So, out she comes, from a little hideaway behind the back curtain, and immediately we’re greeted with conversational banter: it’s like we’ve been reintroduced to an old friend and we’re hitting it off immediately. Loser reflects its title. It’s about what it means to be a loser, it’s for everyone that’s ever been called a loser, and it’s an awesome melody of empathy and no-holds-barred humour.
The show’s structure is pretty straightforward; Carlson will focus on a certain thematic for a couple of punchlines before shifting to a new topic, one either directly or loosely associated with the previous. We’ll tackle travel, then driving, then public transport, then Wellington weather; or, we might look at relationships, hot couples, the LGBTQ+ community, and then religious persecution. The connections are clear and there’s always a link to Carlson’s underlying point that we’re all losers in some way, shape, or form. This makes the routine easy to follow and gives the show an enjoyable rhythm; we move onto a new realm of jokes while the material is still exciting and so, the whole set fells fresh, active, and engaging.
I’m most enamoured by Carlson’s apt combination of empathy and comedy. Loser is a feel-good time because the audience and Carlson bond over what it’s like to be a loser at something at some point and because it’s jocular. We chortle at the jokes before us, many a time with tremendous exertion, but we’re always pulled back to our seats when the point Carlson is making triggers. It’s incredibly effective and smart comedy, a journey that makes us snort with laughter and ponder in thought, and it always feels natural, earned, and honest.
Loser gains much of its prowess from Carlson’s comedic talents and ability to work her audience. Some of the comedy is self-deprecating, where we’ll inspect one of her family holidays or mishaps at a previous comedy show. She’ll follow these with a couple of jokes about her audience or Wellington in general, like how she’ll berate the Wellingtonians that where a combination of shorts, jandals, and a puffer jacket to brave our weather (I’m glad someone else is calling them out!). It’s a classic back-and-forth: you get to laugh at me and my misfortunes so I can laugh at yours. And it works well because we’re always on Carlson’s side thanks to the constant conversational nature of her routine.
Simply put, Loser is impeccable. Wholesome and hilarious, it’ll hurl you out of your seat in laughter just as much as it’ll make you think about others, think about yourself, and think about how we can all exist a little more cohesively. Carlson’s comedy is deep, sharp, and seeps charisma at every single joke and aside; she’s a comedian I’d jump at the chance to see again!
Loser continues its Wellington season until Sunday 13 May at Te Auaha’s Tapere Nui; it’s selling out fast! You can book tickets through the NZ International Comedy Festival website.