Kura Shoulda Woulda Q&A

KURA FORRESTER is this year’s Billy T Award winner, the first Māori person to win the award since 2004 and first Māori woman to win it… ever. LAUMATA LAUANO caught up with the actor-comedian who says Māori and Pasifika are the funniest people in the world. Not that our reporter was bias but she was inclined to agree



Congrats on the Billy T award!


Thanks guurrl

How did it feel?


Aww man, it felt so good (to win), there had been so much build-up you know, so the comedy festival runs all month and I’d been performing my show for two weeks and there’s always that added pressure of the competition element of it, that was really hefty. There were me and four other people all going for this award and I’d actually been nominated in November of the year beforehand, so the build-up was huge. So, by the time it came around, what I was really pleased about is that I had given it my best shot. I was like ‘Okay, even if I don’t win, I was really happy with my show and I was really proud that I had sold out all my shows. I thought ‘If I don’t win, I’ve given it my best go. But I’m still super competitive, like most brown people, right? I was like ‘I better win’, so it felt really good, thanks.


The show you’re doing at the end of this month- Kura Shoulda Woulda


It’s like a return show. Usually, most comedians after Comedy Fest will do another season because it’s a chance to really refine your show. You know how what bits work now and what bits need work. The reason I’m doing one night only is because Q Theatre offered me their big space - the Rangitira room - which seats 350 people. So I’m going to try to sell it out to the biggest audience I’ve ever done for my solo show, too, so it’ll be a pretty special night.


What joke has given you the best response?


Great question. Well, I talk heaps about my whanau in the show. I make jokes about my mum trying to not be annoying and that makes her really annoying and my dad being quite a short wick, really quick to fire up. I talk about very specific things about my family and I feel like my whole audience is like ‘Yesss girl, we’re with you’. I talk heaps about being the youngest in my family and always feeling like a bit of a stuff up, like I’m quite weird in my family that I’ve gone down the artistic pathway. I feel like heaps of people relate to my jokes.


How has being the youngest helped form who you are as a performer?


I reckon being the youngest always makes you a bit of a natural show off. You do need to like vie for attention all the time, so I do feel like it’s sort of led … I guess I’ve always had sort of a funny bone, you know? I’ve always loved cracking up my friends and my family. Also, my family are real funny as well. They just would never do it onstage. We’ve all got mates like that, right? I just took it to another level. In hindsight, I think it’s really helped. Growing up, I always felt like a bit of a black sheep, maybe not so smart or academic, but now that I’m an adult, I look back and know it’s actually really good what happened to me because now I’m doing what I’m doing.

Did you always want to go into comedy?


I think so. Acting was my first sort of passion. It’s what I studied straight out of high school. I went to drama school and I became an actor. And even all through drama school, I knew I had a natural kind of way with comedy and had comedic timing and stuff. But I never really thought about it as a profession, until the last couple of years, I guess, because I’ve met people that are doing it and doing it really well, like Rose Matafeo, Alice Snedden, Tom Sainsbury and all these people that I surround myself with. And there’s nothing like having people around you that are doing it to make you want to do it.

Where were you raised?


I was born and raised in Lower Hutt. Wellington. My mum is Pakeha, a Welly lady, and my dad’s side is from Tokomaru Bay on the East Coast, so I’m half Māori, half Pakeha, with Ngati Porou my iwi on my Māori side. But we never grew up there. We were always kinda of city slickers, but we’d always go over to the East Coast and catch up with whanau there as well. Wellington is still kinda home for me. I have a big sister who still lives there and a brother who lives in Ohope by Whakatane, so my family’s all kind of spread out. But I’m Auckland-based now … and have probably been in Auckland for longer than Wellington.


Just call yourself a JAFA now

I know! I’m a proper JAFA now, ahh I hate that! I love Auckland, it’s fine to live in. I just have to be here for the work, this is where television is made and so that’s me for now. Auckland’s kinda home, home but Wellington is where my heart is.


I read somewhere that you said Māori people are the funniest in the world?


Big call, aye … when I say that I mean us Pacific Islanders, I mean Māori and PI, I kind of mean any indigenous peoples, I guess. I feel like we have a natural way with comedy and each other as well. Storytelling is such a big part of our culture that I feel like we teach our kids how to talk from a really young age, to be able to stand up and do a speech and a song … it’s not a big deal for us. That’s a really cool thing.



