The versatile Hori Ahipene became a New Zealand comedy fixture in the 1990s after playing a Samoan matriarch on Skitz and The Semisis, a DJ in pioneering bilingual sitcom Radio Wha Waho, and his work directing for a run of sketch shows. The Toi Whakaari graduate went on to co-star with Te Radar on offbeat sitcom and chat show B&B, then took on dual roles for kapa haka comedy The Ring Inz.
For a long time, I was the Māori in Pākehā productions. In Ring Inz, I'm a Māori in a Māori production that reflects a Māori world in the Māori language, that's accessible for all — it's not exclusive, and it's a joy to be part of. Hori Ahipene on acting in 2017 series The Ring Inz, in an interview for 2019 TV series Funny As: The Story of NZ Comedy
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).
The colourful world of competitive kapa haka is the backdrop for this comedy/drama. The Ring Inz captures conflict and aroha for a hapless group of competitors trying to get it together for the national champs. Directed by onetime kapa haka performer Mahanga Pihama (Kia Ora Hola) for Enter the Dragon Productions, the seven-episode series debuted on Māori Television on Thursday nights. The cast mixes new talents with familiar screen faces like Hori Ahipene and Katie Wolfe (who originally joined the show as one of the writing team).
"Pitch Perfect meets Modern Family set on a marae" was the tagline for this 2017 Māori Television comedy/drama, about a kapa haka group that fluke their way to the national championships. This first episode shows that with seven weeks to prepare, whānaungatanga (family) will be as much of a challenge as getting it together onstage. Hori Ahipene plays dual roles as worried coach Teepz and Aunty Mavis. Roimata Fox plays kapa princess Koakoa, and actor turned director Katie Wolfe is Nanny Fanny. Press the CC box below the screen to translate occasional te reo dialogue.
This award-winning short revolves around a Māori women’s rugby team. Rising star Phoenix (newcomer Ngawaea Taia) has to negotiate motherhood, her mateship with the crusty old coach (veteran Roy Billing), and her feelings for the captain (Maria Walker). Directed by Tim Worrall, and filmed in his Rotorua hometown, the short was one of six selected by director Christine Jeffs for 'New Zealand’s Best' at the 2015 NZ International Film Festival. Jeffs praised the film as "realistic and full of feeling". Worrall won Best Short Script at the 2015 SWANZ (NZ Writers Guild) Awards.
This docudrama follows an imaginary news reporter who travels back in time to cover the days leading up to the Treaty of Waitangi’s signing on 6 February 1840. Dropping the usual solemnity surrounding Aotearoa’s founding document, it uses humour and asides to camera to evoke the chaos and motives behind the treaty. Written by Gavin Strawhan, with input from novelist Witi Ihimaera, What Really Happened screened on TVNZ for Waitangi Day 2011. Its nominations at the Aotearoa TV Awards included Best Drama, director (Peter Burger) and actor Jarod Rawiri (who played Hōne Heke).
This item from arts show Frontseat asks whether it is right for actors to portray other races than their own. Samoan Kiwi David Fane — who won both fans and criticism, after voicing Jeff da Māori on bro'Town — argues that playing another ethnicity is only an issue when the actor does a bad job. Actor Rachel House (Whale Rider) raises wider issues of indigenous people telling their own stories; and Cliff Curtis, known for a wide range of ethnicities on screen, says he needs to be just as careful playing Māori of other iwi, as when he is playing other races.
Perfect Creature is set in an immaculately realised alternative colonial New Zealand where steam powers cobble-stoned cities, and zeppelins cruise the skies. A race of benevolent vampires preside over the spiritual life of humanity. When one of them turns rogue, a manhunt begins. Starring international actors (Dougray Scott, Saffron Burrows) Perfect Creature was the second feature for director Glenn Standring. It was the first Kiwi film picked up for distribution by a major Hollywood studio (Twentieth Century Fox), who ultimately dithered with its release.
This children's post-apocalyptic fantasy series follows a circus troupe, Maddigan's Fantasia on their quest to save the world's only remaining city, Solis. The show was created by children's writer Margaret Mahy, developed for television by writers Gavin Strawhan and Rachel Lang for South Pacific Pictures, who produced the 13 x 30min series for TV3. Award-winning and successfully exported, it marked a debut lead performance from Rose McIver (future Tinker Bell in US TV show Once Upon a Time) acting with Michael Hurst, Peter Daube, Tim Balme and Danielle Cormack.
This children's post-apocalyptic fantasy series follows a circus troupe on their quest to save the city of Solis. Conceived by Margaret Mahy and developed by Gavin Strawhan and Rachel Lang, the award-winning series was produced by South Pacific Pictures. A young Rose McIver (future Tinker Bell in US TV show Once Upon a Time) led the cast, acting with a caravan of Kiwi veterans. Māori elements mixed with rural West Auckland sets in the ‘solar punk’ rendering of the future. Here, Garland (McIver) faces tragedy but meets two boys (and a baby) with magical powers.
