Selected by NZ On Screen team
This collection celebrates Kiwi comedy on TV: the caricatures, piss-takes, and sitcoms that have cracked us up, and pulled the wool over our eyes for over five decades. From turkeys in gumboots and Fred Dagg, to Billy T, bro'Town and Jaquie Brown. As Diana Wichtel reflects, watching the evolution of native telly laughs is, "a rich and ridiculous, if often painful, pleasure."
This is a selection of sketches from this pioneering skit-based comedy series featuring Willy de Witt, Ian Harcourt, Peter Murphy and Dean Butler (with occasional animation by Chris Knox). 80s Dunedin bands are lampooned; The Hoons and Norman the Mormon appear; and Lucy Lawless makes her TV debut.
The odd couple is a longtime comic staple. In author Craig (The Quiet Earth) Harrison’s ground-breaking TV sitcom the chalk’n’cheese couple are Yorkshireman Joe (Stephen Gledhill) — a university-educated librarian — and his Māori flatmate Koro (Rawiri Paratene), who works in a fish and chip shop.
In this infamous (and loopy) Loose Enz ‘comedy’, Bruno plays markedly against type as the dweeb patient of a sexologist, claiming to have a magic touch with women. The sex farce gained notoriety for high-profile newsreader Angela D’Audney going full frontal, then into a turquoise catsuit.
This sitcom features a conscientious travel agent Melody (Belinda Todd) attempting to rein in her wayward siblings. Careers suffered, stars were exiled, and Melody Rules became a by-word for failure in NZ TV (equalled only by The Club Show). Watch episode one and decide if time has offered redemption
This off-the-wall comedy of errors sees hapless tour operator Graham (Ian Watkin) and his wide boy driver Ron (John Bach) lead a busload of international visitors (well) off the beaten trail. Graham’s mum (a formidable Yvonne Lawley) and enterprising local Iwi come into their own as hosts.
Teacher Mr Gormsby believes in brutal honesty — and that the education system has gone all namby-pamby. In desperation, a dysfunctional low-decile school employs him. Danny Mulheron has irreverent fun with the archaic antics of Mr Gormsby; the Sydney Morning Herald found it "darkly funny".
Despite dreams of Vegas stardom Wayne Anderson’s three and a half octave voice star has never made it further than the Manurewa rest home circuit. In this acclaimed mockumentary the cameras follow him and his agent in their quest for a show business career – along with the perfect perm and hot pie.
This documentary on Kiwi humour features dollops of classic comedy moments: from Fred Dagg, Barry Crump, A Week of It, McPhail and Gadsby, Letter to Blanchy, Billy T James, Pete and Pio, the Topp Twins, Gliding On, Lyn of Tawa and Funny Business, and interviews with the key protagonists who muse on the magic of being funny.
Billy T’s unique brand of humour is captured here at its affable, non-PC best in this compilation of skits from his 80s TV shows. There’s Te News (in iconic black singlet and yellow towel), the first contact skits, Turangi Vice, and the ad spoofs (Pixie Caramel, Lands For Bags).
Nightly magazine-style show Town and Around played on New Zealand screens during the second half of the 60s. This end of 1968 special from the Wellington edition features the infamous hoax piece on a farmer who claims to put gumboots on his turkeys.
They’re world famous in the world, and were infamously rejected by NZ network TV, but check out Bret and Jemaine in an early iteration of Flight of the Conchords in this Living Room piece; filmed en route to, and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Taika Waititi plays the role of manager.
Country Calendar spoofs were satirical episodes that screened unannounced. Sometimes there was outrage but mostly the public enjoyed having the wool pulled over their eyes, from the fencing wire-playing farmer’s “rural music” to the infamous radio-controlled dog, and more malarkey besides.
An epic documentary chronicling the extraordinary, unbelievable life of pioneer Kiwi filmmaker Colin McKenzie. Or is it? Costa Botes' and Peter Jackson's hoax notoriously led NZ TV viewers down the garden path; it also screened at Cannes and Venice (where it won a special critics' prize).
Kim Hill interviews comedian John Clarke at his Melbourne home, where they discuss the genesis and impact of his iconic Fred Dagg character. Clarke, with his usual dry wit, also muses on the antipodean sense of humour, and his work across the ditch on shows like The Games and The 7.30 Report.
This is the first episode of the animated TV comedy hit. With fearless wit the poly-saturated series followed the adventures of five kids growing up in the Auckland suburb of Morningside. The Simpsons-esque celebrity cameos begin with David Tua, Scribe, and John "marvelous" Campbell.
In an age before Rogernomics, well before The Office, there was the afternoon tea fund, Golden Kiwi, and four o’clock closing: welcome to the early 80s world of the New Zealand Public Service. Roger Hall-penned Gliding On was the first locally-made sitcom to become a bona-fide classic.
This is the final episode of pioneering political satire series A Week of It - "NZ's longest running comedy programme - discounting parliament". It features David McPhail famously impersonating Muldoon, Jon Gadsby as Dr Groper, an un-PC GP, and Jeez Wayne and the Gluepot Tavern lads.
This “best of” culls highlights from the fifth series of the David McPhail and Jon Gadsby-led sketch show. It includes “pronouncing things proper with Jim Knox;” “This Is Your Life with Robert Muldoon”; an impersonation of TV presenter Karen Hay; and a Goodnight Kiwi take-off.
