When your name is Pax, championing peace just comes with the name.
When your name is Pax Assadi, one of new Zealand's most highly-regarded young comics, it's more than a job – it's a calling.
Raised in New Zealand by an Iranian father and Pakistani mother, Pax brings a unique cross-cultural perspective to the immigrant experience in Australia with his stand-up show 'Raised By Refugees'.
“The show revolves around me becoming a father now and reflecting on my own parents, and what do I take from my parents to apply in my life as a parent,” Pax explains.
“It's a more reflective show and it explores the idea of what did my parents do, what did they have to go through to raise me in a world they were completely unfamiliar with. They were refugees who came to the western world and didn't understand that western world in any way, shape or form but still had to raise two boys in that western world. It explores that idea and what did I learn from them. Within that, hijinx ensues,” he laughs.
Pax's observational and storytelling comedy style is ideally positioned between thought-provoking and laugh-inducing, from where he dispenses philosophical commentary on socially prickly issues such as race and religion in New Zealand and here in Australia.
Speaking on the morning of the two-week memorial for the Christchurch massacre, Pax says that although he doesn't address it directly, his material is inevitably associated with the tragedy.
“The show was written before those horrible events occurred so I don't speak about them specifically in my show, but my show touches on topics that inevitably relate to what happened,” he says.
“Initially I wondered whether I should tweak things or change things but then I thought no, I'm going to stick to what I've written and trust that my material traverses those topics in a funny way but also in a respectful way. The fact I am a half-Iranian, half-Pakistani comedian means that the topics I talk about kind of speak about what happened in Christchurch anyway, so I didn't feel like I needed to talk about it specifically.”
Pax goes on to say that with the apparent resurgence of nationalism and schisms between different communities deepening, there has never been a more important time for comedians.
“I feel like our role right now is so much more heightened considering what happened,” he says.
“What better way to explore touchy topics than making people laugh? Breaking down the barrier of making someone laugh, and at the same time exploring something. I've always found people are so much more receptive to exploring things that might be difficult to explore outside of comedy because comedy pulls away the veils of close-mindedness.
“You're making people laugh and bringing them joy, and then to slip in these ideas becomes so much easier. I feel like being a comedian is super important at a time like this.”