The 2016 NZ International Comedy Festival will be hitting our shores from 22nd April – 15th May, showcasing dozens of local and international comedians. In the weeks leading up to New Zealand’s biggest comedy event of the year, I will be talking to several acts about their upcoming shows.
The comedy community is a kind and supportive one, and Pax Assadi fits in perfectly. As a comedian myself, interviewing Pax proved wonderfully insightful and I appreciated the opportunity to discuss comedy as a craft instead of a punch line.
Pax has been preparing for his new stand up show “In Mid-Season Form” for the 2016 International Comedy Festival, performing 3rd – 7th May.
“I feel like I’m in mid-season form. That’s why it’s called In Mid-Season Form”.
I like this title because it is definitely not a misnomer. Pax is back in Auckland for the festival after cracking people up across New Zealand for the past year whilst writing and preparing for his new show. When asked about his inspirations for the show he mentioned there weren’t many specific ones he could pin down because, of course, his material is based on experiences from his entire life.
“There will be material about being a father, about being a husband, there’s always going to be material about being brown. That’s just how it is. I’m never going to not talk about my experience.”
One thing that I’ve noticed when watching Pax perform though, is how relatable all his material is. Generally speaking, the closer I can relate to comedy material (it’s tone, topic, and context) and the more I am able to connect with it on a personal level, the funnier I find it.
I’m as far removed from Pax as one could be; female, white, and unmarried, and still I found myself crying with laughter throughout his sets. This is probably due to the enormous effort that Pax makes to include the audience in his material and deliver his stand up in a warm and approachable way.
He wants you to understand him on a personal level, and he’s skilled enough to ensure you do.
Born and raised in New Zealand by immigrant parents, Pax is very comfortable turning his experiences with racism into hilarious material, a valuable skill that not many possess, but many admire.
“It’s not the easiest thing to talk about. But when I’m on stage and I veil it in humour, people suddenly become really open to this kind of stuff.”
It’s a given – with topics as serious as racism, that people are often unwilling to talk about them in a casual context.
“You get people who close off, people who don’t know how to react, people who don’t want to hear it.”
Which leads to Pax’s favourite part of being a comedian; the fact that being on stage presents an opening through which you can engage an audience in challenging topics, largely because they are presented in a different context – one that includes humour. I agree with him wholeheartedly on this point.
I’ve found that no matter how similar your personality is to your stand-up persona, being on stage changes the dynamic of social interaction. The focus is all on the comedian and if you express ideas well enough, the audience is usually willing to engage with them.
“I try and do it in a way that doesn’t alienate the audience and actually gets the audience in on the fact that I dislike what’s happening… So the audience jumps on board with the ideas that I’m presenting to them.”
There’s no doubt that Pax is a natural at stand up, but his response to this comment gives the impression that he is still striving to improve. Incidentally, he credits his success in comedy to the skills he possesses and states that stand up is simply the career through which he chose to utilize them.
“People would tell me that I’m a natural, people would tell me that I’ve got a gift for stand up but I never really felt it. And I still don’t feel it, like I’ve never sat down and gone, “You know what, I’m gifted”.
“It’s just more like I feel like I have natural skills that lead themselves towards stand up. I think I would be just as good at something like teaching, for example, where those same skills manifest themselves. Skills like engaging an audience, skills like being able to articulate my thoughts in a way that’s relatable and understandable. Those skills just lend themselves to stand up.”
To me, this mix of modesty in ones career but confidence that you have what it takes to ‘make it’ in comedy is the perfect place for a comedian to be in – and involves being self-aware and continuously looking to develop your comedic tools.
It’s clear, based on our conversation, and the passion that Pax has had for comedy since he was a teenager, that Pax will keep writing and performing great stand up for a long time to come, and it’s clear that there are big things on his horizon.
Who: Pax Assadi
What: “In Mid-Season Form” for the 2016 International Comedy Festival
Where: Vault at Q Theatre
Dates: 3rd – 7th May 2016
Tickets: $16 – $20. You can purchase Tickets here.