After her husband is jailed, matriarch Cheryl West (Robyn Malcolm) decides the time has come to set her family on the straight and narrow. But can the Wests change old habits? So begins the six season saga of the Westie dynasty. Hugely popular (beloved by public, critics and awards givers alike), Outrageous Fortune was a flag-bearer for TV3 and New Zealand television drama. The series proved — in all its grow-your-own glory — that television in Aotearoa could mield comedy and drama, and be so much more than overseas stories pasted to a local setting.
Kōrero Mai ('speak to me') used a soap opera (Ākina) as a vehicle to teach conversational Māori, aided by te reo tutorials. Special segments taught song and tikanga. Multiple seasons were made for for Māori Television by Cinco Cine Productions. Cast and crew with credits on the series include presenters Matai Smith and Gabrielle Paringata; actors Calvin Tutaeo, Vanessa Rare, Jaime Passier-Armstrong, and Ben Mitchell; and directors Rawiri Paratene, Rachel House and Simon Raby. Kōrero Mai won Best Māori Programme at the 2005 Qantas TV Awards.
Described as a "Māori Twilight Zone", Mataku was a series of half-hour dramatic narratives steeped in Māori experience with the "unexplained". Two South Pacific Pictures-produced series screened on TV3; a later series screened on TV One in 2005. Each episode was introduced by Temuera Morrison Rod Serling-style. The bi-lingual series was a strong international and domestic success; producer Carey Carter: "Our people are very spiritual ... and here we are ... turning it into stories so that the rest of the world can get a glimpse of that aspect of our culture."
With its mix of quirky characters, lush scenery, and medical drama, Mercy Peak proved to be a winning formula. Produced by John Laing for South Pacific Pictures, and starring a host of NZ acting talent (Tim Balme, Jeffrey Thomas, Renato Bartolomei, et al), Mercy Peak follows the highs and lows of Dr Nicky Somerville (Sara Wiseman), who leaves the big city after discovering her partner’s infidelity. Taking up her new role at the hospital in the tiny town of Bassett, Nicky soon learns that life is full of complexities no matter the population.
Māori of different ages and backgrounds talk frankly about their culture and how they feel they are perceived in this Inside New Zealand doco. Contributors include Pio Terei, Brian Tamaki, Carol Hirschfeld, Leilani Joyce and Tau Henare (who is unapologetic about his Dirty Dogs). By turns passionate, pointed and humorous, they discuss issues ranging from sex and food to teen pregnancy and prejudice. We also learn that rotten corn is not universally loved, staunchness is at best a dubious asset and not all Māori are blessed with singing ability. The Truth About Maori
Billy Williams (Cliff Curtis) is enthusiastic and likeable, but a bit hopeless. When the driving force behind the Waimatua School 75th Jubilee is killed in an accident, Billy takes over, determined to prove himself. Meanwhile, the arrival of ex-international rugby player Max Seddon (Kevin Smith) forces Billy's wife Pauline (Theresa Healey) to question the choices she has made in her life. This affectionate comedy drama about small town New Zealand life marked Cliff Curtis's first lead role in a feature film — and actor Michael Hurst's first time directing a movie.
Marching girls and boys, Camp Mother and Camp Leader and synchronised lawnmowers dance down Auckland’s Ponsonby Road in a celebration of gay pride. The theme of this edition of the (nearly) annual 90s street parade was Age of Aquarius, fitting given the heavy rain. The parade went ahead thanks to sponsorship from Metro magazine, after controversy when the City Promotions Committee declined the request for funding. The parade attracted 70 floats, and up to 200,000 spectators. Among those watching are Julian Clary and Shona Laing, who is one of the judges.
Skitz was a popular long-running sketch-based comedy that ran for four series from 1993 to 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 catchphrases. 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.
Audiences first discovered dysfunctional Samoan-Kiwi family The Semisis via 90s sketch comedy series Skitz. In 1996 they got their own spin-off show. A talent-heavy cast found themselves lobbing lines and props in each other's direction: future Naked Samoans Dave Fane and Robbie Magasiva, performer Jackie Clarke, and Hori Ahipene, as the family matriach. Creators Dave Armstrong and Kerry Jimson got input for storylines from the cast, director Danny Mulheron and a group of young Samoans from Porirua. Seven episodes were made by Wellington's Gibson Group.
Created by Dave Armstrong and Kerry Jimson, The Semisis was a satirical take on a contemporary Samoan-Kiwi family. In this opening episode, the Semisis handle eviction by heading to a campground with all their belongings. There romance buds, the palagi next door neighbour (Brian Sergent) proves unwelcoming, and the South African camp commander is even worse. The over the top Semisis family began as part of 90s TV sketch show Skitz; Armstrong consulted with cast members and a group of young Samoans from Porirua, while writing the scripts.
Skitz was a popular long-running sketch-based comedy that screened for four series. Populated with memorable characters and catch-phrases, and broad, take-no-prisoners humour, it won Best Entertainment Programme at the 1996 NZ TV and Film Awards. A particular favourite in its arsenal of regular characters was the Semisi family with their 'fresh off the boat' antics inspiring mirth and groans in equal measure. Skitz featured seasoned comedians such as Jackie Clarke, as well as new faces at the time, including Jemaine Clement of future Flight of the Conchords fame.
