Can anything be funny?
Toxic masculinity, a dead father and a debilitating genetic disorder doesn’t sound like great comedy.
Yet Friday and Saturday night, for the Auckland Fringe Festival, Cameron McLeod will tie these bleak strands together.
Toxic Mas is the name of his standup show.
“It’s funny, when I hear the description of the show read back to me I think, ‘that’s a lot’.”
The key part of the show riffs on ideas about traditional, and toxic, masculinity.
“To me, it’s about socially constructed ideas of what a man is supposed to be. That can manifest itself in violent, staunch, unemotional ways.”
The 24-year-old went to an all-boys school in Christchurch - St Bede’s College: “When you bring up St Bede’s to a Christchurch audience there are always boos … and I’m right behind them.”
At St Bede’s (and just about any other high school), Cameron says there was pressure to subscribe to a certain culture.
“It was beer/rugby/women. If you didn’t go along with that, you could feel ostracised and out of place.”
When Cameron was 17 he was diagnosed with Kallmann Syndrome. “It basically means I don’t produce testosterone naturally and have to get it injected into me.”
“So I looked about 12 through high school.”
And a “short, stocky runt” didn’t stand much of a chance.
Now, Cameron is 6’3” and sports a shaggy beard. He’s a man who loves beer and RuPaul’s Drag Race.
“I think we need to celebrate differences in manhood.”
Cameron addresses the #MeToo movement in the show and takes aim at disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
How can such topics elicit humour? Honesty, he believes.
Cameron is unsure whether there are some places comedians shouldn’t go, or jokes they shouldn’t make. He says that may be personal to every comedian.
“If you come from a good place and are well-meaning, perhaps you can joke about anything, but other comedians disagree and you can’t really tell them they’re wrong.”
The joke needs to be funny, for a start, and make a point.
“I don’t consider myself a dark or edgy person, but I think the best comedy is honest and truthful.”
Cameron may be best known to New Zealand audiences for his mute clown character, Steve. He’s found transitioning from physical prop comedy to traditional standup a relief.
“When I play Steve for ages, it’s great to do personal stuff and vice versa. Both are my happy place.”
The third sobering topic he addresses in Toxic Mas is the death of his father in 2010. He was 17 at the time, the same year as his diagnosis.
“Even death and grief can inspire humour. You go to wakes and funerals and hilarious stories are told out of love for someone. When comedy comes from a place of love and goodness, you can laugh about anything.”
Toxic Mas will be performed at Garnet Station on Friday and Saturday at 7pm.