World Buskers Festival

Female comedian: 'I scare most people off'


Vicki Anderson talks to comedian Justine Smith about her experiences at the World Buskers Festival.

Justine Smith, a Cantabrian who lives in Auckland with her boyfriend and two kittens, is one of New Zealand's best stand-up comics. She has won awards, including the coveted Billy T Award and the NZ Comedy Guild's Best Female Comedian award. She is known for her caustic wit and her super fast "potty mouth".

Are male or female comedians funnier? And don't you hate that question?

"I know, right? We're all funny, that's why we're invited here. For the festival, there were eight comedians and it was one way of splitting into two groups to fit the shows in, end of story."

What's it like returning to your hometown to perform?

"The buskers festival is my favourite gig. Every year that I am lucky enough to be included it makes my whole year, really it does. Coming back to Christchurch I can't get my bearings. I find it hard to remember what was where now and I grew up here. I went to Avonside Girls' High and I'm sure there are some girls I went to school with in the crowd this week. I'm just hoping my school bully shows up."

Your mum still lives here, doesn't she?

"Yes, she's very proper. She's proud of me but she doesn't come to my shows which is probably a good thing, I think it might put me off. Poor woman got a daughter that talks about vaginas in public."

A male colleague is curious to know if comedians and buskers get groupies at the festival. Does that happen?

"Yes, but not so much to me. I get the really strange ones for some reason who come up after the shows and put their arms around me. I'm like 'Back off buddy'.

"For some reason Urzila [Carlson] often gets hit on by straight women, which is really quite strange. But yes, the men have had a lot of puss in their face this week but most of them have partners so it's not going very far."

How often do fans get a bit weird?

"Not so much with me because I think I scare most people off with my scary eye.

"Dai Henwood is one of my best friends and he couldn't go to the Big Day Out this year because of that. Every four steps he gets stopped by someone wanting a picture taken with him. It's nice but a whole day of that just puts him off the idea of going to things like BDO.

"He's also quite small and people often pick him up which sounds like it might be funny but really it isn't."

You seem very confident. Do you ever get nervous before a show?

"I always get nervous, it's terrifying - especially the first show of a run, I was shitting my daks. I was peeking through the curtain at the crowd and saw one guy with pursed lips in the front row and I thought 'he's going to hate me'.

"For the festival we're doing 11 shows in 11 days, once you've got the first one under your belt it's OK but then the opposite happens. If it's going too well you start to worry, too.

"I also keep thinking my show should be cleaner but I can't do it, without dirt I've got nothing."

Why do you think there aren't more female comedians in New Zealand?

"I seriously don't know. I have no answer. Lots of girls start doing it and then fall away. I don't subscribe to the idea that it's because it's male dominated - so is truck driving but chicks still do that.

"There should be more, Kiwi women are funny."

- Only Justine will get this but it's worth including in the hope it will make her laugh as a thank you for the fantastic hours of laughter she has given people in her hometown this week: "Ladies, a plate".

Nothing But Stand Up, tonight 7pm, Saturday 8.30pm, one hour show, at the Big Top, Busker Park.

© Fairfax NZ News