From Tumblr beginnings to global recognition, NZ's Melanie Bracewell says the world of comedy is where she belongs.
Mel, now based in Melbourne, is a regular on Channel 10's award-winning news quiz show 'Have You Been Paying Attention?', and is getting ready to present her stand-up show 'The Rumours Are True'. But before she hits the stage, she'll be appearing on our screens in a new way – through a brand-new show called 'The Cheap Seats', co-hosting with fellow comic Tim McDonald.
“It's really undermined my live show that I was initially going to promote,” Melanie laughs the day after the reveal of 'The Cheap Seats'. “No, it's been pretty amazing, pretty much a whirlwind really. We've just been working on this show for a couple of months. It's the same guys that made 'Have You Been Paying Attention?' so they've got a lot of good faith built up.”
The world of TV isn't exactly uncharted territory for Melanie – since 2018 she's been a writer on NZ mockumentary 'Wellington Paranormal' with Grammy-winning musician ('Flight Of The Conchords'), director and writer Jemaine Clement – a partnership which, to begin with, was 'surreal' for Melanie as a lover of 'Flight Of The Conchords'.
“I feel more comfortable talking about it now because we've done four seasons and I think this'll be the end of the series,” Mel describes. “So I can totally fangirl all I want rather than pretend to be like 'yeah we're just co-workers'.”
It appears that everything in Melanie's journey through comedy thus far, including linking up creatively with a man who was once, in her eyes, merely one half of a hilarious, adored-by-the-masses musical duo, has helped bring her to this moment – her first ever tour of Australia.
So, how do you describe a stand-up comedy show? Well, you could start with its name – and 'The Rumours Are True' naturally inspires curiosity.
“It was something that I would just say all the time,” Melanie explains. "Someone would just be like 'oh, are you going to the dentist today?' and I'd be like 'the rumours are true, yes, everyone's been talking about it'. I thought it'd be funny to call a show 'The Rumours Are True' when there are absolutely no rumours about me at all.”
“People don't really say much about me that's not true. Usually it's 'I saw Melanie buying Freddos at Woolworths' or something, and that's definitely true,” she laughs.
“Or they'd be like 'oh my god, there's someone pretending to be you on Tinder' and I'd be like '. . . That's me'. I'm pretty down to earth, I'm pretty easily accessible, I put a lot of myself out there on the internet. People tend to not need to fill in the gaps because the real stories are already weird enough.”
Perhaps the weirdest 'real story' about Mel to date, and one that has been heard and seen across the world, is her Tik Tok impressions of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, which gained traction very quickly (that's the internet for you!) and resulted in the pair meeting properly and Melanie posting a video of them together on her social media. Cue meltdowns.
Eventually, news outlets were reaching out to her, begging to see and hear the impression – and Melanie says for her it didn't go too far beyond taking advantage of lockdown regrowth and throwing on a blazer for her followers.
“I made no effort really to change my voice at all, and people were like 'wow, you sound just like her',” Melanie laughs, explaining that for most people outside of NZ it was simply her own accent that really sold the Jacinda likeness. “I kept getting radio people saying 'can you please do the impression on our show' and I'm like 'that would just be me!'”
Jacinda aside, Melanie's current focus is on 'The Rumours Are True'.
“You know that one family member you have that's a little bit weird and has gone off the wagon? [The show] is a bit of that, and it's a bit about my dating life and quite a lot about my family, and growing up, essentially.”
“It's won awards. . . So I just tell people that. I'm always like 'well, I don't have to say it's funny, because someone else has said it was funny!'”. . . Put that on the poster!
If one were to trace Mel's success back to where it all started, for research reasons, it'd probably lead them to social media site Tumblr, where Mel says as a teenager she would post jokes and get feedback in the form of 'notes' and 'reblogs'. . . The ultimate virtual praise and ego boost for an aspiring 'comedy god' (her words!).
But she says comedy comes in all forms, and that if you don't tend to find a person funny, someone else probably does.
“Everyone is funny in a different way, so comedy is relatable to everyone trying to have a good time and have a laugh,” Mel reflects. “Throughout the pandemic it was something that [comedians] tried to keep bringing to people through social media and that sort of stuff.”
“I essentially started comedy so that I could blend in a little bit more, and my whole attitude was that I'd just keep doing it while I enjoyed it.”
And with that, it's safe to say the rumours are true – this NZ funnywoman's mission to bring laughter to the masses is far from over.
Melanie Bracewell Tour Dates
29-30 July – Brisbane Powerhouse (Brisbane Comedy Festival) 30 September – Astor Theatre (Perth) 3 October – Space Theatre (Adelaide) 9 October – York Theatre (Sydney) 11 October – Athenaeum Theatre (Melbourne)