Kiwi Comedy On TV

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." 

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Funny Business - Excerpts

Television, 1988 (Excerpts)

A selection of sketches from this award-winning skit based comedy series featuring Willy de Witt, Ian Harcourt, Peter Murphy and Dean Butler (with occasional animation by Chris Knox). The Hoons display their all of their charm and tact at the beach — but cruising for action (in a car truly worthy of them) results in a heated confrontation with one of their rivals. The classic Norman the Mormon also features, alternative Dunedin bands of the 1980s are lampooned and Lucy Lawless makes her TV debut in an ad spoof that anticipates her future role in Spartacus.

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Joe and Koro - High Society

Television, 1977 (Full Length Episode)

In the 1970s Yorkshire emigre Craig Harrison turned the odd couple tale of a Māori and a Yorkshireman into a novel, a radio play, and this popular sitcom. Joe (Stephen Gledhill) is the nervy, university-educated librarian; his flatmate is city-raised Koro (Rawiri Paratene) who works in a fish and chip shop. This episode follows what happens when Koro’s dodgy homemade wine helps inspire embarrassing scenes at a party of Joe’s friends. Among drunkard Pākehā, watch out for a paralytic Kevin J Wilson, and a rare pre-Pork Pie appearance by Claire Oberman.

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Loose Enz - The Venus Touch

Television, 1982 (Full Length)

In this infamous Loose Enz edition, sexologist Rufus (Grant Tilly) has marriage problems due to being more theoretical than practical when it comes to the ways of the flesh. Things get complicated when an eccentric patient, Ernest (Bruno Lawrence), turns up claiming to have a magic touch with women. With Joy of Sex japes and punning pillow talk galore, it’s very much of its time. The (frankly, odd) sex farce gained notoriety for high-profile newsreader Angela D’Audney (as the sexologist’s wife) going topless, then into a turquoise catsuit.

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Melody Rules - Going, Going ... Goner (Episode One)

Television, 1993 (Full Length Episode)

'Going, Going, Gone ...' was the ominous title for the opening episode of one of NZ television's most celebrated failures. With her mother on an archaeological dig in Malaysia, Melody (Belinda Todd) is babysitting her brother and sister and counting down to a much anticipated holiday of her own. But will Mum make it back in time (or will she only ever be a voice on the phone)? Will her brother survive his first date? And will her sister get to the big Slagheap concert? And who thought it was good idea for Brendan (Allan Brough) to wear that shirt?  

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Loose Enz - Graham's Mum and the Goulden Tour

Television, 1982 (Full Length)

This off-the-wall comedy of errors — from the Loose Enz series — 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. It neatly skewers clichéd promotional travelogue commentaries (with Sibelius never far away) and takes broader shots at the tourists’ various cultural stereotypes. With Graham well-meaning but dim, and Ron too busy looking after number one, Graham’s mum (a formidable Yvonne Lawley) and enterprising local Iwi come into their own as hosts.

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Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby - Period One: The Appalling Mr Gormsby

Television, 2005 (Full Length)

Director Danny Mulheron has fun with the subversive character of Mr Gormsby in this irreverently funny series. In desperation, the Tepapawai High School principal has hired paragon of old school values Mr Gormsby (David McPhail) after yet another relief teacher walks out. Forming an instant dislike for fellow teacher 'Steve from Guidance' and frustrated that his trusty cane has been taken from him, Gormsby comes up a unique form of discipline which manages to offend pretty much everyone. Nominated for Best Script and Best Comedy at the 2006 NZ Screen Awards.

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Wayne Anderson - Singer of Songs (Series One, Episode One)

Television, 2006 (Full Length Episode)

Debut episode in the first series about Wayne Anderson, “Manurewa’s greatest singer”, and his attempts to break out of the rest home circuit and find fame and fortune. Wayne dreams of taking the “evergreen” music of his idols Engelbert and Elvis to the world; but even his manager’s show business links (working in a video store) aren’t bringing in the 50 dollar gig he needs each week. Things may be looking up with the best perm Wayne’s ever had — and an audition in a Karangahape Road bar (although, as a non-driver, he needs to get there by bus).

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Beyond a Joke!

