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James Nokise is in the shower a lot, and not just to get clean. The comedian interviews well-known New Zealanders (usually one at a time) in an actual shower, where they eat fried chicken while recording his podcast about mental health (it’s called Eating Fried Chicken in the Shower). “Don’t worry, the water’s not running,” James says with a grin. He knows the set-up is a little random but, hey, it’s different. “Plus I love fried chicken and showering – usually separately. My shower is quite snug. It was hard to fit the three members of sketch group Frickin Dangerous Bro in there. TV anchor Samantha Hayes is vegetarian, so we had to eat fake fried chicken, which actually wasn’t too bad.”
James recently finished his first series of eight podcasts, available on Radio New Zealand’s website, with a second series in the works. These podcasts are serious but, with James at the helm, they’re sometimes funny, too. “We talk about things I wish were discussed publicly when I was having a tough time.”
James was a big drinker for 15 years – the free drinks before his shows didn’t help – before realising he was a depressed alcoholic. He went cold turkey in 2016, an excruciating process. After that, he talked about alcoholism a lot in his comedy. “I’m more careful now about what I say, because not everyone’s up for hearing about alcoholism. But it’s been worth it for the incredible support I’ve got.”
James, whose father is a Samoan Protestant minister in Newtown, has a strong sense of social justice and of the importance of supporting others. He was one of the musicians and performers who volunteered their time at a charity show in Auckland, with all proceeds going to Victim Support’s Christchurch Shooting Victims’ Fund. “This dark cloud hung over the theatre, but thankfully people had a good time.”
James has never been afraid to try something new. He and his (now former) girlfriend Anya Tate-Manning have staged 14 satirical comic theatre shows, called Public Service Announcements, over nine years. “There was no political satire in New Zealand comedy when we started, but now more comedians are stepping up. I recently stepped away from PSA to make room for new blood, though sometimes I still troubleshoot issues with Anya. It’s cool when you build something that continues after you.”
James, who grew up in Lower Hutt then Newtown, is a giant of Wellington comedy, showing you can succeed without moving to Auckland. He’s about to move to London, however, to experience the comedy scene in Europe, but will eventually move back to the capital. “I’m a proud Wellingtonian. Some people think we Wellingtonians are a pretentious lot, talking about pay and gender equity while wearing cardigans and drinking flat whites. You know what? I’m proud of that.”