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Cal Wilson, the New Zealand stand-up comedian, author, and radio and television host, who became a household name in Australia, has passed away at the age of 53. She died on Wednesday, October 11, 2023, surrounded by family and friends after a short illness at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney.
Wilson was born in Christchurch, New Zealand on October 5, 1970. She co-founded the improv ensemble Court Jesters in 1990 and was a member of the New Zealand squad that won the World Theatresports title in Los Angeles in 1994. She moved to Melbourne in 2003, two years after winning the best newcomer award at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, where she was a mainstay and a board member.
A Versatile and Beloved Performer
Wilson was known for her witty and warm style of comedy, which often touched on topics such as family, relationships, feminism, and everyday life. She appeared on numerous television shows such as Spicks and Specks, Good News Week, Thank God You’re Here, Have You Been Paying Attention?, Hughesy We Have a Problem, and more recently co-hosted The Great Australian Bake Off alongside Natalie Tran.
She also had her own Netflix comedy special as part of the Comedians of the World series in 2019, where she showcased her hilarious observations and anecdotes to a global audience. She performed at the Melbourne International Comedy festival 14 times and toured around Australia and overseas with her solo shows.
Wilson was also a successful author, radio presenter, and actor. She wrote several books for children and adults, including George and the Great Bum Stampede, Dented Divas, Things I’ve Learnt from Women Who’ve Dumped Me, and Grumpy Little King. She hosted various radio shows on Nova FM, Triple M, and ABC Radio Melbourne. She also acted in stage productions such as The Breast Darn Show in Town, North by North West, and Whose Line is it Anyway?.
A Generous and Kind Soul
Wilson was not only a talented and funny performer but also a generous and kind person who supported many causes and charities. She was an ambassador for Oxfam Australia and participated in several fundraising events such as Comedy for Cure Kids, Stand Up for Christchurch, Comic Relief Australia, and Stand Up Against Poverty. She also donated her portrait by artist Giulia McGauran, which won the Packing Room Prize at the 2023 Archibald Prize, to the hospital where she received treatment.
Wilson was loved by her family, friends, fans, and peers, who have expressed their grief and condolences on social media. Her husband Chris and son Digby said in a statement: “We are heartbroken to lose our beautiful Cal. She was an amazing wife, mother, daughter, sister, auntie, friend and comedian. She brought so much joy and laughter to everyone who met her. We are so grateful for the time we had with her and the memories we will cherish forever.”
Some of Wilson’s fellow comedians and performers have also paid tribute to her on her Instagram page. New Zealand actor Rhys Darby described her as “an amazing talent”. “Such a quick brain and so much style and taste. This hurts hard,” he wrote. Actress Rebel Wilson said Wilson was “amazingly talented and amazingly kind”. “I was very very lucky to work with Cal on multiple projects especially over the last few years where she wrote brilliant material for me,” she wrote. One of her co-stars on The Great Australian Bake Off, Darren Purchese, said Wilson was “the best”. “I can’t believe this news. I loved you very much and condolences to Chris, Digby and family.”
A Huge Loss for the Comedy Community
Wilson’s death has left a huge hole in the heart of the comedy community in Australia and New Zealand. She was one of the most popular and respected comedians in the industry, who inspired many others with her talent and generosity. She will be dearly missed by all who knew her and enjoyed her work.
Wilson’s legacy will live on through her comedy specials, books, radio shows, TV appearances, and stage performances. She will also be remembered for her bright smile, infectious laugh, creative spirit, and kind heart. She was a comedy star who shone brightly in the lives of many.
Rest in peace, Cal Wilson. Thank you for making us laugh.