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What's Hot New Zealand took a moment to chat with Mexican-Kiwi comedian China Gonzalez about her upcoming show, Better Than Tacos.
Your show Better Than Tacos delves a bit into your story as a Mexican migrant in Auckland, can you give us any details about what else we can expect? There are a few anecdotes on my first impressions of this country, and surprisingly quite a lot of shared knowledge of my own culture that I now have because of my relocation to New Zealand. As well as several introspective moments on what actually defines and creates culture, which is a question all migrants are faced with when having to learn new ways of living.
You’re a strong representative of the Latino community on the comedy scene, performing this show in both Spanish and English – what are the logistics of performing the same show in two different languages? What’s your favourite part about doing it that way? The hardest part was trying the material with both audiences before it officially got selected for the show, this was a particularly challenging thing to do in Spanish because there weren't really that many, or any, Spanish gigs happening. So I used to have to create gigs and find other people who were willing to do comedy to have enough people for a line up just so that I could try my jokes in Spanish, but now they all seem pretty addicted to comedy, haha, so there are enough gigs happening that it's almost as easy as trying material in English. I think my favorite part of the journey was realizing that there was such a big audience hungry to hear comedy in Spanish, because they are such a grateful audience, it really feels like home performing for them, and during these times when we can't visit our actual homes that's a nice thing to have.
You’ve had a few successful runs at the New Zealand International Comedy Festival over the past few years, what have you enjoyed most about being part of that? I think it's been seeing the progressive growth. I started like most comedians with a 15-minute set in a three-person line up, then this year I had a season for my first hour which was performed in two different languages and a whole season for our Spanglish project. It's also a super inspiring environment. It was watching all the amazing local shows that made me go "Oh, I could do that next year" and what drove me to try bigger things each year.
Tell us about your bilingual recurring comedy show, the Spanglish Comedy project. This is a project that started as an experiment to see if there were enough audience members for a Spanish speaking show. We had to do it bilingual at first because we didn't even have enough fully Spanish speaking comedians, so to give the performers some wiggle room we named it the Spanglish Comedy project. This is not the case anymore, there are a bunch of fully Hispanic people doing it and we have more people keen to try all the time. But we still love having our Anglo-Saxon mates, whose Spanish varies from performer to performer, because we know how cool it is to have the chance to perform in a second language. It's scary but cool, and the audience adores to see them try hard to make them laugh in Spanish, they identify from having to struggle with English themselves on a daily basis.
Have you currently got any other projects on the go? I am always writing new comedy bits, so after Better Than Tacos you can expect another hour to come, possibly also in both languages. I am also working on establishing Laenye Productions, a production house with my Spanish-speaking mates Matias Avaca and Daniel Fernandez that will hopefully house all sorts of Spanish-speaking art forms, not just stage comedy.
What’s the most common misconception about stand up comedy? I think the most common misconception about it is that comedians are social extroverts. I mean, some of us are, but we are still very anxious people who don't always handle attention off stage that well.
Who are your personal comedy heroes? I really like Stewart Lee's approach to comedy, he sees it as an art with a purpose in society, and his hours are so perfectly structured. And obviously Eddie Izzard. She was the first person who I knew was translating entire hours to see if they worked in different languages, and she was also one of the first big comedians if not the first to talk about gender issues on stage. I've always found her gender bending very inspiring.
So, tell us – what really is better than tacos? I wouldn't want to spoil the show!
Better Than Tacos
The Basement Theatre, Auckland
Tuesday 10 - Saturday 14 August