Doing Stand-up in Dunedin


October 24, 2018

 Mason Hall is an American Comic based in Santa Clara, California and attends Santa Clara University. Mason got his start in comedy about two years ago doing impressions at a school talent show. He has since continued to perform in the states, but has recently enjoyed the opportunity to partake in the bustling Dunedin comedy scene while studying at Otago for the semester. At just 20 years old, Mason is keen on doing stand-up far into the future, and plans to return to NZ at some point. He hopes his act will turn you into Owen Wilson and make you say ‘wow’.

I was kindly asked if I could write a blog post for Arcadia about my experience doing stand-up comedy in Dunedin. I enthusiastically accepted, and affirmed I could get it done in two weeks’ time. 7 weeks later and I have yet to write a thing (sorry, Libby) but I think that now, whilst I have two unwritten essays due tomorrow, is as good a time as ever to give it a go.

I’ve been doing stand-up back home for roughly two years, but hadn’t yet branched out from a handful of on-campus venues which tailor to predominantly college student audiences. I thought I’d use my abroad experience as an opportunity to take my act international and immerse myself in the local Dunedin scene.

I discovered during the first week of the semester that a Student Comedy Club was recently founded on campus. I met the students who started it and they invited me to do an open mic at the Inch Bar later that week, so I said I was keen and put me name down. I gave the event info to my fellow Arcadians and they showed up in heaps! So many that the gig was full and some people just had to go home.

Anyone can do an open mic, so you never know what you’re going to get. There were a few (mostly just one in particular) uncreative, slightly offensive, embarrassing and (note the lack of oxford comma, for kiwi’s sake) just plain bad acts. Lucky for me, however, a handful were entertaining and everyone from Arcadia was committed enough to stick around and see the real (my) performance.

I do most of my writing for comedy in the wee days, (but more accurately hours) before a show, when I’ve worked myself into an adrenal, hyper-panicked mode of focus that really gets the creative juices flowing. This technique works great for essays, homework assignments, and general life responsibilities as well, if you’re interested in trying it out (jokes!) Ironically, it hasn’t served me particularly well for writing blog-posts, but turns out if you tell Libby you’ll get it to her at a time which you end up not giving it to her at enough times you can convince yourself its due through a slight variation of what I call the self-guilt trip. Anyway, on the day of this particular show (a Thursday) I was driving home from the Catlins, where I had skipped class to get lost in the middle of the night, eat cold beans and sleep in a tattered tent. I recommend this, the stars were great. The whole ride home I was trying to put together a cohesive set, writing down notes, running over jokes in my head and even coming up with a few based on that morning’s experiences. Suffice it to say I was a bit stressed, so it was a great feeling to finally get on stage and pour my heart out to the crowd.

I’ll be honest, I was heavily assisted by the fact that my audience was predominantly American, as a lot of jokes focused on being a foreigner in these strange, magical lands. The MC also helped me out when he incorrectly told the audience that it was my first time performing comedy (an assertion which I never took the chance to correct, making me seem much more naturally gifted than I am, which I’ll admit is difficult to do). But I’ll also be honest and say it went quite well, and was one of the most fun shows I’ve ever done. I had a great time with the audience and was grateful to receive so much support from my friends at Arcadia while I shared with them what I love to do. As an added bonus I got to show the kids who watched me get really anxious on our drive home from the Catlins that I wasn’t completely nuts and could at least handle myself on stage.

Some jokes I did included a bit about the sheer size of sea lions, a joke about Kevin Durant’s younger brother, Deo (who smells really good) and an impression of a New Zealand cross-walk signal, which received warm support from Americans and Kiwis alike.

I’ve since performed 4 more times in Dunedin, one of which was also heavily attended by Arcadians, where I shared some jokes about our bungy jumping escapades. Another time I performed at the Inch Bar and got paid! It was my first time getting paid to do stand-up and I felt on top of the world. The next night I did a show where I came in extremely over-confident and proceeded to bomb horribly. Let that be a lesson, kids.

I plan on doing at least a couple more shows before the end of the semester. Just the other day I got a Facebook message from someone planning the Zanzibar show, who wanted to know if I was keen to be involved.