Paul Horan co-founded the NZ Comedy Festival and The Classic Comedy Bar, kickstarting a vital Auckland comedy scene — and his own successful trans-Tasman TV career. His credits include The Topp Twins, Super City, and Australia's Rove Live. After helping develop prime time formats like The Project, his company Slightly Uncomfortable Productions has specialised in hybrid news comedy shows.
Comedy infrastructure in New Zealand was built by the comedians themselves; they forged their own path. Paul Horan on the history of comedy in New Zealand
Funny As traces the history of New Zealand comedy through archive footage, and extensive interviews with local comedy talent. Debuting on TVNZ 1 in July 2019, the five-part series explores how Kiwis "have used comedy to navigate decades of profound cultural change". Funny As touches on everything from live and musical comedy, to pioneers of Kiwi screen humour (e.g. Fred Dagg, Lynn of Tawa) and the hit exports of later years (Flight of the Conchords, Rose Matafeo). The series was made by production/creative agency Augusto, and produced by comedy veteran Paul Horan.
As this promotional clip makes clear, Funny As features an impressive roll call of Kiwi comedy legends. The five-part series traces the history of New Zealand comedy through interviews and archive footage. In coming weeks NZ On Screen will be publishing extended interviews with the comedy talent captured on camera for the series. Funny As ranges all the way from the early days of live comedy to screen pioneers (Fred Dagg, the Week of It team), the legendary Billy T, and the Kiwi comedians who've made their mark internationally (Flight of the Conchords, Rhys Darby).
This comedic series about a suburban hip hop band with stars in its eyes was based on a comic strip by Coco Solid, aka writer/artist/musician Jessica Hansell. The strip featured in the NZ Herald's Volume magazine. She joins forces here with Wellington music/animation collective Skyranch (Simon Ward, Don Brooker, Luke 'Disasteradio' Rowell, Kenny Smith, Richard Pilkington). Aroha Bridge was funded by NZ On Air under original title Hook Ups. It debuted on the NZ Herald’s website in May 2013. Series two followed in mid 2016; a third season is in production.
Actor Madeleine Sami transforms into five very different Aucklanders in this Taika Waititi directed comedy series. Cheerleader Pasha is desperate to hang on to her youth; Linda tries too hard with her middle-aged clique; Azeem the Iranian taxi driver is obsessed with Māori culture; homeless Georgie makes a shock discovery, and gym instructor Jo secretly loves a female colleague. Rachel House, Rose McIver and Antonia Prebble appear in this series opener. Super City creator Sami (The Breaker Upperers) co-wrote the scripts, and won an Aotearoa award for Best Actress.
Creating and playing all of the main characters in Super City made for a "physically exhausting" experience for Madeleine Sami. But the hard yakka paid off, with the first season winning Sami a best actress gong and rave reviews. The show weaved the storylines of very different Aucklanders (five in season one, and four new characters in season two): including a ditzy Indian cheerleader, an Iranian male taxi driver obsessed with Māori culture, and a homeless woman. Taika Waititi (Boy) directed the first series; Oscar Kightley (Sione's Wedding) took over for season two.
Part concept film, part biopic, part historical record and part comedy, Leanne Pooley’s documentary was made to mark the Topp Twins' 50th birthday. New Zealand's favourite comedic, country singing, dancing and yodeling lesbian twin sisters tell their personal story: from their 'coming out' to Jools' brush with breast cancer. The film features archive material, home movies and interviews with the Topps' alter egos. Alongside local box office success and dozens of international awards, Girls won the People’s Choice award for favourite documentary at the 2009 Toronto Film Festival.
With five series and close to 100 episodes, Frontseat, produced by The Gibson Group, was the longest-running arts programme of its time. Billed by TVNZ publicity as a "topical and provocative weekly arts series investigating the issues facing local arts and culture", and hosted by actor Oliver Driver, it (sometimes controversially) took a broad current affairs approach to the arts of the day, covering "all the big events, reporting the stories, and interviewing the personalities."
NZ Herald writer Michele Hewitson described the concept behind this series as "Popstars with jokes". Experienced comedian Paul Horan scours Aotearoa for fresh comedic talent; over the course of a month, fifteen newbies are tested in live and television settings. Each episode ends with eliminations — the "last stand-up standing" is crowned the winner. Comedians Jon Bridges and Raybon Kan join Horan as judges. The first episode features Queen St venue The Classic Comedy Club. The show was partly inspired by a stand-up contest for new acts held in the United Kingdom.
