Cal Wilson had Hollywood in her sights when comedy snuck up on her.
“I turned around and went, 'oh, I'm not an actor, I'm a stand-up comedian',” Wilson says of her surprise career. “My initial dream was to become an actor, and then I started doing improv and theatre sports, and then did some stand-up, and thought, 'oh, I quite enjoy this and I seem to be doing ok', and got more work doing that. So it wasn't really a plan, but I gave myself five years for it to work out, and that was about 15 years ago, I think. I haven't gone back waitressing yet.”
The only thing Wilson is serving up these days is fresh, snappy comedy. Best known as a Melbourne International Comedy Festival regular, she's also featured on TV favourites 'Thank God You're Here', 'Spicks and Specks', and 'SkitHouse'. At the start of June, the New Zealand native will join fellow stand-ups Dave Hughes, Colin Lane, Mikey Robins and plenty of others in 'Laugh Your Pants Off' at the Gold Coast's Jupiters Hotel & Casino.
Is there any rivalry between the headliners? “We're friends,” says Wilson. “I think maybe when you start out at the very beginning you might see people as rivals, but I know the guys really well and it's always just really nice to catch up. Because everyone's so busy, the only time you see each other is backstage.”
The comedy community is something that Wilson loves. “You catch up with the same bunch of people in all different places. We do festivals at different places round the world. You just walk into a bar that you've never been in, but you know everybody in the bar.”
It's in these offstage moments that the best — and most cringe-worthy — gig stories come out. “At the time they're just awful, but then they're hilarious when you're hearing them from someone else or you're sharing your worst,” says Wilson, whose worst begins with the line 'we were doing an improv gig in a chicken factory'.
“They just got bored halfway through us doing our set,” she says of the angry and thoroughly intoxicated crowd of workers. “And then they just threw chicken drumsticks at us until we left. So we just ran off stage being pelted with chicken drumsticks. It was definitely one of those gigs where you go, 'well, I'm having a bad time and also scared for my life'.”
Thankfully, the gig opportunities are only getting better, particularly for female comedians, says Wilson. The success of performers like Ellen Degeneres, Judith Lucy and Denise Scott has provided inspiration and paved the way for funny women like Wilson to gain prominence. “It's just a profession that traditionally women haven't had the role models to go 'oh, yep, there's lots of funny women doing it', but now I think it's really changing. People are much more used to seeing women on stage now, so it's not a big deal anymore.
“I think it's quite a blokey environment, and I think you have to be able to be one of the boys. It's changed so much, though. When I started out, I felt [that] new comedian thing of feeling like you have to compete, but now I don't think there's that competition, and I don't think it bothers the boys either.”
The one thing competing in Wilson's life is her famous accent, which after eight years in Melbourne, still struggles between Kiwi and Australian. “I don't know what accent I have any more, because I go back home to see my parents, and they're like, 'oh, you sound so Australian', and then when I'm here people comment on my accent. I think I will probably always have it. And I know that my in-laws think it's hilarious the way my son pronounces 'bin', because when he sees a rubbish tin, he sounds like a New Zealander, like 'bun' and not 'bin'.”
According to Wilson, 'Laugh Your Pants Off' will be a veritable smorgasbord of comedy delights. “You're gonna get a wide range of people, because everyone's so different in their on-stage persona. So there's gonna be something for everyone. It's gonna be like a yum-cha of comedy, so you'll get to pick and choose which bits you want — if you don't like the chicken feet, you can have the little pork buns.”
Her final advice to anyone planning to attend the Jupiters show: “I think bring a spare pair of pants, in case you do indeed laugh the first pair off and you can't find them.”
Cal Wilson performs In 'Laugh Your Pants Off' at Jupiters Casino On June 7.