Tell me a little about yourself, where you’re from, what you’re interested in, that kind of stuff.
I grew up in Wellington, born and bred in the capital city, so I guess that makes sense that I’m a little bit politics focused. I’m just up the hill from the beehive, so it’s fresh on the mind. I’ve had a pretty good upbringing, I’ve got two lovely parents who have always looked after me, I went to a nice primary school, loved my high school too, then went off to the university of Auckland, did an exchange to the University of Edinburgh, and eventually got my degree in politics and philosophy and… started telling jokes… about politics.
Tell me about your YouTube channel.
It’s called White Man Behind A Desk, because that’s literally what it is. It’s me sitting behind a desk, ranting about various political issues, trying not to get too many things wrong, and trying to be a bit funny at the same time. The series started when I was working on a fictional web series called ‘Lovely Little Losers,’ which was an adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’. Anyway I said to The Candle Wasters [creators], “I reckon I could do a Jon Stewart Daily Show type thing, would you help me make it a reality?” And they said, “yeah that sounds great, let’s do that!” And so we made the first episode. At first we weren’t sure whether to put it on just Facebook, but we were told “That’s dumb. Just pretend you think it’s good, put it out there and see if people like it.” And they did.
Tell me about the process of making a White Man Behind a Desk episode.
Basically, it starts with me thinking “oh yeah we should probably talk about that.” Then we begin researching it, often people want me to do ‘hot takes’ on something, come on to some panel and express an opinion about something that just happened. I’m not super comfortable doing that, because that’s not what I’m good at. What I like to do is go away for a few weeks and read a bunch of articles, and pull together lots of different people’s points of view, and try to come up with a reasonably solid argument because the piece kinda doesn’t work unless it’s got a satisfying argument. Typically, the first draft is not that funny, it’s just me kind of trying to put the pieces together, and then I go back through and smatter jokes through it so that hopefully it’s an entertaining thing to watch. Then somewhere along the line in a bit of a panic we spend two or three days getting it from filming, to editing, to doing all the graphics, to colour grading my face so I don’t look ill, and all the other things that need to happen so it looks vaguely watchable. And then we put it out there.
Are you partaking in the comedy fest this year? What’s your act?
Yeah I am, which is very exciting. My act is ‘One Bad Lie’ which is the character getting away from the safety of the internet where he’s just been able to sit behind a camera in his room on his own, which is quite a nice place to be. The show as a whole is guiding people from the White Man Behind a Desk that you know, typical, topical, political rants, all the way through to hopefully a bit of a spectacle, which is a little bit bigger, and a little more theatrical. We’re all trying to create all the bits and pieces for that now, I’m working with Stella Reid who’s our director who’s wonderful, she’s making it an actual show so that it’s not just a series of jokes that I think are funny. So I’m working with people who understand theatre, and that’s really important. White Man Behind A Desk is a weird thing to get writing because there’s kind of no subtext. I’m pretty much saying what I think, or ironically saying the exact opposite of what I think. There isn’t much subtlety and nuance. In theatre, you don’t want to explicitly tell what the show is about, you want the audience to come up with what might be the message of the show. And so working with Stella has been a great opportunity to branch out into a new art form and do it well.
Who do you draw inspiration from for your comedy?
If you’re a comedy nerd, the answer is a really really absurdly long list. There’s the obvious ones which people go to because it’s format, you know? There’s the Charlie Brooker, the Jon Stewart, the John Oliver, they’re all people that have helped create the genre that we work in. We look at them and go “oh okay that’s how it works, let’s try and do our low budget kiwi version.” But I’m a big fan of fictional series, so I write fictional web series with The Candle Wasters, so anything from ‘Rick And Morty’ to ‘The Office’ to ‘Bojack Horseman’ to ‘Arrested Development’ to ‘It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia,’ I’m just obsessed with comedy television basically, and any and all of its flaws.
What would you most like to achieve one day?
What would I most like to achieve one day? That’s a heavy question, Kasharn. It’s a big one. It’s hard not to say a cheesy answer, you know, like when they asked John Lennon what he wanted to be when he grew up, and he said “happy,” and they said “you didn’t understand the question”. That’s the sort of cheesy, Tumblr, Instagram answer, and there is kind of a truth in that, right? I think when you’re in your twenties, I’m working on this show now, you can’t help but feel like you just want to work really hard right now and that’s really satisfying, I really like waking up the next day and getting to meet clever, fun, kind, creative people who are excited to be working on the project, and you just kind of want to do that one day after the other. Eventually I’d like to have a vaguely stable life so that maybe I can have a family or something. I can’t help but think that sometimes there’s an interpretation that if you’re working in writing or performing, that it’s different to other kind of jobs, but it really isn’t that different. You get up and you do the work, you hopefully like the people that you’re working with, you want to keep doing it and have a vaguely good income so that you can have a nice life. And that’s basically what I want to achieve.
Okay, now let’s get to the serious stuff. Would you rather watch your parents have sex every day for the rest of your life, or join in once to stop it?
Look, this is an unanswerable question. This is one of those, you know, “When did you stop committing a terrible crime?” questions, and there’s no way to answer because any answer is incriminating. And I have been media trained enough Kasharn, to know that you can’t make me answer that. This is not an interrogation, and I refuse to partake… [laughs] in this twisted game that you have put in front of me.
What’s the better colour, coral or salmon?
Ah well, they’re both great colours. I’m gonna say coral, slightly more pastel. You know? It’s gentler. I feel like that’s the right answer. Is the audience gonna be really divided on that? Are we gonna lose some fans?
Favourite television Show?
That is a question I do take very very seriously. I’m going to be kicking myself later on if I get this wrong. Freaks and Geeks. It changes all the time but right now? Freaks and Geeks.
If you had the chance to follow a celebrity for 24 hours, but you had to constantly annoy them with incessant ranting, who would it be and why?
I would have to pick someone who I wouldn’t mind embarrassing myself in front of. It’d have to be someone I really like but not someone i like too much that I would be mortified that I was the annoying person. I’m gonna give quite a nerdy answer, this is something I have genuinely been thinking recently, which is David Remnick, who is the Editor of the New Yorker, and I’m baffled by how he does his job. Because I listen to the New Yorker Radio Hour, which is a fully fledged podcast and he hosts that, and then there are other podcasts that the New Yorker puts out, and they also do the magazine every week. And every time I hear about his job, he always seems like he’s really hands on in every aspect of the magazine. And he seems to be like a good father, his son has autism and he seems to be very supportive of helping his son get through life. Even though I would be making his life considerably worse by ranting at him all day, I just need to see how he gets through a day and does everything he does because he seems to be doing the work of about five people, and I need to understand how. There must be some trick to it.
Favourite day of the week?
It probably is Friday, which I know is a cliche answer, but I like Friday because it’s a combination of lots of things getting done. I work with a lot of people who work for themselves so they care about the work getting done, once the week starts coming to a close, they panic but we all get lots of work done. Also, you get the nice counterbalance of getting to go to a party or hang out with people in the evening. So it’s the best of both worlds. It’s a nice day for work-life balance.
Which condiment would be the worst substance to masturbate with?
Wasabi. Simple. Feels true. It’s a little incriminating how quickly I got to that.
Final question, Robbie. Who would win in a fight between John Oliver and Stephen Colbert?
Okay. I think if you look at their comedy, John Oliver would be the first to say that he would not win. John Oliver is polite, he is English, he never leaves from behind his desk until the last minute, because he is in his own words, a scared man. Stephen Colbert, he’s got an improv background. He’s played other characters, he knows how to pretend to be a tough guy for a little while, Stephen Colbert is winning that fight. And I think both of them would agree.