For some, comedian Rudy-Lee Taurua strikes as a threatening figure.
Tall, bald, and a head, throat, and torso covered in tattoos, Rudy knows he looks like a man who means serious business. But those stereotypes are something he enjoys playing with on stage, as he will in his show, ‘You Wouldn’t Guess It’.
“[My appearance] helps weed out the f...wits pretty easily,” he laughs.
Since beginning his comedy career in 2019, Rudy has earned a reputation in Adelaide as ‘The Stereotype Crusher’ for the way he challenges a crowd's first impressions of him.
“My head’s covered in tattoos, and I present as what most would call a toxically masculine man, as in I look and sound like a straight person, yet I’m half-caste Maori and homosexual,” Rudy says. “That’s what I like to do in my sets: I like to feed off the preconceived ideas and then use my sexuality as a bit of a surprise half-way through the show, and then talk about my experiences within the gay community.”
Rudy’s unique identity and perspective has proven advantageous, leading to him being crowned the 2020 South Australian RAW Comedy champion. However, due to the pandemic, the Melbourne grand final was delayed to this year.
“No need to flex or whatever, but I’m literally longest-reigning South Australian RAW champion in two decades of RAW,” he laughs.
‘You Wouldn’t Guess It’ debuted at this year’s Perth Fringe World Festival, but its creation was completely unintentional.
“There was a producer there I was doing spots for who offered me a venue, and because I hadn’t worked for this producer before I didn’t want to tell them I wasn’t good enough to do an hour. I was pressured into it by another producer-slash-comedian who told me very encouragingly, ‘F... it’,” he laughs. “And then it turned out I had a pretty good hour in me.”
For ‘You Wouldn’t Guess It’, Rudy mines comedy from his lived experiences; from childhood trauma to recovering from addiction. A major part of the show involves his experiences within the gay community, including the trials of dating and his appearance making him an outsider.
“The top of my head and my throat tattoos are traditional Maori tattoos [Ta moko],” he says. “I remember when this gay bar opened in Adelaide and they did a big spiel: ‘It’s not just a ‘gay bar’, it’s a safe space for people to express themselves’. I tried to get in about three times, but apparently my throat tattoos breached their security requirements. I could put a scarf on them, but that’s disrespecting my heritage and I can’t really bring myself to covering these things that are meant to represent my ancestors and homeland.
“But that’s the thing I love about comedy: to me, it’s about taking the most painful and uncomfortable of subjects and then finding the humour in them. So, for me, to take some of these traumatic things and turn into a joke and make people laugh makes me happy.”
Rudy-Lee Taurua plays Factory Theatre (Sydney Comedy Festival) 28 April-2 May and Regal Theatre (Perth Comedy Festival) 6-8 May.