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The big act

Writer, actor, director, producer… there seems to be few roles Nic Sampson hasn’t tried.
Nic Sampson has his fingers in many pies – stage, screen and comedy. Renee Liang asks him about his sticky fingers.


Nic Sampson has his fingers in many pies – stage, screen and comedy. Renee Liang asks him about his sticky fingers.

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Writer, actor, director, producer… there seems to be few roles Nic Sampson hasn’t tried.  He’s frequently seen on stage and screen and also emerged this year as a comedian, winning the NZ Comedy Festival’s Best Newcomer award. In between writing for Jono And Ben at 10, MCing and staring in SNORT every week, and creating a weekly podcast with fellow comedian Joseph Moore he is also starring in Wine Lips opening later this month, penned by Sam Brooks. Renee Liang caught up for a few questions.

Why do you make theatre?

I come from a long line of theatre makers. My father before me. His father before him. We trace our ancestry back to Thespis (he’s was Ancient Greece’s Tom Hiddleston). I actually wanted to be a coal miner. Dreamed of it. But my overbearing father would have none of it, “No son o’ mine’s gonna be miner! Get back in the rehearsal room and give me ten crying scenes as punishment!” etc. Eventually I relented, though I still dream of those sooty tunnels every now and then. Also making things is fun and fulfilling like say, eating pasta, but with your brain.

How did you and Sam start working together?

He’s at the Basement theatre a lot, I’m at the Basement theatre a lot, it’s your classic schmoozing/networking scene in action. He courted me for weeks on this project, I didn’t want to do it but when he offered me “no money” well, you don’t turn down an offer like that.

I understand Sam wrote Wine Lips specifically for you and Chelsea…how collaborative has the writing been?

I didn’t know that! He doesn’t tell me anything. He’s written all of it, I just say the words.

What have the rehearsals been like?

Chelsea and I have a very good working relationship: I adore her and she masks her contempt for me fairly well. Phoenix from Shortland Street is awesome.

Your career has gone from strength to strength, in acting, writing and director.  In Wine Lips, you play a character who is on the verge of giving up on big career dreams....have you had times in your life where you've wondered if it's all worth it, and how do you get through it?

That’s nice of you to say. I never feel like that’s the case, but if you say so.  I’ve never seriously considered quitting, mainly because I don’t know what else I’d do. But it helps if you can write or produce I guess? That way you’re the master of your own destiny. You become a god. Like Tom Hiddleston in the Avengers.

Do you write fast or slow?

I don’t know sorry. What’s the normal speed? Probably that. I just want to be normal.

You're now forging a career in comedy...have you always been funny?  What's the most important quality for a comedian to have?

Obviously I think I’m very funny. Follow me on Twitter. That part’s not a joke. I guess I feel like I have good TASTE in comedy? Maybe that’s an important thing for a comedian to have? These questions are hard!

Is NZ comedy different?

Not heaps? The comedians I know are all influenced by american and british comedians in a big way, so the borders are all kind of falling away the more connected everything gets. Come see SNORT, the improv show I’m in every Friday 10pm at the Basement. That’s kiwi comedy, but it doesn’t feel specifically kiwi. And it’s cheap! Great plug.

What are you up to next?

I will be performing a return season of my solo show Ernest Rutherford: Everyone Can Science! at the Basement later this year. WATCH OUT THEATRE NERDS! AND REGULAR NERDS!

Written by

Renee Liang

15 Aug 2014

Renee is a writer who is exploring many ways of telling stories, including plays, short stories, poetry (which she also performs), and cross-genre collaborations with composers, musicians, sculptors and filmmakers.

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