Television, 1995 (Full Length)

This 1995 documentary about New Zealand humour features classic TV 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. Tom Scott, John Clarke, David McPhail and Jon Gadsby talk about the nature of New Zealand satire; Pio Terei, Peter Rowley, and Billy T James producer Tom Parkinson discuss the pros and cons of race-based humour; and the Topp Twins explain the art of sending people up rather than putting them down.  

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The Best of The Billy T James Collection

Television, 1992 (Full Length)

Billy T’s unique brand of humour is captured here at its affable, non-PC best in this compilation of skits from his popular 80s TV shows. There’s Te News (“... someone pinched all the toilet seats out of the Kaikohe Police Station ... now the cops have got nothing to go on!”) with Billy in iconic black singlet and yellow towel; a bro’s guide to home improvement; the first contact skits, and Turangi Vice. No target is sacred (God, The IRA) and there are classic spoofs of Pixie Caramel’s “last requests” and Lands For Bags’ “where’d you get your bag” ads.

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Town and Around: Wellington Highlights

Television, 1968 (Full Length)

Nightly magazine-style show Town and Around played on New Zealand screens during the second half of the 60s. Hosted by Peter Read, this end-of-1968 special from the Wellington edition showcases highlights from over 500 items that year. The concentration is on lighter material, most famously a hoax piece on a farmer who puts gumboots on his turkeys. In another piece reporter John Shrapnell discovers that locked cars in the city tend to be the exception. Also featured: an interview with entertainer Rolf Harris, and an impromptu Kiwi street-Hamlet.

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The Living Room - Series One (excerpts)

Television, 2002 (Excerpts)

A magazine show with an edge, The Living Room did for arts television production what Radio With Pictures did for NZ music — it ripped open the venetian blinds, rearranged the plastic-covered cushions, and shone the sun on Aotearoa’s homegrown creative culture. Often letting the subjects film and present their own stories, it was produced for three series by Wellington’s Sticky Pictures, who also made follow-up arts showcase The Gravy. These excerpts from the first series show a calvacade of local talent, including an early Flight of the Conchords screen outing.

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Country Calendar - Spoofs Special

Television, 1999 (Full Length)

Ask Country Calendar viewers which shows they remember and inevitably the answer is "the spoofs" — satirical episodes that screened unannounced. Sometimes there was outrage but mostly the public enjoyed having the wool pulled over their eyes. Created by producer Tony Trotter and Bogor cartoonist Burton Silver, the first (in late 1977) was the fencing wire-playing farmer and his "rural music". This special episode collects the best of the spoofs, from the infamous radio-controlled dog, to the gay couple who ran a "stress-free" flock, and more malarkey besides.

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Forgotten Silver

Television, 1995 (Excerpts)

An epic documentary chronicling the extraordinary, unbelievable life of pioneer Kiwi filmmaker Colin McKenzie. Or is it? The first clue that none of this story is true is that the film begins (the opening 10 minutes is excerpted here) with Peter Jackson leading the viewer down a garden path. Much that is absurd and unlikely follows, leading to a curiously emotional climax. The screening of Forgotten Silver memorably stirred up NZ audiences, and it screened at international film festivals such as Cannes and Venice, where it won a special critics' prize.

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Face to Face with Kim Hill - John Clarke

Television, 2003 (Excerpts)

Kim Hill interviews comic writer and performer John Clarke at his home in Melbourne. Clarke talks about the creation of his iconic Fred Dagg character in New Zealand some 30 years ago - with his black singlet, a hat given to Clarke by his sister and some torn-off trousers from the TVNZ wardrobe department. Clarke also discusses the NZ and Australian sense of humour, his work across the ditch on TV shows such as The Games and The 7.30 Report, and on films with his production company Huntaway Films (with friend and fellow Kiwi Sam Neill). 

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bro'Town - The Weakest Link

Television, 2004 (Full Length Episode)

This animated hit follows the adventures of five kids growing up in the Auckland suburb of Morningside. The show's fearless, un-PC wit was developed from the poly-saturated comedy of theatre group Naked Samoans. In bro'Town's very first episode, Valea gets hit by a bus and wakes up a genius, allowing him to demonstrate that his school is not just full of dumbarses after the boys compete on a school quiz show. The Simpsons-esque celebrity cameos start strong, thanks to Robert Rakete, Scribe, PM Helen Clark, David Tua and "marvellous" John Campbell.

