Writer and comedian Jon Gadsby, QSM, likely spent more time being funny on NZ television screens than almost anyone — aside perhaps from his longtime partner in crime, David McPhail. After appearing together on breakthrough comedy show A Week of It, the two helped form the comic backbone of the long-running McPhail and Gadsby, satirical show Issues, and the outdoor escapades of Letter to Blanchy.
We spoke the same language. We shared the same nods and raised eyebrows. Jon Gadsby's comic partner David McPhail, in his 2010 autobiography The Years Before My Death
This 2011 series has idiosyncratic host Marcus Lush roving over the northern tip of the North Island (from Auckland up). The first episode finds the self-confessed Jafa exploring all things Manukau Harbour: “this is something I’ve always wanted to do – arrive in Auckland by ship!”. Lush meets lighthouse lovers, learns about shipwrecks and World War II Japanese subs, goes shark tagging, travels by waka to a small island, and talks Mangere Bridge with comedian Jon Gadsby. North was the follow-up to JAM TV’s award-winning 2009 series South, also fronted by Lush.
The opening episode of the Prime TV series celebrating 50 years of New Zealand television travels from an opening night puppet show in 1960, through to Outrageous Fortune five decades later. It traverses the medium's development and its major turning points (including the rise of programme-making and news, networking, colour and the arrival of TV3, Prime, NZ On Air, Sky and Māori Television). Many of the major players are interviewed. The changing nature of the NZ living room — always with the telly in pride of place as modern hearth — is a story within the story.
This edition of Prime TV’s history of New Zealand television looks at 50 years of entertainment. The smorgasbord of music, comedy and variety shows ranges from 60s pop stars to Popstars, from the anarchy of Blerta to the anarchy of Telethon, from Radio with Pictures to Dancing with the Stars. Music television moves from C’mon and country, to punk and hip hop videos. Comedy follows the formative Fred Dagg and Billy T, through to Eating Media Lunch and 7 Days. A roll call of New Zealand entertainers muse on seeing Kiwis laugh, sing and shimmy on the small screen.
Jon Gadsby visits Myanmar (formerly Burma) and discovers an achingly beautiful country. But behind endless golden temples and scenes from Kipling, Gadsby finds "a place of contradiction" where many live in abject poverty, controlled absolutely by their military government (most famously the ongoing house arrest of democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi). When Gadsby visits, it is not a country to be travelled to lightly. He finds the locals to be open and willing to play host; yet he is struck overall by their "sad beauty".
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.
Letter to Blanchy was a gentle back-blocks comedy co-written by A.K. Grant, Tom Scott and comedy duo, McPhail and Gadsby (who also starred). Each episode centred on the bumblings of a trio of mates living in a fictional small town: intellectual Derek (McPhail), rough-diamond Barry (Gadsby) and tradesman Ray (Rowley). The show's narration comes from a letter written to Blanchy, a friend living in the relative sophistication of Christchurch. The series was adapted for a theatre tour in 2008.
Letter to Blanchy was an old-fashioned backblocks comedy, which centered on the bumblings of a trio of mates living in a fictional small town: intellectual Derek (David McPhail), rough-diamond Barry (Jon Gadsby) and tradesman Ray (Peter Rowley). In this excerpt from the second episode, the lads plan a "traditional" hangi for local gentleman Len. Amongst much non-PC humour, railway irons are proposed in place of hot stones, pasta in place of pig, and a keg disrupts preparations. Hole-digging is much debated in the usual Kiwi bloke way.
Letter to Blanchy was a gentle rural backblocks comedy, and a rare example of Kiwi TV comedy makers filming extensively on location. The show centres on a trio of bumbling smalltown mates: intellectual Derek (David McPhail), rough-diamond Barry (Jon Gadsby) and tradesman Ray (Petet Rowley). In this excerpt from the third episode, Barry and Ray give Derek advice on how to get rid of a stubborn tree trunk, and plant the explosives needed to blast it out of the ground. In the Kiwi DIY way things are destined not to go to plan. "Where did the stump go?" Ian Mune directs.
Pete and Pio was a sketch comedy show based on the talents of its two leads, Peter Rowley and Pio Terei. Each episode opens with a stand-up double act performed to a studio audience and closes with a musical number led by Terei. The sketches mostly star Pete and Pio together, with a small supporting cast. This was Terei’s first lead television role, and was followed later by his own show Pio! which also aired on TV3. Rowley has had a long career in comedy, most notably his collaborations with Billy T James in the 1980s.
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.
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’.
Billy T’s unique brand of humour is captured at its affable, non-PC best in this compilation of skits from his popular 1980s TV shows. There’s Te News (“somebody pinched all the toilet seats out of the Kaikohe Police Station...now the cops got nothing to go on!”) with Billy in iconic black singlet and yellow towel; a bro’s guide to home improvement; skits about first contact, and a take off of Miami Vice. No target is sacred (God, the IRA, the talking Japanese sketch) and there are classic advertising spoofs for Pixie Caramel’s “last requests” and Lands For Bags’ “where’d you get your bag”.
