Comedian Cal Wilson has passed away at the age of 53 after a short illness, it was announced yesterday.
Wilson was a mainstay of New Zealand and Australian screens across four decades, writing and performing in comedy shows such as Skitz, Telly Laughs, Pio!, The Panel, Pulp Comedy, 7 Days, Have You Been Paying Attention and Whose Line is it Anyway. Most recently, she hosted The Great Australian Bake Off. She was the inaugural winner of the Billy T Award with the late Ewen Gilmour in 1997, and founded the Christchurch-based Court Jesters improv team in 1990.
She died on Wednesday “surrounded by family and friends after a short illness at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital”, read a statement from her management agency. “Cal’s generosity, talent and friendship have been constants in the Australian comedy scene for the last twenty years. Cal was loved by her family, friends, fans and peers and a huge hole has been torn in the heart of our community.”
A tribute from the New Zealand Comedy Trust follows:
“Cal Wilson was a fearless pioneer of comedy across Aotearoa and Australia, making her mark early as the inaugural winner of the prestigious Billy T Award in 1997 alongside the late Ewen Gilmour.
A writer, actress and stand-up comic, Cal was a much-adored member of our comedy community. The NZ Comedy Festival team, our Trust Board and her peers are devastated by the news that someone so kind and brilliantly funny has passed so suddenly, having achieved so much and yet with much more still ahead of her.
Cal was one of a kind. She fully inhabited her unique style and unforgettable voice and never stopped finding ways to bring joy. She was renowned for her distinctive look, which combined her love of colour, vivacious patterns and excellent hair. During a Covid lockdown, Cal created headdresses using doll parts and Christmas baubles to delight her online fans — a project beautifully captured in a painting by Cairns-based artist Andrea Huelin, which won the Packing Room Prize in this year’s Archibald Award.
The outpouring of love and loss for Cal is a tribute to her natural, free-flowing generosity and open heart. She mentored so many people throughout her life – not all of whom saw themselves as comedians, but Cal knew they would fit alongside her on stage.
‘I think the thing is that as a comedian, you can only be how you are. You can’t be funnier than you are, and you can’t be someone that you’re not, because the audience knows if you’re not being authentic.’
Cal was one in five million. Our hearts are with her husband Chris and their son, her wider comedy whānau, and the many friends she made all across the world.”
You can watch an interview with Wilson that spans her career as part of Funny As on NZ on Screen.