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Gliding On - No Smoke Without Fire

Television, 1981 (Full Length Episode)

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. Gliding On (1981 - 1985) was the first locally-made sitcom to become a bona-fide classic. Inspired by Roger Hall's hit play Glide Time, the award-winning series satirised a paper-pushing working life familiar to many Kiwis. This episode features Beryl's non-smoking campaign, Jim's efforts to kick the habit, office sexual innuendo and a much-debated fire drill. "Morning Jim!"

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A Week of It - Christmas Special

Television, 1979 (Full Length Episode)

This final episode of pioneering political satire series A Week of It ("NZ's longest running comedy programme - discounting parliament") features a three wise men parody (lost without a Shell road map); pirate Radio Hauraki; and a parliament-themed Cinderella Christmas pantomine (with McPhail/Muldoon as the stepmother). Jon Gadsby appears as Dr Groper, an un-PC GP; and God is a guest (for the first time on TV) at a Fendalton Anglican church. Comedian Dudley Moore appears in the 'best of' credits reel alongside Jeez Wayne and the Gluepot Tavern lads.

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McPhail and Gadsby - Best of Series Five

Television, 1983 (Full Length)

After turning “Jeez Wayne” into a national catchphrase with their hit series A Week of It, comedy duo David McPhail and Jon Gadsby continued their TV dream run with the sketch comedy show McPhail and Gadsby. This 1983 'Best of' featured highlights from series five including: 'pronouncing things proper with Jim Knox'; 'This Is Your Life with Robert Muldoon' (featuring McPhail’s infamous caricature of the then PM); Lin Waldegrave’s popular impersonation of music show host Karyn Hay; and a Goodnight Kiwi take-off in 'Goodnight from the Beehive'.

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The Jaquie Brown Diaries - Brown Sweat (Episode Three)

Television, 2008 (Full Length Episode)

TV personality Jaquie Brown plays (and plays up) herself for delightful comic effect in this hit TV3 satire. Brown plays an egomaniacal reporter looking to climb the media ladder any which way she can. Auckland's aspirational set: a cast of Metro social page alumni and wannabes, are skewered with self-referential glee. The show won Best Comedy at the 2009 Qantas Film and TV Awards. This episode sees Jaquie striving to exit Woman's Day's 'Plump it Hottie' section, appropriating a tampon, and performing in a celeb singalong.  

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The Topp Twins - Highland Games

Television, 2000 (Full Length Episode)

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. In the late 90s they created their own award-winning TV series which ran for three seasons and showcased their iconic cast of Kiwi characters, including Camp Mother, the Bowling Ladies and cross-dressing Ken and Ken. This episode from the third and final series of their eponymous show has the twins in their many guises enjoying an afternoon at the Waipu Highland Games. "Look at the leather work in that sporran!" 

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Eating Media Lunch - Best Of (Episode)

Television, 2006 (Full Length Episode)

Presenter Jeremy Wells manages to keep a straight face as he mercilessly satirises all manner of mainstream media and "issues of the day" journalism in long-running satire series, Eating Media Lunch. No fish is too big or barrel too small. In this 2006 'worst of EML'  special Wells tests the patience of talkback radio hosts; reveals the horrifying 'truth' behind the demise of celebrity merino Shrek; plus there's sneak previews of the al-Qaeda blooper reels; and Anal Mana, our first indigenous porno flick (you have been warned: not suitable for children).  

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Billy T Live

Television, 1990 (Excerpts)

In April 1990, Billy Taitoko James came back from years of ill health, and made a triumphant return to performing his unique brand of music and comedy. It was a last hurrah for James, whose transplanted heart gave out on him the following year, but it's a worthy swansong. His unique brand of humour is captured here at its affable, non-PC, best, with Billy T giving everything he's got - every gag is rounded off with his trademark 'bro' laugh - for a loudly appreciative audience. Guests include Sir Howard Morrison. 