Fifteen wannabe comedians combat nerves and a tight deadline in this first episode of talent quest So You Think You're Funny. The first task for judges Jon Bridges, Raybon Kan and Paul Horan is to eliminate five contenders from the line-up. The contestants are given a few days to write and practise a short set, before performing it in front of a live audience at Queen Street's Classic Comedy Bar. This scenario would be terrifying for most, and it confirms a harsh truth that Horan offers early on: "If the audience hates you, there's not a lot we can do'. One hundred people originally auditioned.
National treasures The Topp Twins (aka twins Lynda and Jools Topp) have performed as a country-music singing comedy duo for more than 25 years. In the late 1990s they created their own award-winning TV series which ran for three seasons. It 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 features the twins in their many guises enjoying an afternoon at the Waipu Highland Games. "Look at the leather work in that sporran!"
Backch@t was a magazine-style arts and culture show that appealed, from the opening acid-jazz theme tune, to a literate late-90s arts audience. Fronted by media personality Bill Ralston, the show included reporters Mark Crysell and Jodi Ihaka, and Chris Knox appears as the weekly film reviewer. In keeping with Ralston’s journalistic background, Backch@t took a ‘news’ approach to the arts, debating topics in the studio and interviewing the personalities, as well as covering the sector stories.
National treasures The Topp Twins (aka twins Lynda and Jools Topp) have performed as a country-music singing and yodelling comedy duo for more than 25 years. In the late 90s they created their own 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. The series, travelling from a Highland Games to a Tauranga triathlon, won the twins - out-and-proud lesbians - several gongs at the NZ Film and TV Awards and screened on the ABC and Foxtel in Australia.
Kiwi icon Lyn of Tawa (Ginette McDonald) — 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, as Lyn provides manthropological reflections ("can a woman ever be a mate?"). Made when the good keen man was facing up to the challenge from SNAGs, the documentary travels from the West Coast (for sex education) to a men's club, from rugby scrums to rabbit culls, and meets hunters, lawyers, students and gay ten-pin bowlers.
Condemned as "designer news" before it had even been to air, Newsnight was TV2's foray into late night news for a younger audience (with one eye on the success of TV3's Nightline). Strongly influenced by the celebrity and human interest focus of women's magazines, it received an unsuccessful BSA complaint for not covering a major story (a teacher's strike). Simon Dallow made his TV debut alongside Lorelei Mason and then Alison Mau — while Marcus Lush's idiosyncratic take on the world earned the show a degree of cult (if not always critical) success.
This edition of the early 90s magazine arts show begins with a visit to Auckland's Herald Theatre to preview a production of Romeo and Juliet, directed by Michael Hurst and starring 16-year-old actor Sophia Hawthorne. Raybon Kan explores fatal books; author Ian Cross is interviewed and Bill Ralston reviews Cross’s latest novel (with Ralston wanting to know why all New Zealand art is "so bleak, so barren"). Film Festival director Bill Gosden previews the event's programme, and comedy group Facial DBX is interviewed ahead of the Watershed Comedy Festival.
Holmes was a long-running current affairs programme that followed the news each weeknight on TV ONE. Presented by veteran broadcaster Paul Holmes, the show was as famous for his showmanship as it was for examining the issues of the day. Holmes interviewed the day's newsmakers; often championing the underdog 'kiwi battler'. In 2004 Paul Holmes defected from TVNZ to Prime TV to set up a rival 7pm current affairs programme, Paul Holmes. That lasted a few months before being axed (due to low ratings).
In 1975 TV One launched with a flagship 6.30 news bulletin which went largely unchanged with the move to TVNZ in 1980. In a 1987 revamp, it became the Network News with dual newsreaders Judy Bailey and Neil Billington (replaced by Richard Long). In 1988, the half hour programme moved to 6pm. With the advent of TV3 in late 1989, it was rebranded One Network News; and, from 1995, extended to an hour. The ill-fated replacing of Long with John Hawkesby in 1999 saw it make headlines rather than report them. In 1999, there was another name change to One News.