Joe Daymond took a bit of time to find his feet after dropping out of university a few years ago — but he’s sure that he’s found his calling now. At 25, this Māori-Fijian kid from Wainuiomata has more than 100,000 followers across his social media platforms. And, last month, he became the youngest comedian to ever sell out shows at the 700-seat Sky City Theatre in Auckland. Here he talks to Dale about his dreams.
Kia ora and Bula vinaka, Joe. Here you are with a Taranaki (Te Ātiawa) whakapapa, through your dad, and a Fijian ancestry from your mum.
Yep. That’s it. The Daymonds originate from Taranaki, but Mum, Yvonne, is from Nacivula village, a little village just outside Suva.
She came over to New Zealand in her early teens, met my dad Roland at intermediate school in Wainuiomata in Wellington, and they started going out in early high school. They’ve been together since they were 13 or 14.
We moved around all over the place as a family, but eventually went back to Wainui where they still live.
It’s a pretty famous place, Wainuiomata — and the people I’ve met from there are extremely proud of the hood.
They love it, eh? Everybody knows everybody. And it’s got a huge history, particularly in sport. Rugby and rugby league especially. The pride in the community has come from those two pillars. As a matter of fact, I just did a gig back in Wainui, at the rugby club. It’s always been a centre for the community.
That would’ve been a tough gig wouldn’t it, going home to perform in front of the rugby crowd. How’d it go?
Yeah, bro. It was at the end of a tour I’d just done in Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton, and then a bunch of gigs in the city. The whole tour was sweet, and every single show was unreal.
I’ve been doing stand-up for about three years now and these days I don’t really get nervous about anything. But for that one, I genuinely was on edge, because it was for people who knew me — people who knew me before I started doing stand-up. For them, I wasn’t a professional comedian. I was just Joe.
So, for me, as someone who never gets nervous, it was a freaky feeling to be suffering from nerves before going on stage that time.
But it went well. I was so glad that I did it. The community really turned up and supported me. It was just an honour to come back after all these years of building up my show.
I’ve got a bit of a musical background. Years ago, in Australia, I sang on stage and television in a family group. And I’ve always been impressed that you stand-up comedians have only a microphone as your tool of the trade. So that allows you to present your show virtually anywhere. Is that something that attracted you to stand-up? You really have no props. There’s just you, your thoughts, your delivery, a microphone, and an audience.
I’m naturally a lazy person so I’ve always been happy with the minimum. It’s the rawness of stand-up that I love. It’s that you can comment on anything, unfiltered. Discuss things that we’re all thinking. The rawness is a tough part of stand-up for sure but, for me, it’s part of the appeal. And having to be funny makes it an even bigger challenge.
What was it about stand-up comedy that caught your eye as a young guy?
Well, I’ve always loved social commentary. When I started out, it was the bravado of stand-up that I was drawn to. I’d grown up watching Eddie Murphy, Bernie Mac, and Martin Lawrence. Those were guys with a lot of bravado and untouchable confidence.
I never had that. I struggled with my confidence big time when I was growing up. I was very much a people-pleaser with low self-esteem. I’d very happily adapt my personality to what people wanted me to be. But then here I was idolising these guys who were unapologetically themselves.
One of my favourite sets to this day is Bernie Mac walking on stage and telling the audience he doesn’t care whether they laugh or not because he’s Bernie Mac. It was that unshakeable confidence that impressed me — and I started doing it myself. I went back to that for inspiration. It’s absolutely shaped my philosophy as a stand-up comedian.
I suspect it still takes time to build confidence, Joe.
Yeah. For me, in the early days, it was manufactured confidence. I was trying to perform at a level of confidence that I hadn’t actually reached. But I began to make it, step by step.
And then it wasn’t a matter of me putting on a persona — it was just me delivering my own thoughts and opinions, in real life, on stage. And the confidence came because that was genuinely how I was feeling.
One thing I’ve always loved about our people, Joe, is how we use humour in times when a lot of people may find it awkward. I’ve been at many a tangi where there’s great humour. Was that part of your growing up, too?