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. Politicians Ruth Richardson and Robert Muldoon also featured regularly, and celebs such as Oprah Winfrey and Rachel Hunter made appearances. Issues of the day included Martin Crowe's upcoming nuptials, the first Gulf War, and Māori land claims.
Produced by George Andrews, Great New Zealand River Journeys is a three-part series exploring the history and majesty of the Waikato, Wanganui and Clutha rivers. In this episode, Jon Gadsby explores the Clutha River and surrounds, and finds out about jet-boating and rafting (the cameraman falls in when he gets a little too close to his subject), bungy jumping, the Clyde Dam, Cromwell's giant fruit and Alexandra's giant clock. Gadsby enjoys the ubiquitous whitebait fritters offered by the locals before the journey ends at the mouth of the river.
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.
A continuation of the classic 70s UK TV series cherished by herds of horse-loving girls, the New Adventures follow Vicky Denning (Amber McWilliams) who has emigrated to the antipodes with her step-mother, where she is captivated by a mystic black horse. The co-production was set in NZ, produced by Tom Parkinson and features many Kiwi names in front of and behind the camera (Illona Rodgers, Ken Catran). Key original cast and the famous original title sequence and tune are reprised, but now with Beauty galloping along a west coast beach. Two seasons were produced.
In these excerpts from his last TV series — a family based sitcom — Billy T has to deal with his radical older daughter who wants to get a moko, a teenage boy trying to smuggle beer into his younger daughter’s birthday party, a defamation writ, and another tribe becoming his landlord. There are varying degrees of help from his wife (Ilona Rodgers), his aggressively dim Australian brother-in-law (Mark Hadlow) and his daughter’s painfully politically correct pakeha boyfriend (Mark Wright), as well as cameos from Temuera Morrison, Martin Henderson and Blair Strang.
To mark its first 25 years, TVNZ commissioned independent producer Ian Mackersey to chronicle a day in its life as the national broadcaster. Coverage is split between the often extreme lengths (and heights) gone to by technicians maintaining coverage, and the work of programme makers — including the casts and crews of McPhail and Gadsby and Country GP. The real drama is in the news studio during the 6.30 bulletin (with light relief from the switchboard) in this intriguing glance back at a pre-digital, two channel TV age during the infancy of computers.
Petunia and her daughters Patch and Polly have moved into their decidedly unconventional dream house in the second episode of this surreal children's fantasy drama written by Margaret Mahy and directed by Yvonne McKay. Their idyllic new life of music making is soon shattered by their home handyman neighbour from hell Branchy (Grant Tilly). But he has problems of his own with the unwelcome arrival of his three long lost, grasping and perpetually hungry sons. Special guest Jon Gadsby contributes an energetic performance as pie magnate Chicken Licken.
In this episode of the Jon Gadsby written rural sitcom, the locals at The Rabbiter’s Rest pub attempt to take an overzealous young constable down a peg. Michael Haigh (Gliding On) has yet another of his police roles as the worldly wise local sergeant. No appearance from Gadsby in this episode, but David Telford plays the genial proprietor, Doreen the barmaid reprises the role Annie Whittle made famous in A Week of It, and Billy T James is among the regulars propping up the bar. The humour is gentle; some of the jokes are shaggier than the local sheep flock at shearing time.
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 'Best of' from the Feltex Award-winning fifth season includes these highlights: 'pronouncing things proper with Jim Knox'; 'This Is Your Life with Robert Muldoon' (featuring McPhail’s infamous caricature of the then Prime Minister); Lynn Waldegrave’s popular impersonation of music show host Karyn Hay; and a Goodnight Kiwi take-off in 'Goodnight from the Beehive'.
Off the back of the success of A Week of It and McPhail and Gadsby, Jon Gadsby was given his own gig, as writer of this gentle, rural based sitcom series. His comic partner David McPhail was not involved, but writer AK Grant was on board as script editor. Gadsby’s onscreen involvement was limited to cameo appearances, as a highly competitive rugby coach. Set in the rural backwater of Rabbit Flats, the series drew on Gadsby’s experiences as a barman in the Southland town of Dipton, and allowed him to revisit the bar-based skits of A Week of It.
Framed around a visit to New Zealand by Irish-born entertainer Danny La Rue, this all-singing all-dancing spectacular was recorded over three days in March 1980. The “fella in a frock” was famed for his drag acts and double entendres. Comedians Jon Gadsby and David McPhail provide local support as Marlene Dietrich visits a farm, Mae West visits the All Blacks changing room, and Margaret Thatcher meets Robert Muldoon (McPhail). Filmed at Avalon Studios, the revue was a co-production with London Weekend Television, made during the golden era of NZ TV variety shows.
