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Ginette McDonald - Funny As Interview

Funny As Interviews – 2019

Ginette McDonald has directed cop shows, produced kidult classics and won awards for her dramatic acting. Yet she has long been associated with a single role: Kiwi gal Lynn of Tawa. In this interview, she talks about Lynn and much more, including: 

  • Being thrown in the deep end as a comedy director, on TV comedy Rabbiters Rest (14 minutes)
  • Playing a French maid at Wellington's Downstage Theatre at age 14 — and how helping out at the theatre was "the best apprenticeship you could have" (31 minutes)
  • Lynn of Tawa's first appearance at Downstage Theatre in Knickers, in a monologue about sex (33 minutes)
  • How comedy often teeters dangerously between poignancy and laughter (35 minutes)
  • Her brother Michael befriending comedy legend John Clarke at university —and how Clarke and Paul Holmes joined her for late night show Knackers (57 minutes)
  • Helping Clarke get his first movie role in London — and pinching champagne and smoked salmon from Clarke's job as a deliveryman (60 minutes)
  • Living and working in London, including the hopeless agent who sent her off to audition as a sexy housewife, when the role was for a lesbian army sergeant (62 minutes)
  • Her thoughts on why Lynn of Tawa was so popular, and how the character "punctured a bubble" (71 minutes)
  • The irony of how Lynn "has paved the way for me to be a more authentic version of myself" (80 minutes)
  • How Lynn of Tawa was at first deemed too common to perform at the Royal Variety Performance — and the feeling that she was "surfing the audience" (82 minutes)
  • How the cramped sets at Wellington's Waring Taylor St studios compared to the purpose-built Avalon TV centre — and wild times at the Avalon bar (96 minutes) 
  • Moving into producing and directing (99 minutes)
  • Discovering she was pregnant just as she got a big job producing show The Fire-Raiser — and having to come up with a new show (Peppermint Twist) in a "rumpty set, up in the valley" (103 minutes)
  • Being told she had to lose roughly 15 kilograms if she was to star in comedy series All Things Being Equal (110 minutes)
  • Trying to persuade actor Bruno Lawrence not to take LSD before the show went live (115 minutes)
  • Looking back on her career, plus a memorable concentration camp story (117 minutes)
This interview was recorded for 2019 TV series Funny As: The Story of New Zealand Comedy. All audiovisual content is copyright to Augusto, and may not be reproduced. Publication of Funny As extended interviews made possible with funding from the NZ Lotteries Grants Board.
...I've evolved a way of being myself. And that's very ironic, that a character I invented with no thought at all, has paved the way for me to be a more authentic version of myself....
– Ginette McDonald on the upside of her most famous character, Lynn of Tawa