Absolutely. And my first experience in doing anything close to stand-up was speaking at tangi because my old man is shy. So I’d often speak for us. I was the one getting up, telling a story or talking on behalf of my family. That environment really did help turn me into a stand-up comedian.
I know that my upbringing, being around my father, going to tangi and speaking on the marae was 100 percent the reason I was able to progress into stand-up. Although I’d been doing stand-up for only a short time, you could say I’d been practising the art for many, many years.
Let’s talk about your first gig.
It was at the Classic Comedy Club, Queen Street, Auckland on the first Monday of July, 2017. I’d already pulled out of the gig I was supposed to do the week before. I’d got so nervous that I told the owner I was sick — and I didn’t show up.
So I had that on my mind when I arrived for this next one. I had some material, but I still had no idea how to write jokes. I just had a bunch of random things that I thought would be funny to talk about.
A well-known comedian, Lloyd Langford, was hosting the show. When you walk into the Classic’s green room, the MC will check your name and make sure everyone’s on the lineup. So, I walk in and say: “I’m Joe Daymond.”
And he goes: “Joe Daymond? Yeah. That name looks good. I can see that name on the front of a theatre one day.” And I thought: “That’s a pretty buzzy thing to say.”
And the gig went amazingly. Then the MC went straight on stage and said: “That’s the best, first-time I’ve ever seen from any stand-up comedian. That’s the first time you’ve seen him. It’s not going to be the last.”
Then he came off stage and told me: “You need to think really seriously about doing this, because that was amazing.”
So here’s this well-known comedian, who’s done all the big things in the UK, like Live at the Apollo and all the big television stuff — and he was saying that to me at my very first gig. I came away from it feeling great. Then I did another gig, and that second one drove it home for me, and I knew it was everything that I wanted to do.
I’ve spoken with some comedians about the techniques of writing for stand-up. And they emphasise the amount of work that’s gone on behind the scenes — the practice and the refinements that lead to a seamless delivery. It’s a sophisticated art, isn’t it?
It’s a constant battle to work out the best place to put the joke. My process at the moment is writing out the ideas on my laptop, then taking those ideas on stage and filling them out. There needs to be a certain fluidity and I can only get that, and find the natural delivery for the joke itself when I’m on stage.
You get it out in the first instance, then you record it and listen back. Then I say: “Okay. I can add that and that, and take that out.” And I constantly go back on stage. You get it out once and then you just keep squeezing it until it’s exactly where you want it to be.
Let’s talk about laughter as a uniting tool because, regardless of race, creed or culture, you can bring people together through laughter. Do you sometimes marvel at that power?
It’s ridiculous. At times, I do get blown away by that power. And I see the impact in the messages on social media and in the responses I get in person. They can be quite breathtaking, especially in these times when, so often, we’re hearing about the divisions between us.
Then, at our gigs, we have all races, all sexualities, laughing together over the absolute rubbish I’m spouting. I really appreciate that they’re enjoying it so much. I think: “Far out.” And often I have no idea why they think this is funny.
Over these last three years, you’ll have had a number of unusual gigs. What do you recall as your most memorable?
Funnily enough, this was my fourth or fifth show as a stand-up. It was at Sky City where I gigged not in the theatre but on a stage, by a line of pokies in the casino. They called it Sammy’s Lounge. So you’re gigging in this active casino full of people, but with probably only three people watching you.
You could do only 15 minutes at a time. But that was a stretch for me because I had only about two minutes worth of jokes. The only time people stopped by was when they’d lost their money and needed to sit down for a bit. They’d just come to stare at you and then maybe go back and have another spin on the machines.
To this day, it’s the craziest gig I ever did. It was a massive bomb. No one laughed. Almost no one was there. And any time I tried to hit a punchline, a big “kaching!” would ring out in the background.
But, after that gig, I was buzzing. I was so happy because, although the other guys were saying this was the worst gig they’d ever done, I was thinking that, if that’s the worst gig, and I love it, then this only gets better. So that’s great.
