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‘The NZ comedy industry is not going to put up with that shit’. Ben Hurley talks Comedy in Action

Over three nights from Friday 31 March, Auckland’s Classic Comedy Bar will host an exceptional line up of comedians donating their time and talent to raise money for three worthy causes. Sam Brooks sat down with organiser and MC Ben Hurley to talk about it.

Ben Hurley (7 Days) has gathered a posse of like-minded comedy vigilantes, determined to make a stand (up) against injustices in the world. Over three nights, Comedy in Action will raise money for RainbowYOUTH, Women’s Refuge and the Asylum Seekers Support Trust, all NZ based charities, all of which will receive 100% of proceeds from ticket sales.

Sam Brooks: So, why the show?

Ben Hurley: Yeah sure, it’s as good a question as any to start with.

It’s that feeling of slight helplessness with the world and the sort of sea-change in the world, politically and just feeling like there was nothing. And I must admit I was watching John Oliver and he actually said ‘you might feel like there’s nothing to do, well you can donate to causes’.

And I was like, well, you know that’s cool but the cool thing with a stand-up comedy gig is not only do you get the money but you get the awareness as well.

Of course.

And  it shows a great united front against what could be some of the biggest injustices in the world right nowand that the New Zealand comedy industry is not going to put up with that shit. I mean it’s so small fry, man, I get that it’s fucking New Zealand. But I dunno… I’m sick of people just fighting on fucking Facebook and Twitter…

Oh my god, it’s so useless. It’s not genuinely helping, it is making things worse, almost.

I think so too.

It’s just endless. It gets further and further away from any kind of meeting point of goodness. Which is shit.

I think people from social media get that satisfaction of going, ‘here’s a new article about how Trump’s fucked!’ And he is fucked, there’s no doubt about that.

But they feel that satisfaction that they’ve done something by posting an article, but we all know how Facebook works! Y’know, you’re not posting that article and changing anyone’s minds.

Totally.

So, while this gig is literally only one step removed from that, at least it’s one step removed from that.

Exactly. It actually helps something and it makes something at least a little bit different. Which is enough I feel.

Ben Hurley

Did you approach charities? Or vice versa?

I’ve had someone help me called Debs McSmith. You know her?

Yeah, she’s amazing!

She’s an old friend. What I’m not great at is production and so I got her to help me – she’s the best. So she reached out to some charities and I kind of chose the charities. And I reached out to the comedians and the response was overwhelming.

Literally, it was turned down by two people who aren’t even in the country, that’s the only reason they said no. I got them to choose their charity. Most people said ‘I don’t care, put me wherever’. Some people had a special connection to a particular charity. No one was like ‘don’t put me on that one’ or ‘I’ll have the refugees but not the gays!’.

No one said that.

Which is good.

And it was overwhelming, the response. And it was immediate. Comedians are notoriously useless for getting back.

God, yes.

So to have that response and have it booked in 24 hours…

What? Shit! That’s kind of unheard of, right?

Yeah, totally unheard of. It’s been so great. And tickets are selling (but they’re not sold out yet). So public response has been good too.

Literally everyone’s donating their time, nobody is earning a single dollar out of this other than the charities. Which, again, is unheard of because normally you pay something. You pay for people’s time or petrol at the least, but, no, everyone’s just giving it up.

That’s genuinely so cool.

Ben: Yeah it’s cool man. And Scott from The Classic’s been amazing. It’s sort of part of the whole Classic’s 20 year anniversary. [It’s] the first year we’ve done this and hopefully it will continue in subsequent years.

That’s fuckin’ cool…  So what is the next step?

Um, I hadn’t thought about that necessarily…

[laughing] That’s fine.

I think it is as much of an awareness thing as it is a money thing.

Two of the three charities we’re doing, they actually get quite a lot of support (obviously not enough). The Asylum Seekers Trust New Zealand were just … and I’m not saying the others weren’t thankful… But Asylum Seekers Trust were just absolutely overwhelmed, like they’re a small institution at the moment.

They help refugees in New Zealand assimilate, not in a cultural way but in a practical way like getting a job and, y’know, just kind of that general living thing.

And I think that’s incredibly cool to have a support centre for people who’ve not only come from somewhere pretty fucked up but have come to a new culture which… it’s scary to somebody who hasn’t come from somewhere fucked up.

Absolutely.

So I guess my point is, a lot of awareness.

And even if people can’t come to the gigs, our social media presence and stuff has put those charities and also the people who are a united front against the injustice that means those charities have to be … that shows that there is support from a particular community.

And it’s not like a ‘celebrity’ thing at all because I don’t necessarily think that celebrity endorsement helps in any way. In fact sometimes it can hinder it. We see that kind of thing happening in the States now where the ‘celebrities’/’Hollywood support’ thing kind of turns off a lot of people, they’re the ‘Hollywood elite’. So it’s not that at all.

To me, comedy’s a community. It’s just this happens to be my community. And it’s my job. You know, if I was a teacher I would get teachers involved, and if I was a lawyer I’d get lawyers involved, y’know, if I was a plumber I’d get plumbers involved, and I happen to be a comedian so it’s just getting my work community together.

And we’re pretty good generally, as a community, at getting together like this. The last big fundraiser I would’ve done we had literally, just everyone piled in, it was Christchurch earthquake, and we filled The Civic which was…

Amazing.

Book tickets to all three nights of Comedy in Action here.

If you can attend Comedy in Action, you can donate to the charities that it is supporting below:

Donate to RainbowYOUTH here.

Donate to Asylum Seekers Support Trust here.

Donate to Women’s Refuge here.

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