Ray Shipley

Interview By Liam Stretch (he/him)

Ray Shipley is perhaps the most wholesome comedian you’ll come across. Often found in a library, they have graced the stage on Ngaio Marsh, with witty observations leaving the audience laughing jollily. Liam Stretch reveals their secrets. 

Who is Ray? 

Kia ora! I’m Ray. I’m a comedian and writer – though to be fair, I mostly work in a library, helping people to operate the photocopier and quietly yelling book recommendations at people. I also crochet, which is less economical but also less dangerous than knitting. I’m currently working on about six and a half pairs of cosy winter socks, which I’m sure will be done just in time for spring.  

A few UC students have probably seen you around at different UCSA events, but for those who don’t know, how would you describe your comedy? 

Deadpan and silly. I mostly tell jokes and stories about my family (sorry, mum!) and navigating the world as a queer person. 

What food gets a bad rap, in your opinion? 

I was out for dinner at a Thai place the other night, and someone called me basic for ordering a Pad Thai. Does that count as a bad rap? Don’t do that! Basic food is popular for a reason! Let yourself order the Butter Chicken/Pad Thai/Margarita pizza! So dependable! Always delicious! Very rarely done badly! Often uncomplicated to replicate in your own kitchen!  

Who is a comedy role model of yours? 

Hannah Gadsby (of course!), who did the comedy circuit for a decade before Nannette, and saw all the ugliness and joy of it and then did something really revolutionary. Plus, she just writes really, really good jokes.  

In your time as a librarian, what has been the strangest book you’ve come across? 

There’s plenty of very strange books I could go on about, but the funniest and strangest thing is when a library sticker on a book changes the title somewhat. There’s this children’s book series about a kid called Hank Zipper, and the author’s name starts with ‘W’, so the title turns into WANK ZIPPER, and I find it funny every damn time I see it.   

What’s your favourite book? 

As a millennial, it used to be sweet and age-appropriate for me to say Harry Potter because I grew up with it, and it is undoubtedly a charming series, and it has that big queer following even though there’s no queer characters (is it an unintentional extended ‘out of the closet’ metaphor?) (no!). Anyway, JK is a transphobic sadsack, and it makes the books read not as well, so I guess now I’ll have to find a better answer. 

I’m finding that I’m recommending ‘Station Eleven’ by Emily St John Mandel a lot at the moment. It’s very good, but don’t read it if you have severe pandemic anxiety. 

I recall you performing poetry – can you write me a haiku? 

Yes: 

HAIKU PSA 

A little known fact: 

Every haiku must include 

A seasonal reference.  

What’s your favourite pick up line? 

God. Pick up lines are atrocious. There’s no good one, I don’t think. The only option if you insist on using them is to be devastatingly charming, humble, and funny in the delivery. Good luck.  

Toast or untoasted bread? Why? 

Toast toast toast. What is the point in bread? You just tear it apart when trying to spread literally anything onto it. Bread always appears vaguely damp. No good.   

Where is your happy place? 

On holiday. Any holiday will do.  

Where is your unhappy place? 

Winter, which I get is not a place but a season, but it makes all places a bit bad. Chilly and shadowy and wet, even when the sun is out? How is that possible? If I could live somewhere where it was Birkenstocks weather every day of the year, I would certainly be a happier and more productive member of society (but I would be wearing Birkenstocks). 

What is your favourite tea? 

Morning: Dilmah extra strength breakfast tea. Evening: vanilla rooibos.  

Why? 

Morning: just enough caffeine for if the coffee has run out. Evening: sweet and calming. Very delicious.