Comedian Corner: Ray O'Leary

Interview By: Liam Stretch

Comedian Ray O’Leary is making a name for himself in the Land of the Long White Cloud. Winning various awards in his fledgeling career, Ray has regular slots on some primetime Kiwi television shows and is well established in the comedy circuit. Liam Stretch got to know him.

For those comfortably beneath a rock and have no idea who you are, fill us in – who is Ray O’Leary?  

I’m a stand-up comedian that you may recognise from my appearances as a panellist on 7 Days, a contestant on Have You Been Paying Attention? or as a weak swimmer on Piha Rescue. 

Describe your comedy style?  

Succinct. 

You love a suit; would you say that it is a comedic device? 

don’t know if it makes me funnier, but I don’t think it fits me very well, and it makes me look like an accountant who’s wandered on stage by accident. 

Someone told me you are vegan; is this true? If so, why? Does it make for good jokes? 

I went vegan due to the utilitarian arguments made by Peter Singer in his 1975 seminal philosophical text Animal Liberation where he successfully argues that there is no principled reason to ignore the suffering of animals just because they’re animals and therefore we cannot eat them. Going vegan is also one of the single best things an individual can do to help prevent climate change. So, in conclusion, yes, it does make good jokes. 

What’s your favourite plant-based joke? 

“I met this woman today who said she recognised me from a vegan group, but I’d never met herbivore.” 

Your awards seem to be piling up. How does being a 2020 Billy T James Award Nominee compare to winning Best Comedy Show at Hamilton Fringe Awards? 

A nomination for the prestigious Billy T award is nice, but the Hamilton Fringe award is taken very seriously there. I was given the keys to the city, got to invent a new Duck Island flavour, and they named their burnout competition after me. 

Who is your comic icon? 

Who is my comedy icon? My favourite comedians are Stewart Lee and Norm Macdonald. 

Comedy can have a tendency to be self-deprecating; how to you stay on top of your mental health when on a circuit? 

I think putting your problems into perspective is very helpful. I live in a developed, peaceful country, and I am very lucky to be here. Also, the Absurdism of Albert Camus is helpful and realising everything is ridiculous is helpful. We’re all just Sisyphus rolling boulders up a hill. 

How would you rate NZ comedy internationally? 

I think NZ comedy is very strong, and we punch well above our weight internationally, given the size of our country. There’s Flight of the Conchords doing three nights at the O2, Urzila Carlson has a Netflix special, Rhys Darby is starring in an HBO series, Rose Matafeo has won the most prestigious award for live comedy, and I did a gig in Palmerston North. All huge achievements. 

What’s coming up for you? 

I’m performing my solo show Ray Against The Machine at Little Andromeda from Fri 23- Sat 24 April. Most tickets have gone, but if you get in quick, you can still get a spot.  

Your comedy has been described as deadpan, but my question for you is, have you ever seen an alive pan? 

I see you have misinterpreted the term “deadpan” for humorous effect. 

No comment. 

Hotdogs or legs?  

I am vegan. I can eat neither.