I asked Lee Ray what the most impulsive thing she has ever done has been, and she quickly replied with "committing to do a solo show!" She's been on the Wellington comedy scene for a couple of years now and is about to perform her first ever solo comedy show, Wahine Mawhero - Pink Maori Woman, at the Fringe Bar here for the NZ Fringe. I wanted to know more about Lee Ray, her comedy and how this idea came about...
Jess: Lee Ray, I feel like I've become so tight with you because I see you at nearly every comedy gig I ever go to! How long have you been doing stand up?
Lee Ray: It was 2 years on the 7th of Feb
J: Tell us about that first ever gig!
LR: It was at 'Stand Up in the Attik' in Melbourne. I went all the way to Melbourne so no one I knew would see me. My sister lives there and over the month I was there, we went to comedy open mic nights just about every second night and I just kept chickening out. On the night before I was coming home to NZ, my sister confiscated my passport under the proviso that if I didn't get up on stage that night, I wasn't getting it back. I am so grateful to Penny for that extreme move.
I recently watched a video of it and it was so terrible! But people did still laugh and I was hooked! At the airport on the way home I googled Wellington Comedy and found Raw Quest so I entered. Raw Quest was my 2nd gig and I got into the semi finals which was my third gig.
J: For those of you who haven't had the pleasure of seeing Lee Ray perform she has a magnificent story about silencing her child... I won't give it away but wow. I think that bit of your set will stay with me forever. Those who have seen it will know exactly what I'm talking about. Do you draw on a lot of your own experiences for your comedy material?
LR: So far all of it, all of jokes are true. My daughters are so embarrassed, sorry girls! I got into comedy to talk about important stuff like changing human behaviour around climate change, social justice etc. I haven't figured out how to do that yet but Wahine Mawhero is my first attempt at it albeit in the form of a very personal story. I think humour is such a great form of communication. In one of my day jobs I teach environmental science and I use a lot of humour in my teaching, especially with the info that is a little scary and hard to receive. It wasn't much of a jump to compress the funny bits together to try out stand up.
J: Do you have any superstitions or rituals when it comes to performing? Like a lucky pair of undies or something? Or having a vodka shot before you go on stage?
LR: Depends on my stress levels. Sometimes I will have a shot of my Dad's favourite whiskey and make a little karakia for him to loan me his gift of the gab for a while. I do have 'stage undies' they help me get my Lee Ray on.
J: What has been the most momentous heckle you've experienced?
LR: One of the funniest things I have ever seen was Jundas Capone being heckled by his own mother, twice. If you were at that show you will know what I mean. It is also the reason why I don't let my daughters come to my shows, they could be brutal!
J: You don't just perform though do you? You produce comedy too?
LR: Yes, I live up the coast so I decided to bring some comedy up there so I didn't have to do the comedy commute into the city every night. I run a monthly show called Coastal Comedy which is at the Raumati Social Club on the first Tuesday night of every month.
J: Quite an active member of the Wellington scene! Vital in fact!
What inspires you/motivates you?
LR: My children left home and I suddenly had soooo much time on my hands so I just threw myself into comedy. I think my favorite thing is the comedy community, all of my new friends are smart and hilarious and we have a lot of fun together. I have had so much support, encouragement and advise from great people. Special mention to Vaughan King who made such a great and wonderful 'home' of Wellington Comedy over the last couple of years. I probably wouldn't still be doing comedy had I not had VK's as a city base when I was in town.
I have something to say and comedy has turned out to be the perfect vehicle. If anyone had told me that I would be doing this a few years ago I would have choked on my coffee and told them to stop being ridiculous. I still spend a few moments before getting on stage asking myself, what the hell am I up to? I must be a crazy person!
J: What inspired you to create this show?
LR: It was a bit of an accident really. I was going to do a duo show with my friend Saran 'The Cunning Linguists' where we use all three official languages of NZ. On the day that registrations for the Fringe closed, Saran realised she was double booked. We had already booked the Fringe Bar dates and when I went to cancel, Joel didn't have time to program anything else into those spots. Not wanting to let him down, I offered to do a show by myself, he agreed. I then had 3 hours to think of an idea, take an image, write the blurb etc. The original plan was to write the show about finding my Marae and that was my summer mission. I haven't found my Marae yet so it is the story of my experiences of being a wahine mawhero. I'm hoping someone will come to the show who will recognise my grandfather and put me in touch with the right people. That would be an awesome result and a nice addition to future versions of the show.
J: I am so excited for your show! Is this your first solo show?
LR: Yes. When I got the confirmation back from fringe I had a little (read epic!) freak out. I contacted Joel and told him that I was just a baby comedian, that I was way out of my depth and that I wasn't ready for this. He told me that this was how I got ready. He was right. I still don't feel ready (read terrified) but I have written a whole show! Fancy that!
J: Joel is such a great person. That is amazing. Okay so, describe your show in 5 words for us.
LR: Heartfelt, funny, thought-provoking, hopefully good?
J: And finally, what are your 3 favourite meals ever?
LR: Cajun chicken salad, pizza and aubergine parmigiana
Lee Ray is performing Wahine Mawhero Wednesday 22nd - Friday 24th at The Fringe Bar, 8:30PM each performance. Tickets can be purchased at fringe.co.nz. You can also follow Lee Ray on Facebook to keep up to date with her comedy.
Jess Brien is a clown, performer, writer and yoga teacher. In her spare time she drinks cider and eats breakfast foods. She loves connecting with people so find her on all the social medias at @jessssbrien or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org