This month we caught up with local comedian and Billy T Award nominee Brynley Stent just as she heads into a week-long Basement Theatre engagement for her Soft Carnage comedy show as part of this year’s NZ Comedy Festival.
Tell us about your upcoming Comedy Festival show, Soft Carnage?
Brynley: It’s a very silly, wild ride of a show. I’m a sketch comedian, so expect weird and wonderful characters, mime sequences and fights with IRD workers.
How did you get your start in the comedy/acting world?
Brynley: At high school I was always joking around and being the class clown. My drama teacher approached me and asked if I would like to be in our school’s team for the High School’s Theatresports competition. I did it and loved it – from then on I’ve just taken any opportunity I can to make people laugh.
Did you imagine this would be your career path when you were studying/at school or did you have other plans?
Brynley: No! When I was younger I wanted to be a vet or a DOC worker. Then when I hit high school I discovered I loved acting…but acting isn’t really the career you get a lot of support for. Most people hear you want to be an actor and sort of roll their eyes. So I didn’t really believe I could be one myself. I told everyone (including my parents) that I wanted to be a drama teacher. Even when I was chosen as one of 30 students amongst hundreds of applicants to study at Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School, I still was telling everyone I wanted to be a teacher. Then one day, in my third year, one of my acting tutors was like “Brynley – you are an actor and you need to start acting like one”. From that day onwards I started believing it, and I’ve actually been able to make a career out of it. Moral of the story: Follow your dreams.
You’ve been a part of a lot of different shows and projects, what’s your favourite part of working on them and do you have a particular highlight?
Brynley: Ooh I’ve done heaps of cool stuff! It’s so hard to choose because every project is so unique and different. The pro and con of this job is that it’s so variable – and it moves so quickly! So you’ll be pretending to be a weird cult member one minute, then in a month you’ll be writing for a sitcom set in rural New Zealand, and then the next week you’ll be performing on the ASB waterfront stage with Jennifer Ward Leland. It’s sad because sometimes you don’t want the jobs to end, and it would be nice to have security sometimes…but I wouldn’t give up my crazy life for anything.
Where would we find you in your spare time when you’re not working on one of your work projects?
Brynley: Wow, spare time, what’s that? haha! I’m currently at a point in my career where I don’t have a lot of spare time, and I’m grateful for that! The nature of being a freelancer is that you’re always working. Even in the times where you don’t have any paid work, you’re still writing and creating / pitching ideas to funding bodies and networks. You really have to put in the unpaid hours in order to get those paid gigs. So, to answer your question – I don’t really have much of it. But in those tiny pockets where I do, I’m probably making a meal with my friends and playing some intense long board game.
Best advice you’ve been given?
Brynley: Do what you enjoy doing – not what you think others expect.
Catch Brynley Stent in Soft Carnage this week at Auckland’s Basement Theatre.