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An Audience with the King

Television, 2001 (Full Length)

In 2001 comedian Mike King (with Te Radar) traversed Aotearoa on The Mike King Laugh Out Loud Tour. In this final performance, at Auckland's St James Theatre, King recounts cultural subtleties en route, from Hamilton ("4WDs with mud on them!") to East Coast hongi. No stereotype is left unbruised, as King gives his non-PC bro-down on everything from westie pick-up lines, to sport and childbirth. King shares his favourite jokes: "Here's one you can't tell at work on Monday: a Maori, a Samoan and a Tongan are in a Commodore - who's driving? A Policeman".

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Lyn of Tawa - In Search of the Great New Zealand Male

Television, 1994 (Full Length)

Kiwi icon Lyn of Tawa — she of mangled vowel fame — goes on the prowl in search of the ultimate Kiwi 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?"). Made when the good keen man was facing up to the challenge from 'knackered' SNAGs, she travels from the West Coast (for sex education) to the Wellesley Club, from rugby scrums to rabbit culls, and en route meets hunters, lawyers, students and ... gay ten-pin bowlers.

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Back of the Y Masterpiece Television

Television, 2001 (Full Length Episodes)

This cult late-night TV2 series was a bawdy bogan Kiwi variety show, mixing sacrilege, beer-fuelled hijinks and Jackass-like stunts. Created by Chris Stapp and Matt Heath, it centred around a mock live TV show, with music from house band Deja Voodoo. Characters such as "retarded South Island mechanic" Spanners Watson featured in BSA-baiting segments like 'Randy Campbell's Extreme Stunts' (fodder for film The Devil Dared Me To) and 'Cunstables'. This first series also screened on MTV2 in Europe and Channel V in Australia. A second series screened on C4 in 2008.

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Skitz - 'Best Of' Excerpts

Television, 1997 (Excerpts)

Skitz was a popular long-running sketch-based comedy that ran for four series from 1993 - 1997. This selection of excerpts contains sketches from the final season of the Gibson Group satirical show famous for its broad, take-no-prisoners humour and memorable characters and catch phrases. The wacky Semisi family and their 'fresh off the boat' antics inspire mirth and groans in equal measure and filmmaker Sima Urale is enjoyably ludicrous as the terrifying Aunty Mele. Jemaine (Flight of the Conchords) Clement and members of the Bro' Town posse also feature.   

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Serial Killers - A Compilation

Television, 2004 (Excerpts)

Working from a kind of 'play within the play' premise, comedy series Serial Killers, cleverly satirises the lives of a group of TV soap writers, actors and the industry they all work for. Featuring Pauline (played by Robyn Malcolm) the permanently stressed-out screenwriter of Heart of Hearts, and her ex-partner/co-worker Alan (John Leigh), these excerpts from the 2005-screened series include the pair trying to reason with their producer (a preternaturally calm Tandi Wright) who demands the writers re-introduce a character they'd formerly killed off. 

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The Unauthorised History of New Zealand - Sex (Episode Two)

Television, 2005 (Excerpts)

Jeremy Wells brings Kenneth Cumberland-seque authority to this 'alternative' version of New Zealand history, made by the same team that produced Eating Media Lunch. TUHONZ plumbs the TV and historical archives to poke fun at the pretence of the past (and present). This episode examines artefacts to do with sex and Aotearoa. With tongue planted in check (and elsewhere) Wells revisits everything from pole-dancing in the "hellhole of the Pacific" - colonial Russell; to randy Hutt Valley teenagers "getting laid" in the 50s.

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Pete and Pio - Series One compilation

Television, 1994 (Excerpts)

Peter Rowley and Pio Terei star in this 90s comedy sketch show. While Rowley is a veteran comedy actor famous for his roles alongside Billy T James in the hit Billy T James Show, this was Terei’s first lead television role (it was followed later by his own show Pio!).Each episode opens with a stand-up double act performed to a studio audience and closes with a song led by Terei. In these excerpts, the duo poke fun at racial stereotypes and create their own versions of well known contemporary advertisements. Just say ‘cheese’.  