TV personality Jaquie Brown plays (and plays up) herself for delightful comic effect in this acclaimed TV3 satire. Auckland's aspirational set: a cast of Metro social page alumni and media wannabes, are skewered with self-referential glee. The Listener exalted: "a local sitcom that doesn't suck".
National treasures The Topp Twins - aka twins Lynda and Jules Topp - have performed as a country music-singing comedy duo for more than 25 years. This late-90s TV series showcased their iconic cast of characters, including Camp Mother, the Bowling Ladies and cross-dressing Ken and Ken.
This show satirised mainstream media, from "issues of the day" journalism to the society pages (lampooned in the "celebrity sharemarket index"). Jeremy Wells keeps a straight face while investigating issues inexplicably missed by other media, such as Taranaki-filmed te reo porn.
In April 1990, Billy T came back from ill health, and made a triumphant return to performing with this stage swansong. Billy T gives it everything he's got - every gag is rounded off with his trademark ‘bro' laugh - for a loudly appreciative audience. Guests include Sir Howard Morrison.
In 2001 comedian Mike King traversed Aotearoa on The Mike King Laugh Out Loud Tour. No stereotype is left unbruised in this performance, at Auckland's St James Theatre, as King gives his non-PC bro-down on everything from westie pick-up lines, and East Coast hongi, to sport and childbirth.
Kiwi icon Lyn of Tawa - she of mangled vowel fame - goes on the prowl in search of the ultimate bloke. The girl-from-the-suburb's mission takes in the gamut of masculine mythology, from Man Alone to mateship, and Lyn provides manthropological reflections ("can a woman ever be a mate?").
This cult TV series was a bogan bawdy Kiwi variety show. Low-rent production values mixed sacrilege, beer-fuelled hijinks and Jackass-like stunts. Created by Chris Stapp and Matt Heath, the series revolved around BSA-baiting skits (‘Cunstables’?!); it also screened on MTV2 in Europe.
This selection of sketches from the 90s sketch comedy show features the wacky Semisi family (with their 'fresh off the boat' antics inspiring mirth and groans in equal measure), as well as Jemaine (Flight of the Conchords) Clement and members of the bro'Town posse. Tasteless, but terrific.
Serial Killers pokes fun at a group of characters who write for a soap called Heart of Hearts and congregate around the production's "table of pain". The show features many Shortland Street alumni having fun mining their insider experience, and was created by James (Outrageous Fortune) Griffin.
Jeremy Wells examines NZ history in a revisionist light, poking fun at the pretence of the past, largely through archive mockery. From the makers of Eating Media Lunch, the show is self-described as "the most important series in the history of history". Michael King it ain't!
A TV3 sketch comedy show based on the bicultural talents of its two leads, long-time Billy T collaborator Peter Rowley and comedian Pio Terei. Topical sketches are framed by an opening stand-up double act performed to a studio audience, and a closing song led by Terei.
Letter to Blanchy was a gentle rural comedy co-written by and starring comedy duo McPhail and Gadsby. Each episode chronicles the bumblings of a trio of old geezers living in a fictional small town: intellectual Derek (McPhail), rough diamond Barry (Gadsby) and tradesman Ray (Rowley).
Inspired by the British series, Spitting Image, Public Eye used foam latex puppets to caricature topical personalities, whose foibles are duly skewered. The puppets were based on drawings by cartoonist Trace Hodgson, and built by a team headed by future Weta FX maestro, Richard Taylor.
Tagata Pasifika takes a look at the Kiwi PI theatre phenomenon that is The Naked Samoans. AO-rated, the episode features entertaining interviews and footage from the theatre shows; it captures the South Pacific humour that shaped cartoon series bro'Town and feature film Sione's Wedding.
On the heels of Issues, More Issues offered more of the same satirical take on current affairs. It poked fun at hyper-inflation of local media celeb status (Judy Bailey, Richard Long, ‘Holmes’) - such a feature of NZ TV at the time - as well as politicians and international personalities.
This popular TV3 youth show was hosted by Jon Bridges, Nathan Rarere and Petra Bagust. This 'best of' sees a 20/20 satire, Petra meets Meatloaf, Jon meet US boy band Hanson; and Nathan road tests Elvis's diet. Includes the trademark sign-off where L&P bottles were subjected to various stresses.
This doco profiles enduringly popular playwright Roger Hall, exploring the secrets behind the brand of comedy (27 stage plays, plus many TV series and musicals) Hall has successfully created over 30 years. Featuring interviews with John Clarke, Ginette McDonald, and Grant Tilly.
A TV network hires actor Kevin Smith to front a documentary about a town divided by an unusual discovery: Gooey Duck - a musky mollusk with reputed aphrodisiac qualities. The Michael Hurst-directed mockumentary satirises the medium, celebrity, small town NZ, gender, politics and penises.
A one-off comedy pilot about a bloke, Brett (Kevin Smith), reluctantly celebrating his stag night, and a woman, Jane (Theresa Healey) who is less than happy at her hen's party. When the titular double booking happens paths collide and much ado occurs. The cast is a virtual Gloss reunion.
The Listener critic surveys 50 years of NZ comedy on telly and attempts to answer the vexing question: “what’s great television comedy?”
Roger Hall goes back to the black and white beginning and considers the search for the confidence to laugh at ourselves on screen.
Are there Kiwi TV comedy legends we've missed? Let us know and we'll endeavour to get them up on NZ On Screen.
NZ ON SCREEN 2015
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