holiday.


"We've got time on our side, in seven months I think the landscape is going to be a lot clearer," Pinkham said.

Festivalgoers at Rhythm & Vines in 2018. Photo / File
Festivalgoers at Rhythm & Vines in 2018. Photo / File

"We're just waiting for the authorities to give us the green light and it's looking like that's going to come in the next few weeks.

"People are back on buses and in restaurants which is a good sign and it won't be long hopefully before we can all get together to enjoy some live music."

Leaving the lockdown for level 3 was a "light at the end of the tunnel" moment for Hurley, who said planning the tour had been great.

"For a long time, I felt useless," he said. "To be able to put something together like this has been quite beneficial for my mental health."

Many of the venues he would visit were part of the Save Our Venues campaign, which was a fundraiser for struggling music venues.

A number of the nation's small and medium-sized venues are fighting hard to stay afloat after they were forced to close during the lockdown.

More than $400,500 had been donated as of early Monday afternoon.

These smaller venues dotted throughout the country were very important to developing domestic and international talent, Reuben Bonner of Save Our Venues said.

And while the boosted campaign would help, there was plenty more to be done to ensure the venues would survive long term.

"These series of boosted campaigns are a very thin band-aid," he said.

"While a cash injection via these campaigns is helpful to pay immediate bills and stop them from drowning, it's not going to keep them alive forever.

"It's about everyone really getting behind their venues, supporting them longer-term, and having a more open conversation with the Government."

These venues were dear to Hurley's heart and the comedian hoped he could help by getting Kiwis through the doors.

"Not all of them are 'Save Our Venues' venues but a lot of them are, that has been part of the motivation - the idea is to help with the campaign," he said.

"There's something about them: they're slightly grungy, slightly dirty, it's rock and roll and it's kind of where stand-up comedy started.

"My message would be: 'This is all you've got at the moment, so get into it kind of thing'."