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Letter to Blanchy - A Serious Undertaking

Television, 1994 (Excerpts)

Letter to Blanchy is a gentle rural comedy co-written by, and starring legendary comedy duo, McPhail and Gadsby. Each episode is a self-contained story, drawing material from the bumblings of a trio of good friends living in a fictional small town. They are: intellectual Derek (McPhail), rough diamond Barry (Gadsby) and tradesman Ray (Rowley). The narration is a letter written to Blanchy, a friend living in the relative sophistication of Christchurch. The series was adapted for a theatre tour in 2008.

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Public Eye - Episode One

Television, 1988 (Excerpts)

Inspired by the British series Spitting Image, Gibson Group's Public Eye features latex puppets based on drawings by cartoonist Trace Hodgson and built by a team headed by future Weta FX maestro, Richard Taylor. Highlights from the first episode include a boxing match between former finance minister Ruth Richardson and Winston Peters; Helen Clark's attempts to convince a bunch of labour party ministers to enforce a ban on pornography; and cricketer Richard Hadlee's failure to promote a life insurance company while being interviewed by Keith Quinn.

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Tagata Pasifika - The Naked Samoans

Television, 2001 (Full Length Episode)

Tagata Pasifika takes a look at Kiwi PI theatre phenomenon The Naked Samoans, and features extensive footage from a number of their stage comedies. Viewers will recognise early versions of a number of characters who would later feature on the Samoans' animated hit bro'Town. Co-founder Oscar Kightley talks about the group. AO-rated, the episode captures the hilarious non-pc island humour that shaped five seasons of bro'Town, and two Sione's Wedding feature films.

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More Issues - A Compilation

Television, 1991 (Excerpts)

On the heels of Issues (1990), More Issues offered more of the same satirical takes on local and international current affairs. It pokes fun at the advent of news-presenting personalities like Judy Bailey, Richard Long and Paul Holmes - such a prominent feature of NZ TV at the time, and politicians and celebs of the day. These excerpts from the series include Rima Te Wiata's uncanny impersonation of Judy Bailey, David McPhail's reprisal of a conniving Rob Muldoon, Rawiri Paratene as Oprah Winfrey, and Mark Wright as war reporter Peter Arnett.

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Ice TV - Best of

Television, 1998 (Full Length Episode)

Ice TV was a popular 90s TV3 youth show hosted by Jon Bridges, Nathan Rarere and Petra Bagust. This 1998 'best of' sees a 20/20 satire (a world's biggest bonsai trees scam); Petra meets Meatloaf, Jon meets US brothers boy band Hanson, visits a 'storm-namer', and they both go on Outward Bound; Nathan road tests Elvis's diet (peanut butter and bacon in bread, deep fried); and the trio go to the zoo and gym to discover why humans are the "sexiest primates alive". Includes the show's trademark sign-off where L&P bottles were subjected to various stresses.

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Who Laughs Last

Television, 2006 (Excerpts)

  Who Laughs Last profiles Roger Hall, New Zealand’s most successful playwright. Three decades after the opening of Hall's Middle Age Spread became a hit, the original cast return for 2006 follow up Spreading Out. The Shirley Horrocks doco explores the secrets behind Hall’s successful brand of comedy (25+ stage plays, plus TV series and musical comedies) andclosely explores the popularity of Middle Age Spread and Spreading Out. Among those interviewed are John Clarke, Ginette McDonald, the late Grant Tilly, and Hall himself.

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Love Mussel

Television, 2001 (Excerpts)

A TV network hires actor Kevin Smith to front a documentary about a town divided by an unusual discovery. Gooey Duck — a shellfish with reputed aphrodisiac qualities — has appeared off Ureroa. The quota is owned by a local couple but the rest of the town, big business, the government and the local iwi all have their own ideas. Smith's involvement gets complicated when he innocently consumes the mollusk while watching Prime Minister Jenny Shipley on TV. The medium, celebrity, small town NZ, gender, politics and penises are all satirised.

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Double Booking

Television, 1998 (Excerpts)

Double Booking was a one-off comedy 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 their paths collide. Brett and Jane are star-struck at the Ocean Moon restaurant; wedding days are threatened and much ado occurs. The cast is a virtual Gloss reunion. It was made as a comedy pilot for TVNZ. A series didn't ensue, but it won James Griffin a Best Comedy Script gong at the 1999 NZ Film and TV Awards.