Fantastic. What about another gig that got you thinking: “Man, that was fun. This is why I do this.”
Well, an early one that shaped my passion for stand-up was where I wasn’t performing. It was at the Christchurch busking festival early in 2018 where it had a bunch of well-known Australian comedians who were the best comedy I’d seen up until that time. And it was just non-stop laughs.
I was watching these guys and thinking that if I ever get close to what these guys are doing, I’ll be extra proud of me. I remember coming back to Auckland after that and I gigged every single day for maybe three months. I was already taking it extremely seriously by then and I was I telling myself: “I need to be the best at this.”
What do your whānau think about your career choice?
It definitely was a point of contention for a while. Whānau were worried not only that I was doing it but also because there was no real pathway to follow, and no stability. For a long time, there was a big back and forth between my parents and me.
I was working in a caravan-cleaning place because it was the best job to work around my stand-up. I was starting at 2 or 3 am. My parents had sent me to a private school — Scots College, in Wellington — and then to Auckland University, so I was kind of getting a long way away from what they wanted for me.
I said: “Just trust me. I can see exactly where this is going. I can’t even explain to you why I know. But just trust me that I’m going to get there.” That was maybe at the start of 2019. And that was the turning point for all of us.
How would you describe your humour? What sort of things do you talk about in your act?
It’s really unfiltered. What people joke about when they’re with their mates and may feel ashamed about. Everyday things that we may not get to really joke about openly. Probably 99 percent of what I talk about are things that my nan would hate.
Do you speak te reo Māori or Fijian?
No, no. Plastic on the reo, but proud-as on both.
Things are panning out pretty well for you, not just with stand-up but your sex talks and now television work is beckoning as well. Where’s this all leading to for you, Joe?
My long-term goal is to be doing what Taika has done in the movies — and also what the Flight of the Concords has done in touring as an act and in television. And me doing all three as a Māori Pacific Islander. Reaching the scale that those boys have done. That’s what I’m shooting for.
Following in their footsteps is something I’m more than willing to pursue and I’m doing that every single day. In the eyes of a lot of people, this may look impossible, but that’s not how I see it.
Have you got someone in your corner who can help when things aren’t going so well?
Oh yes. There’s my older sister Grace and her partner, Derek, who’s my best mate. They’ve been there for me all my life. They keep me grounded because they’re grounded people themselves. They put everything into perspective — and having them is everything to me. They’re a massive reason why I have my drive and motivation. They’re who I bounce back to when times are tough and who I think of first when times are good.
I’ve had some conversations with Mike King. He made a fortune in comedy for a while, but he had to confront himself not so long ago. How do you protect yourself from those bad times and stay healthy?
I’m so thankful for what Mike has done in regards to setting the path that I want to follow as a stand-up comedian and also as a man. He’s talked about how a lot of us get into performing because of the immediate validation it can give. And that’s me absolutely.
When you first get into the business it’s the immediate validation that appeals. It’s the laughter, the hoopla, the aura, the bravado. It’s really a drug. And Mike has talked, too, about the struggles he’s had in other parts of his life. He’s had to work through a lot of negative behaviour.
I was so lucky that he talked about that because I started to see it in myself: “Oh shit,” I’d say. “This is exactly what Mike’s talking about.” And I could see that I had to find something just as fulfilling within my mahi or another area of my life.
Where I’ve found it is in writing scripts, in podcasts, and just being with my cousins and family. They’re the three things that have allowed me to carry on.
Some people have asked me what my plans are with my podcasts. That’s me being able to sustain the joy I get from stand-up but in a way that’s sustainable and that has a positive outcome for me because it allows me to discuss how I’m feeling and what I’m thinking — and engage with my audience.
Mike King made me aware that, as a stand-up comedian, you face a lot of difficult areas in your life. So I’m thankful to him for his experience, his role modelling, his wisdom and advice. It’s been invaluable.
(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)
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