Radio Wha Waho was a pioneering bilingual sitcom about a rural iwi radio station that is close to collapse. Among characters talking back in te reo and getting up to antics on this Māori-style WKRP in Cincinnati are a smoothtalking DJ with delusions of being a ladykiller (a pre-Mrs Semisi Hori Ahipene); a young fireball who wants to graduate to a big station in the city (Greg Mayor, future star of Stewart Main short Twilight of the Gods); and Aunty Doss (Kath Akuhata-Brown), the heart and soul of the whole operation. Produced by TVNZ's Māori department.
Radio Wha Waho was a pioneering bilingual sitcom about a down on its luck rural iwi radio station. The talkback in this Māori-style WKRP in Cincinnati is in te reo and english; the on-air crew include a DJ with delusions of being a ladykiller (a pre-Mrs Semisi Hori Ahipene); a young fireball seeking fame in the city (Greg Mayor); and Aunty Doss (Kath Akuhata-Brown), the heart and soul of the operation. In this first episode, directed by veteran Marae producer Derek Wooster, the station faces permanent silence after a DJ's late night talk causes offence.
Ada (Holly Hunter) has been mute since she was six. She travels from Scotland with her daughter (Anna Paquin) and her grand piano to colonial New Zealand, for an arranged marriage. When her husband, a stoic settler (Sam Neill) sells the piano to Baines (Harvey Keitel), Ada and Baines come to a secret agreement. She can win her piano back key by key by playing for him, as he acts out his desire for her. An especially big hit in Europe, Jane Campion's Oscar-winning tale of sexual emancipation in the bush is the only NZ film to have won the top award at the Cannes Film Festival.
Away Laughing was an early sketch comedy show for both TV3 and Wellington production company Gibson Group. In this first episode from the second series, spies, skateboarders, Kiwi mateship, and All Black Buck Shelford are the butt of jokes. Along the way, Murray Keane plays both an Australian mocking New Zealand place names, and a true blue Kiwi; a trio of firefighters make idiots of themselves in a classroom; kids argue about the best kind of lunch; and onetime Telecom promo man Gordon McLauchlan (David Downs) interviews two gorillas about Telecom's privatisation.
Shortland Street is a fast-paced serial drama set in an eponymous inner city Auckland hospital. A South Pacific Pictures production, the iconic show is based around the births, deaths and marriages of the staff, family and patients. Screening five days a week on TV2 it is New Zealand’s longest running drama. Characters and lines from the show have entered the culture, most famously, "you're not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata!". This 2007 promo, set to the theme song, collects together highlights from the first 15 years of the show.
The sketches for this TV3 comedy show were mostly performed on a revolving stage before an unseen audience — and dropped if no one laughed. The cast mixed rising stand-up comics (Jon Bridges, Vicki Walker) and actors (Hori Ahipene, Peta Rutter). Producer Dave Gibson was keen to avoid satire and politics, in favour of broad social comedy. Among the regular sketches were Walker's pioneering female-created character — society gal Felicity — Kevin Smith's fast-talking Joe Blow, and two gormless skateboarders. The Gibson Group show debuted on 6 May 1991; a second season followed.
The first episode of this sketch comedy show debuted in May 1991. Most of the skits were tested and filmed in front of a live audience. The large cast includes early appearances by a roll call of emerging talents: Kevin Smith displays his talent for accents, while frustrating a McDonalds lawyer and talking his way through customs; Vicki Walker's character Felicity crushes on Steve Parr; Danny Mulheron's self-satisfied priest Phineas O'Diddle embarrasses Hori Ahipene; and Facial DBX comedians Jon Bridges and David Downs play day-glo clad skateboarders talking digital watches.
Variously praised as a major step forward in indigenous cinema, attacked for overambition, and little screened, Te Rua marked Barry Barclay’s impassioned follow-up to Ngati. This story of stolen Māori carvings in a Berlin museum sees Barclay plunging into issues of control of indigenous culture he would return to in book Mana Tuturu. Feisty activist (Peter Kaa) and elder lawyer (screen taonga Wi Kuki Kaa) favour different approaches to getting the carvings back home. Barclay and his longtime producer John O’Shea had their own differences over Te Rua’s final cut.
This 1991 telefilm follows young undercover cop Tony (William Brandt) who gets in too deep when infiltrating a heroin ring in the underbelly of Wellington’s music and pub scene. The Kiwi noir tale was inspired by real-life undercover policeman Wayne Haussman, who was convicted of drug trafficking. Directed by Yvonne Mackay (The Silent One), it was made as a pilot for a series that never eventuated. At the 1993 NZ Film and Television Awards Undercover won Best TV Drama; Jennifer Ludlam was awarded for her role as Tony's ex-prostitute girlfriend. Cliff Curtis plays a musician.