Laura Daniel: She’s everyone’s favourite comedian/broadcaster/political-cake-baker and seems to be a person who everyone* would love to take out for a glass of wine.
(*Everyone being all of my friends and quite a few people on social media and even a few on talkback, which is RARE for a young liberal female, let me tell you.)
Laura Daniel’s had a busy 2020, from lifting the spirits of a locked down nation through to trying her hand at almost all the TV shows we make. And while Aotearoa has fallen in love with her always on, always funny TV segments (although I’m pretty sure that first Jacinda Ardern cake will collectively haunt us for life) Laura says that just like everyone else, 2020 was a tough-at-times cookie for her too.
How Are You Today, Laura?
I’m good – today! [Laughs]. I’ve been very tired lately but I slept last night and I’ve had a coffee, so I’m good!
Well I was going to say, you must be one of the busiest women in New Zealand TV right now! Your face is literally everywhere, just in the last few years ending on Jono and Ben, starting Seven Sharp, your time on Dancing with the Stars and everything else in the middle…
No, no, no, no. Maybe. I have been quite busy as of late, that’s for sure but it’s hard to find balance.
It’s been a bit of a crazy time of late – in fact today is the first anniversary of us going into Level Four lockdown.
Mmm, and it’s also a huge day for me because it’s my cat Martin’s one-year birthday.
Ok, much more important! So, you’ve got a lot going on – what does your average day look like?
Well today’s actually quite good, I’m on a writing day. We have a comedy show coming up in six weeks – argh! – and I work with my partner [comedian Joseph Moore]. We’ve actually managed to align a day where we can both write. The last three days I’ve been on the set of three different shows.
How do you do that, go between three different shows in three different days? My brain would be so confused…
I don’t know. I think just ignoring emails?! And just focus on what you’re doing for the day. All of my emails start with ‘sorry for the delay’… I already feel like 2021 has been a whole year already!
I know 2020 sucked for pretty much everyone, but it seems like 2020 was kind of… good for you? Professionally, I mean? Your Seven Sharp role was a huge deal?
Yeah… ah – I managed to find a lot of positives in general. Like everyone you have to pivot and change your plans as you go. When I joined Seven Sharp it was only supposed to be for six months, and the plan was to go to the UK and tour our shows and then probably stay there for a bit. Aaaand then the pandemic. But it did mean that lockdown was a very busy period for me, which was good because it gave me focus and something to do.
Sometimes when I have too much time off, I start getting ahead of myself too much. But then when I’m back, I’m like – ‘can I have my time off again?’ But making light-hearted television to try and cheer people up felt good – like I was helping, in some way.
With everything going on in 2020 and the craziness that’s already been 2021, have you learnt anything about yourself that’s kind of surprised you? Sorry I know that’s a cheesy question, apparently you can’t take the woman’s magazine out of the interviewer.
[Laughs] Yes, I have actually– I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently. It’s hard not to give a cheesy answer!
I’m sorry, I’ve set you up fucking appallingly here.
It’s genuinely that thing where all anyone’s saying lately is to be easy on yourself. It’s something I do heaps, compare where I’m at compared to… it’s easy to see where you’re not, you know. So I’m just trying to be a little more kind to myself. Because I’ll stress out if I don’t do everything or don’t do as much. But you’ve still got to live a little bit.
So I’m trying to take a breath and calm down, and tell myself that I’m doing good!
Yeah we’ve had so many women write into Capsule about burnout – it was like all anyone was doing in 2020 was getting through it, and now everyone’s just exhausted.
No I definitely experienced burnout, that’s exactly what it was. And that was last year, and it’s overflowed a little bit this year but I’ve kind of just been like, ‘okay, time to focus on things in a different way’ and I’m feeling better.
It’s kind of asking yourself, ‘Is it going to make you happy?’, or ‘Is the world actually going to burn in flames if you don’t do this thing right now?’ Probably not!
When you first started in your career, did you ever think you’d end up on a show like Seven Sharp?
No no no no no. Nooooo. I didn’t even think I’d end up in comedy. I thought I was going to be a, er, serious actor when I moved from Palmerston North to Auckland to go to drama school! But I found that my favourite part of acting was making people happy.
And that’s been my role on Seven Sharp anyway, a comedy element they hadn’t really had yet.
Well, the combination of you and Hilz Baz has to rank very highly in the list of NZ’s best lady duos.
Honestly, that was my favourite things of last year, becoming BFF’s with Hilz. She’s so good, anytime I have a dumb joke idea she’ll say ‘yeah sure!’ and come in early and let me film her. She’s the type of person if it’s someone’s birthday, she’ll get up early and make a cake.
She’s totally what you want to be when you grow up, right?
Yeah, classy, funny, lovely, nice!
So pretend for a second we’re living in a world where passports have value and travel is actually a thing, when you have to write down your occupation on the custom form thingy, what do you actually write down? Comedian? Actor? Broadcaster?
I’ve learnt the hard way – a couple of times when I’ve been going to Melbourne for their comedy festival I’ve written comedian and the customs people are always like [puts on an Australian accent] ‘awww, common, tell us a joke!’ So, I won’t do that. Sometimes I write performer, but then one of them asked what kind of performer I was and just kind of looked at me, and I was like, ‘Ah, not an exotic performer…’
Speaking of Australia, your new comedy panel show Patriot Brains starts this week – what’s the deal with that? It’s essentially pitting teams from New Zealand and Australia together to see who knows their country better, right?
Yeah, when I signed onto it I think I thought it was going to be more like games and challenges, like trying to move a cookie down our face the fastest or something…
Like, an international Top Town or something?
Yeah… and then I realised it was called Patriot BRAINS and it’s more about conversations – it’s like watching a big old podcast with some of your favourite shouty comedians.
Does anything scare you anymore when you’re trying so many new things?
I don’t really get too nervous – the only time I will is if I feel underprepared. I like putting myself out of my comfort zone and all, but I think I get nervous when I think, oh my God, anything could happen here.
You have a reputation that precedes you – everyone seems to say, ‘Oh Laura! Yeah she seems great – I’d love to have a wine with her!’ which to me seems the height of a Kiwi compliment. How does that feel when people remark on your relatability?
It’s honestly the nicest. And I love wine. I also love going and having wine! I’ve just finished up on Seven Sharp for a little bit, but I was down in the viaduct working during the America’s Cup and the nicest people kept coming up to me, and I actually did end up going and having a wine!
Patriot Brains – TVNZ 2 from Wednesday 7 April
Two Hearts – We’re Pregnant and the Baby is Music (NZ International Comedy Festival)
4 May, San Fran, Wellington
13 May, Q Theatre Auckland