After turning "Jeez Wayne" into a national catchphrase with the sketch show A Week of It, comedy duo David McPhail and Jon Gadsby (plus third writer AK Grant) followed with McPhail & Gadsby, which aired on TVNZ for seven seasons — plus a reprise in 1998 and 1999. After a sometimes controversial debut season in which each episode was devoted to a specific theme (religion, sex etc), the show settled into a steady diet of political satire, spoofs and impersonations of public figures — including McPhail's famous caricature of PM Robert 'Piggy' Muldoon.
The debut episode of McPhail and Gadsby plunged into religion as the object of satire, and the result spawned death threats and annoyed letters to the editor. The pair dress up as angels, devils, monks, nuns, priests and Moses, and also make the first of many appearances as the smug Denny (McPhail) and not so clever Ron (Gadsby). McPhail argued later that a simple sketch involving an Anglican vicar dispensing communion unexpectedly caused the most offence. The thematic approach was soon abandoned in favour of shorter episodes, and a more familiar style of topical satire.
In this children's sci-fi caper, an all-singing all-dancing gang of cronies led by 'evil Eva' (Nevan Rowe) holds Auckland to ransom for $5,000,000. As in Under the Mountain Auckland's volcanoes play a starring role, with Eva threatening to drop a nuclear bomb into the crater of Rangitoto. Who will save the city? A trio of intrepid kids and their DIY anti-gravity machine are on the case. Writers Ian Mune and Keith Aberdein give director Roger Donaldson (and a bevy of industry talent) plenty of goofy 70s fun to play with. Donaldson would shortly helm the acclaimed Smash Palace.
This final episode of pioneering 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 David McPhail's Muldoon playing the stepmother. Jon Gadsby appears as Dr Groper, an un-PC GP; and God is a guest at an Anglican church in Fendalton. British comic legend Dudley Moore appears briefly in the extended 'best of' credits reel, alongside (Jeez) Wayne and the rest of the Gluepot Tavern lads.
This episode from the second series of pioneering comedy show A Week of It takes a light-hearted look at issues of the day: sporting contact with South Africa, the 1978 election, traffic cops against coupling in cars, dawn raids in Ponsonby, weather girls struggling with te reo, and bread and newspaper strikes. Censorship campaigner Patricia Bartlett struggles with a French stick, and beer baron Sir Justin Ebriated is interviewed. John Walker, "current world record holder for selling cans of Fresh Up", is sent up, and there's a racing-themed "geegees Wayne" sign off.
Children's adventure series Gather Your Dreams follows Kitty, a teenage girl who dreams of stardom while travelling with her family's vaudeville troupe in Depression-era 1930s New Zealand. The troupe's impresario (and Kitty’s father) was played by Terence Cooper (Mortimer’s Patch). Mostly shot in the Coromandel, the 1/2 hour 13-part series was one of a run of kidult dramas made in the late 70s by SPTV, and like its predecessor — colonial scamp saga Hunter's Gold — it found international sales success. Dreams was helmed by Hunter's Gold director Tom Parkinson.
A Week of It was a pioneering satire series that entertained and often outraged audiences from 1977 to 1979, with its irreverent take at topical issues. The debut episode opens with an investigation into what Labour politician Bill Rowling is like in bed, and then Prime Minister Muldoon gets a lei (!). McPhail launches his famous Muldoon impression, Annie Whittle does Nana Mouskouri; and the Nixon Frost interview is reprised as a pop song. The soon to be well-known Gluepot Tavern skit wraps the show: "Jeez Wayne". McPhail writes about first launching A Week of It here.
A Week of It was a pioneering political satire series. This episode from the first series tackles topical issues — many of which will seem bewildering to a 21st Century audience. Ken Ellis and David McPhail discuss the great NZ work of fiction and Jon Gadsby presents Māori news. Annie Whittle and McPhail act out how babies are made; there's a Justice Department recruitment film; interviewer (and future royal PR man) Simon Walker is sent up; the sex habits of the 1977 Lions rugby tour are covered, as is wisdom of sheilas on racehorses. McPhail writes about the show's launch here.
A Week of It was a pioneering comedy series that entertained and often outraged audiences over three series from 1977 to 1979. The writing team, led by David McPhail, AK Grant, Jon Gadsby, Bruce Ansley, Chris McVeigh and Peter Hawes, took irreverent aim at topical issues and public figures of the day. Amongst notable impersonations was McPhail's famous aping of Prime Minister Rob Muldoon; a catchphrase from a skit — "Jeez, Wayne" — entered NZ pop culture. The series won multiple Feltex Awards and in 1979 McPhail won Entertainer of the Year.