Q & A with Jules Daniel

8 May 2024

Despite using they/them pronouns comedian Jules Daniel swears they are definitely, if not probably, not a horde of bees. A 29yo with a BA (theatre & film, with a minor in gender and sexuality) from Victoria University, Jules has been nominated for Young Performer of the Year twice (2012/2010) and for Best Joke and Best Newcomer at the 2019 Wellington Comedy Awards. They were a Wellington Raw Quest finalist in 2020 as well as producing and performing shows in and around Wellington and performing comedy at the Welcome to Nowhere Festival (2019/2023).

You can catch Jules at the NZ International Comedy Festival with Best Foods Mayo with their show The Transgender Agenda on 25 May at Fringe Bar. You can also see them on the line-up at The Wellington Comedy Club Rainbow Showcase on 15 May at Te Auaha.

I caught up with them ahead of these performances to ask a few questions about their shows, comedy in general and just what (or who) makes them laugh.

What can people expect from your show?

The show is a cabaret of just some of the talented transgender and gender non-conforming folk in the comedy, burlesque, clown, and drag community that I've been able to curate for a night of laughs. Expect jokes, stunts, silliness, trans joy and most importantly, comedy!

What was the inspiration for this piece?

So often trans people get talked about in comedy and media without much representation from our own perspectives and points of view. Cisgendered people with huge platforms speak about us (often in pretty nasty ways) and our lived experiences, and then turn around and have the audacity to tell us that we don’t have our own art. Here is a showcase of trans art, and a joyful humorous one at that.

What inspires your best bits on stage?

I enjoy absurd and silly humour myself as well as satire. I think that often when you’re trying to say something meaningful and important to you, the best way to translate that and make it more accessible to people is to remove it from its context. Studying theatre at VUW has given me a Brechtian approach to comedy and as such I’ve been hugely inspired by clown, drag artists and queer comics personally from Andy Kauffman, Stewart Lee, Tim Hidecker to Natalie Palamides, as well as Zoe Coombs-Marr and Demi Lardner from across the pond. In Aotearoa long established icons such as The Topp Twins, Flight of the Conchords, and Taika Waititi as well as people from within our own scene that have helped make me into the artist I am today such as David Correos, James Malcolm, James Mustapic, Neil D'bear Thornton, Cole Hampton, Hugo Grrl, Tessa Waters and so many other beautiful people that have given me opportunities within the Wellington arts community. I definitely stand on the shoulders of giants to be where I am today.

In your opinion, is there anywhere a comedian just shouldn’t go in terms of content?

I think all humour is subjective and that realistically everything can be made fun of. I do think if people are going to try to be offensive in their comedy then the joke certainly has to be worth it- so funny that you’re laughing before you can even think. “Haha you laughed; I'm off the hook.” (Homer Simpson). I do question sometimes if the subject of the butt of the joke is the most worthy target of that criticism. At the end of the day I do think who’s being made fun of is important and in what way.

For trans people I know a lot of the frustration around jokes aimed at the trans community is less about being offended and more about the jokes being unoriginal and done before. (we’ve all heard the “I identify as a ____” too many times). I do also think some people use “joking” as an excuse to be bigoted and spread hate under the guise of comedy. At the end of the day, I feel a comic and their audience members are in a contract with each other where the artist is supposed to make them laugh. That's the highest priority for me, not being as edgy as I can be. If I can slip in some meaning then, as a theatre kid, that’s the cherry on top.

Which comedians really make you laugh?

Many I’ve already mentioned but I’ll add on Demitri Martin, Hannah Gatsby, Rhys Nicholson, Jessa Reed, Tig Notaro, May Martin, River Butcher, Josh Thomas, Bill Bailey, Tim Minchin,, Bo Burnham, Brian Regan, Spike Milligan, Monty Python, Garfunkle and Oats, Maria Bamford, and as a very cheeky mention - I’ve always been able to make myself giggle.

What was your best night ever on stage?

I hope that the best is still to come! I still feel very early in comedy given so much of my time in the scene has been taken up with Covid times. Honestly, I’ve done a few shows where the audience is there for a good night of comedy and super receptive and where the vibe backstage has been beautifully supportive and wholesome like performing in No Homo, Trans-Apparent, or at drag shows. I recently had the opportunity to help make a musical comedy (Hell School: The Musical) in which I was given the privilege of playing the lead villain - which I feel is just about every queer theatre kid's dream, so that was pretty fun - getting to tell jokes, sing, and be camp, as literal, all hell.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your show (or anything else you have coming up)?

It was very important for my co-producer Lily, and me, to make a show that was as representative of the trans community here in Aotearoa as it could be. This is why we decided to go with a more cabaret style show as so much of rainbow comedy does sit in the fringe arts like burlesque and drag. People can be incredibly funny regardless of whether they fit into the gender binary, and I really want to create a space where these people can excel, regardless of their gender presentation. Fewer barriers, more art, intersectionality but above all else good comedy.