Rising New Zealand comedy star Pax Assadi will be making his way to the Sydney Fringe Comedy Festival as part of ‘Break Out: Kiwi Edition’.
Pax has always been a fish out of water. Growing up as the son of an Iranian father and Pakistani mother who immigrated to New Zealand, the Auckland-based comedian never fitted in entirely in the predominantly white nation.
However, Pax’s youth has led to him developing a unique viewpoint that has served him well in his quickly-developing comedy career, including a growing number of awards in his home country. “I grew up in Auckland, which is easily the most diverse city New Zealand has. And I grew up in a really diverse suburb. Overall, it was good, but I did pretend to be Tongan to avoid the stereotypes of Middle Easterners, because it was at the height of 9/11.
“It wasn’t a pleasant time to be a Middle Easterner no matter where you lived. The most prominent immigrant population in New Zealand was Tongan, so a lot of us latched on to them. So, for six years I pretended to be a Tongan.”
Pax’s interest in comedy began at the age of 19, which he thanks to the rise of YouTube, where he watched stand-up “every day, non-stop”. He soon decided to try performing and entered New Zealand’s Raw Comedy Quest Competition. After becoming a national finalist, Pax’s comedy career started to rise. In the space of four years, Pax has become one of the most sought-after comedians in New Zealand, becoming nominated for a number of awards, including the highly coveted ‘Billy T Award For Best New-Comer’, and a string of television credits.
While the recognition soothes his ego, what Pax finds most exciting about performing comedy is “highlighting inconsistencies in our society”. “I like to talk about things that people who don’t have my perspective just wouldn’t understand. Like my father being a refugee, and what that meant for him. He came to New Zealand and spent two months trying to look for a job and couldn’t find a job or even get an interview, and then changed his name to a white name and got a job within a week.
“This is just a small example of what ethnic people experience. I’m not going to tell people off for it; I’m just trying to bring to light something that happens, and try and make people conscious of it so that it doesn’t happen. Also, hilarity will ensue,” he says with a laugh.
Pax will be travelling to Australia as part of Sydney Fringe Comedy Festival’s ‘Break Out: Kiwi Edition’ showcase. He is curious about Australia’s attitude towards race, especially with the rise of a number of anti-immigration groups. “I’m not scared, but I’m a little bit nervous.
“I don’t know if Australians know this, but New Zealand is super laidback, and the racists there are too lazy to care about immigrants, while Australians seem intense about it. It kind of scares me, but at the same time it’s the reason why I do comedy; it defeats my goal if I shy away from that. I believe comedians are the ultimate optimists because anything can be turned into a gag.”
‘Break Out: Kiwi Edition’ is held at The Factory Theatre 20-24 September as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival.