Stand-up comedian Melanie Bracewell, 22, talks writing jokes all day and how she navigates having a full-time job and being an entertainer.
What do you do?
I'm a comedian, I do lots of things adjacent to it as well. My full-time job is writing for The Project on TV3 and I also do a radio show on the weekend and then I also do live stand-up comedy; I have a finger in a lot of pies, basically.
In terms of comedy, I do freelancing. It's really awesome that I get offered gigs and can turn some down and say yes to others, and that's the good thing about having a full-time job alongside. People I know in comedy have to do pub quizzes and things they don't enjoy doing just because you've got to make money somehow, so I'm glad I'm in a position where I can say no, and yes to things that are fun.
What was the motivation to become a comedian?
I was at university studying communications, and I didn't know what I wanted to do off the back of it, and then a competition came up for the 7 Days Comedy Apprentice and my friends we're like "You should enter this competition, it looks cool".
I had to submit a video of me being funny for a minute and then I ended up winning it and they were like "This is really going to propel your comedy career" and so I tried it. I've been doing comedy for about three and a half years now, it's cool that my job is essentially just writing jokes all day.
I never grew up thinking that I would be a comedian in any way. I didn't really think of it as a job that any normal person could do. It wasn't until I met friends in the local comedy scene that I realised it was a possible career option.
How do you make money from being a comedian?
It's a bit different to doing comedy full time when you're putting on your actual own solo show, that's when you can get into selling tickets for you and budgeting yourself. For most of the year round there's a flat fee for certain gigs. We have a Comedy Guild here in New Zealand which determines what are acceptable fees in the comedy industry. That's a really good thing to have because I would of had no idea how to value myself as a comedian, I actually find that kind of uncomfortable. Now that I have a manager, it really helps to have someone in the middle who can be like "This is what Melanie is worth, nothing less".
When do you your comedy gigs?
I do shows in the evenings, I probably do two to three per week. I'm at the point now where I just want to get as much stage time as possible so I can get better. Comedy does take up quite a bit of time but it doesn't feel like a chore for me. I feel like being a comedian has helped me in a lot of ways, like in my personal life and the way I talk to people. To know that I can improve and work on something I love, and the feeling after a gig is so rewarding - providing it goes well.
It's the middle of the International Comedy Festival at the moment so this week I'm in Auckland doing my show, it's called Melodrama. Last week I was in Wellington doing it, so that's me doing my yearly solo show.
What's the hardest thing about working in this industry?
Comedy is one of those things which isn't always going to go brilliantly and how you expect it, sometimes you may have an off night or you get down on yourself because it's such a personal thing, you're literally just standing there with a microphone saying something that you wrote. If you're an actor you can say the director was bad and the writing was bad but I am the director, the writer, the performer so there's nothing to fall back on a part, so there can be a lot of pressure.
What reaction did you get for being a comedian when you first started?
My Dad was really scared of me doing this when I first started. He's a huge comedy nerd and he's the one who showed me a lot of comedy growing up but he was like: "You don't have to do it", he wanted me to do improve so at least I would have a team of people. I think he was just worried if it didn't go well I would be upset, it wasn't like he didn't think I could do it. I don't actually tell people in passing that I'm a comedian, I just say I'm a writer just because it doesn't feel like a real job. People that I know, though, know I'm a comedian and think its great.
What's the creative process of coming up with a comedy set?
I tend to draw a lot from personal experiences, usually its stories or things that have happened to me or observations on how I see the world. I'm 22 so I think that kind of helps with that unique perspective on things. I tend to write about what I know which is mostly my life. When I first started people would be like "Oh, she's a bit awkward", but I think I've evolved beyond that now where I feel quite confident on stage. My comedic style is a little bit goofy but I still think its intelligent content.
What advice do you give to others thinking about starting a business or wanting to become self-employed, centred around performing arts?
Put yourself out there and go for it. It depends what creative outlet but if you're holding yourself back in any way, think of it like this: You might as well give it a go because even if it doesn't go as well as you hoped the only person who is going to remember that is you, and you can keep trying.