When I won the award, all these non-Māori people were asking me why is there more Māori in comedy? And I’ve always been like ‘well there is, it’s just not mainstream.’ Māori do comedy everywhere, we do it on our marae, we do it at our funerals, we do it through all different sorts of things. I’m glad to be Māori and be in the mainstream comedy scene, but I just feel like if you want to diversify your industry, you can’t just be like ‘please brown people come to us’ You’ve got to go to them, go out south, maaan. Everyone’s funny out there.

First Māori comedian to win the Billy T Award since 2004!


I think so, definitely the first Māori female to win it, and I think the last one was Ben Hurley in 2004 … and maybe Taika (Waitititi) before him? A really long time, it’s been ages since there’s been- but there’ve been brown women, Rose Matafeo is Samoan-Croatian … I think and Angela Dravid is Samoan-Indian, so there’s still been some pretty awesome chicks as well, but yes, I guess if you had to … I’m the official first Māori woman to.


What does it mean to you to be Māori in your role and in your craft?


I guess I don’t know anything else other than what I am. I like to talk about the truth of what’s going on around me so, of course, I’ll talk about being Māori because it’s part of my life. In saying that, I don’t exclusively talk about that. I explore lots of ideas and topics. It means heaps to me and I can draw on it and use it for inspiration, obviously, with what’s happening in the country. I feel it’s important to bring up issues about the politics that we have and I feel like comedy is a great way to do that because you can sorta slip in messages while people are laughing.

What do you see for yourself in the next 5 years or so?


I’d really just love to keep going with this, I also want to start thinking internationally as well, so I’m going to take my show to Melbourne next year and Edinburgh as well, so there’s lots of festivals to look forward to. And just being able to maintain myself as an artist. Like most up and coming actors, I worked in hospitality for years. So I’m really enjoying having a steady flow of work in the arts and I really just want to keep building on it.

Any advice for up and coming Māori and Pasifika comedians?


Absolutely do it … it’s a great time. Be prepared to work hard and dedicate a lot of time to it. I’d also like some people to get real a bit. It’s not just going to happen straight away. You have to put the work in. I’d also be like ‘Get in touch with me if you want any advice because I’m like lonely out here being the only Māori. There are lots of people out there … I feel like it’s a really generous industry. From the outside it might look a bit scary, but I promise you… all comedians just want to be liked, you know? If you get in touch with somebody you admire, I guarantee they would help you out. There’s lots of different pathways to do it. Just get involved.

How do you plan your material/show?


I write it all out like a script and have a friend of mine …. Jessica Joy Wood. She and I went to drama school together - she went to James Cook High - she’s Pakeha but considers herself a real South Sider- she’s got a brown heart yano. We work together because we’re best mates and she’s really good at telling me what’s funny and what’s not funny. She helps me with the delivery of my jokes. I was probably writing solidly for about two months for this show, I get an idea and write it down, develop it with my mates and we go from there.


How does one recover from telling a joke and falling a bit flat?


That almost comes with the job, you kinda have to be prepared to fail. There’s lots of different ways that you can get over it. Onstage you can acknowledge that you know that it went badly. Sometimes you can get a laugh that way, just dust yourself off and keep going, which is just what you have to do anyway. It’s just experience and practice. Once you get used to live audiences, you can adjust your work. I encourage young comedians to learn how to listen to their audience and adapt. It’s just one of those things that come with the gig.


What can people expect, coming in NEW new?


Well, I reckon they can expect a really, really entertaining fun show. There’s no audience participation, so if you’re scared about that, yeah nah. Seriously, you just get to sit in the dark for an hour and crack up, there’s heaps of energy and pace in the show, there’s lots of different characters and I honestly feel like there’s something for everyone. You can probably bring your mum and dad and you won’t be embarrassed, or you can bring your best friends and giggle and point at me and be like, ‘We’re like that too!’


This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


Kura will be performing her award-winning show for one night only.




Saturday 31 August, 7.30pm


Q Theatre – Rangatira


Tickets available, click here to book.