Former Opihi College headboy still a standup guy

It's not often a storyteller will have to tone down real life.

But that's exactly what Rhian Wood-Hill, former Opihi College headboy turned standup comedian, has had to do in sharing his story about his ex-gang member biological father.

Wood-Hill, now 26, is based in Wellington. He is pictured receiving a tattoo, a nod to some of his family history

"It's the view of Kapiti Island from the place in Paekakariki that is named after my [maternal] grandfather," he said. 

The town has a tiny park named after Murray Hill, who died a few years ago.

"He was a huge part of the community" Wood-Hill said.

The park means a lot to his family. 

Wood-Hill will return to Timaru in August on his nationwide tour of the show titled How I Met My Father (HIMMF).

The comedian has been telling audiences about the first meeting he and his younger brother had with their Dad, five years ago.

He began working on the show about nine months ago, and his father told him he could he could "make up stuff, make it up, make me look like the bad guy".

"I kind of had to tell him, 'I've had to kind of dull you down, to be honest, to make you sound realistic'.

"He was already too big a figure. It would look ridiculous if I told the real story on stage," Wood-Hill said.

His dad has left the Mongrel Mob, but used to be a "proper Porirua Mongrel Mob member in the 80s and 90s, like he's full-on gangster".

This was in stark contrast to his upbringing in Timaru, the "sixth-whitest place in New Zealand".

His mum was the assistant principal at Roncalli College, and his stepdad held the same role at Opihi College, in Temuka.

"So, a bit of a difference."

To discover he had this "aggressively Samoan side of the family" was very hard for him to wrap his head around.

Since their first meeting, Wood-Hill's Dad and his partner have often attended shows he stages in Auckland, and have already seen parts of the touring show.

"A lot of the bits he's seen are ragging on him, so he does know what to expect," Wood-Hill said.

However his father will only see the entire show for the first time in Auckland.

"There's always that element of he could react badly, it doesn't always necessarily shine him a good light."

Wood-Hill describes How I Met My Father as a coming of age show featuring a series of "ludicrous coincidences".

"I think it's a very honest show and hopefully very funny," he said.

"When I go see shows, I don't like it to be just all funny or all dark. I like it to have a bit of both."

He puts the funny:dark ratio of the new show at 5:1.

Wood-Hill's career as a performer began with the South Canterbury Drama League (SCDL), doing a series of junior and senior shows, before he left South Canterbury at 18.

"I did anything production-based in Timaru, anything I could get my hands on."

He was excited to be back in Timaru to catch up with SCDL members. 

His standup career began about three years ago.

"I was at a bit of a loose end, was kind of working a bit of a dead-end job, and I've always done silly things just to do something."

A friend was teasing him about how unfunny he was, so Wood-Hill took up an opportunity to have a go at standup, to prove his friend wrong.

"That was about three years ago. It's grown pretty quickly, pretty big."

A lot of his material is family-based and set in South Canterbury.

He worked on How I Met My Father for three months, before taking it to a festival. He was asked to take the show on the road, and got a producer involved to help him polish it a bit. 

The dream of doing standup full time is in his sights - he currently works 15 hours a week as a teacher aide - but the tour is his first "real taste" of doing standup,  for six weeks solid.

"This is the first time I'll live for an extended period of time just for standup, which is exciting."

How I Met My Father will be staged at The Playhouse in Timaru on August 18 and 19.

 - The Timaru Herald - Koren Allpress