Sam Smith is a comedian, writer, and musician. For many years, he also worked as a dentist during the day.
In 2011, Sam was a Raw Comedy Quest finalist and he won Best Newcomer in the NZICF in 2013.
He is currently creating a comedy fundraiser for multiple sclerosis awareness and producing a podcast with Radio NZ.
How did you first get involved with comedy?
I’d always enjoyed comedy and did Theatresports through high school. I got into stand-up comedy though Class Comedians, which is a program in the comedy festival where you hang out with actual comedians and they teach you all about it: how to write jokes, how to deliver jokes, tips about stage presence, and just great contacts in the industry. At the end you perform in front of an audience of about 200 and it was the most nerve-racking thing I’ve ever done in my life. I opened with a joke about my brother hearing the ‘pick up Pizza Hut’ jingle then literally going out and picking up an entire Pizza Hut building. The punchline was that he got done for shoplifting. Not too bad for a first timer – you might disagree.
What’s your average day like?
It’s mainly sitting in an office during the week, and in a studio at the weekend. During the week I write for Jono and Ben, or The Project, or 7 Days. That’s just sitting at a computer desperately trying to think of funny things and writing them down. I do the warm-up for Family Feud, which is trying to keep the audience entertained and informed while they sit around waiting while the cameras are reset and the people in lighting are screwing around. I’m very lucky that the people at Three have been so nice and given me so much work. It’s actually got to the point where I have enough comedy and writing stuff to do that I’m not doing any dentistry anymore. Crazy!
What are the challenges of having MS, and how does this affect your life on a daily basis? Do you find that having a sense of humor helps you cope with these challenges?
MS has been a big change in my life. I was diagnosed six weeks after my son was born so it was a bit of a crazy time. I lost the strength and feeling in my hands which meant I couldn’t do dentistry anymore. Never fear! I’ve regained almost 100% of that feeling in my hands now, so I could go back, but I’m really enjoying being a comedian/writer right now. The thing about MS, or at least my form of MS, is that it comes in episodes. I’ll have little niggles every so often – pretty bad fatigue, pins and needles in my hands, sore feet, a sore lower back – that will be there for a day and then disappear. That’s what ‘normal’ has become. During an episode, I’ll lose feeling in my legs and arms and have to go chill out in hospital for a week. The hardest part is fear of the unknown. You never know when it’s going to strike. I think having a sense of humour does help with that. Rather than thinking, ‘Is an episode coming tomorrow?’ I’ll be thinking, ‘If it comes tomorrow I can have a sleep-in which sounds awesome!’
Can you talk about the comedy fundraiser you’re helping put together?
Oh yes! I’m very excited about this. I was approached by the MS Society to put on a comedy night after they saw a documentary episode I did on a TV show called Attitude. I’ve got a bunch of my favourite comedians doing a stand-up show on Tuesday, 29 August. There will be some comedians you’ve heard of, and some you haven’t, they’re the cream of the crop and it’s going to be a great night. It’s at the best comedy venue in the country: The Classic, which coincidently is also where I did my Class Comedians training back in the day.
Is laughter the best medicine?
No, I think antibiotics are the best medicine. They’re amazing. Laughter is pretty good as well, keeping stress levels down is really important and laughter does that, but I’d hate to see someone try to laugh-off a full-blown bacterial infection.