Comedians freestyle through laughs

Paul Ego, left, and Jeremy Corbett at the Comedy Festival Gala.
Paul Ego, left, and Jeremy Corbett at the Comedy Festival Gala.

The voice of Pak'nSave arrives in Invercargill at the weekend with the crew from 7 Days. Ahead of their arrival, Gwyneth Hyndman talks to comedian Paul Ego about imitating complaining callers and using humour as a weapon. 

If Jeremy Corbett is the fatherly figure for the upcoming 7 Days comedy tour, Paul Ego says he would be more like the "weird dirty uncle".

Preparing for the live tour of the team who hit Invercargill on December 1, Ego wonders out loud about the roles each of them played on the road trip that sees them careening down the country to perform in city centres.

The 7 Days crew, from left, Jesse Mulligan, Jeremy Corbett, Dai
Henwood, Paul Ego, and Urzila Carson.
The 7 Days crew, from left, Jesse Mulligan, Jeremy Corbett, Dai Henwood, Paul Ego, and Urzila Carson.

"Maybe I'm like George Michael - the older George Michael, after he's gone pudgy and doesn't quite nail it any more . . . Jeremy is the dad, sort of the Donald Trump. I'm the guy at the dinner table that nobody's really sure what I'm going to do next. Nobody's sure what I'm doing in life. I'm the one that disappears for a few weeks, takes long trips to Thailand . . ."

Being the funnyman 24-7 isn't always possible. He needs down time when he gets off stage - "it does get exhausting".

But for the 1.8m (6 foot 5) comedian, it's an automatic default button when you're put on the defensive, whether it's in a visit to the supermarket or in the family lounge - it's also a trait he's seeing in his two sons, who have an uncanny "Rainman-like" skill at reciting long jokes back to their father. Though it's trying as a parent, he sees it as a healthy trait that he's passed on: "humour is quite a good weapon in life".

One of his most well known gigs is as the voice of the stick man on the Pak 'nSave commercials.

He was initially chosen because of his "no frills" voice, but once in the audition it was a character he reverted to as a radio host, a whiney voice that imitated a disgruntled caller, who called the station regularly.

"It's roughly based on a character who calls in, complaining all the time. I was doing it on the side, and then they said ‘what's that voice you're doing?"'

Since then, the nasally tone has become something people will ask to hear when they meet him on the street. It's a task he doesn't mind doing, Ego says.

One of the more seasoned comedians, Ego got his start in London in 1994 after breaking away from advertising, came back to New Zealand in 1995 and within five years he was awarded the Billy T James award and took over from Mike King as the host of Pulp Comedy.

A spot in the More FM breakfast show - where he played characters such as Steve Perwin, Crocodile Humper - led to his arrival in the 7 Days squad alongside Corbett and Dai Henwood.

The three of them will be heading up the live performance at the Civic Theatre alongside comedians Ben Hurley, Steve Wrigley, Urzila Carlson, Jesse Mulligan and Jesse Griffin, which starts with individual routines and finishes with a 7 Days Live quiz in the tradition of the show.

On the second 7 Days tour, Ego says this time around the only difference is the group is older. He takes time off to script some of the comedy, but its a loose structure that gets used as a step-off for freestyling humour. "We're all obviously a year older, so I'm sure we'll be smoking a pipe this time. I'm the clueless one. I don't generally watch the news. I'm very ignorant. I miss the important stories in the news like ‘dog stuck in tree' and ‘fat man says something stupid' - so when I say ‘oh really?' on stage, that's actually legitimate."

7 Days Live will be at the Civic Theatre on December 1.

The Southland Times