Cal Wilson, Comedian and Actor, Dies at 53

Cal Wilson

Cal Wilson, a New Zealand comedian and actor who became a mainstay on Australian television over a 20-year career, has died at the age of 53. Her death was confirmed in a statement released by her artist management agency. She died on Wednesday “surrounded by family and friends after a short illness at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney”, the statement read.

Wilson was born in 1970 in Christchurch, New Zealand, where she began her comedy career in 1990 as a founding member of the improv group The Court Jesters. In 1994, she won the world theatre sports title as part of the New Zealand team.

The accolades continued: in 1997, Wilson won the inaugural Billy T Award, a New Zealand prize given to emerging comedians. In 2000 she was named best comedian by the Auckland-based magazine Metro.

Wilson moved to Melbourne in 2003, two years after winning the Best Newcomer award at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, where she became a constant fixture, performing 14 shows over her career and serving as a board member.

Soon after her move, Wilson began appearing regularly on Australian comedy shows including Rove Live, Spicks and Specks, and Good News Week. A multiple guest on early seasons of Thank God You’re Here, Wilson was also part of the ensemble cast of the sketch show The Wedge, a short-lived series that garnered a cult following with its second and final season.

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Wilson had a brief stint as a radio host, hosting the national drive show on Nova in 2007, then a morning show with the same network in 2009.

Throughout the next decade, she continued touring and performing. In 2016 she joined the ensemble for Australia’s version of Whose Line is it Anyway?, a role described by her agency as her “dream job”.

Wilson also found international success, recording her own Netflix comedy special at Montreal’s prestigious Just for Laughs festival which was released as part of a 2019 series titled Comedians of the World.

Most recently, she co-hosted the latest season of The Great Australian Bake Off alongside Natalie Tran. Token artist management confirmed the show was in production when Wilson was admitted to hospital for the first time.

Outside of comedy, Wilson also published two children’s books in 2019, and in 2020’s Covid lockdowns, she began crafting outsized, extravagant headdresses. “Making ridiculous headdresses … kept me sane,” she told the Guardian in an interview. A portrait of her donning a particularly glitzy headdress adorned with doll’s heads and baubles won the packing room prize at the 2023 Archibalds.

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An outpouring of tributes from other comedians and media personalities appeared beneath the Instagram post announcing Wilson’s death.

“This is so tragic and my heart goes out to Cal’s family,” wrote actor Rebel Wilson. “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 was amazingly talented and amazingly kind.”

“I can’t believe what I’m reading,” wrote TV presenter Grant Denyer. “How unbelievably sad. The most tender, kind, generous, and talented performer I’ve ever had the pleasure to work alongside. This is devastating.”

Dylan Alcott, former Australian of the Year, wrote: “Absolutely devastating. Cal, you are such a beautiful person who always had time for everyone. Was always a pleasure anytime I got to work next to you.”

Wilson is survived by her husband Chris and son Digby.

Conclusion:

Cal Wilson was a beloved comedian, actor, and writer who brought joy to millions of people around the world. Her death is a huge loss to the entertainment industry and to her many fans. She will be deeply missed.

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