Jessica Hansell (aka Coco Solid) has many strings to her creative bow — artist, musician, writer, director and actor. The Aucklander is the creator of comic and animated series Aroha Bridge, a writer on Wellington Paranormal and a globetrotting rapper. The part Māori, Samoan and German creative has also acted in episodes of Aroha Bridge, which follows a suburban hip hop band. Along with Carthew Neal, she directed 2014 documentary Heaven's Gate, about transgender Pacific culture in South Auckland. In 2018 Hansell was awarded the Fulbright-Creative New Zealand Pacific Writer's Residency in Hawaii.
I feel with the critical increased demand for more marginalised, more diverse writers, you get characters and archetypes moving away from the tired, tumble-dried racist s**t to actual real examples that resonate with people: the sporty, butch aunty with mana to burn; the militant activist uncle; the internalised assimilated dad. I think why [Aroha Bridge] found its audience was that I didn’t want to insult anyone and recycle. I wanted to mine parts of our actual experience, and people show love when you do that. Jessica Hansell in a Guardian interview, 2 April 2018
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 hit TV series was spawned from big screen mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows (2014). After stumbling across the vampiric goings-on of the original movie, dim-witted police officers Minogue (Mike Minogue) and O'Leary (Karen O'Leary) are enlisted by a paranormal obsessed sergeant (Maaka Pohatu from The Modern Māori Quartet) to investigate unusual events— from cows up trees, to werewolves and zombie cops. Six episodes debuted on TVNZ 2 in 2018; four were directed by Shadows co-creator Jemaine Clement. A second season of 13 episodes is set to follow.
Described by co-creator Jamaine Ross as a sketch show "told from a brown perspective", this Māori Television series pokes the taiaha into life in Aotearoa. Hosted by improv trio Frickin Dangerous Bro – Ross (Māori), Pax Assadi (Persian) and James Roque (Filipino) – the show adds a multicultural 21st Century update to the skit traditions of Billy T James and Pete and Pio. This first episode mines comedy from white people, brown mums, hangi, sports reporting, subtitles, service station staff, and sat nav. NZ Herald’s Gracie Taylor called it "smart, funny, relevant and insanely relatable".
Only in Aotearoa began as a 2015 webseries, one of the first fruits of a joint fund for Māori web content, created by organisations NZ On Air and Te Māngai Pāho. In 2017 it became a sketch comedy show on Māori Television. Hosted by multi-cultural comedy trio Frickin Dangerous Bro, the show satirises 21st Century Aotearoa life from a brown perspective. The cast includes Tammy Davis (Outrageous Fortune), Coco Solid (also a writer on the show), Tia Maipi (Born To Dance) and ex league player Wairangi Koopu. Only in Aotearoa was produced by company Kura Productions.
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. A second season followed in mid 2016, and a third in mid 2019.
Musician Coco Solid aka Jessica Hansell’s 10-part satirical web series follows a band in the ’burbs dreaming of stardom. In Aroha Bridge, control freak Kowhai and her stoner twin brother Monty (Hansell and Rizvan Tu’itahi) play their debut gig but are upstaged by the precocious Angeline. Madeleine Sami and Frankie Stevens voice the twins’ spacey mum and macho dad. Wellington animators Skyranch include music video director Simon Ward and Luke 'Disasteradio' Rowell. Funded by NZ On Air under the title Hook Ups, Aroha Bridge launched on the NZ Herald website in May 2013.
Budding musos Kowhai and Monty face the hard facts of economic reality in episode two of Jessica Hansell’s animated satire set in Aroha Bridge, based on her former neighbourhood Mangere Bridge. Though they’re pretty sure working for their wigged out ex-army dad (Frankie Stevens) might involve something illegal, their new jobs as “televisionaries” flogging creepy teddy bears proves just as dubious. Funded by NZ On Air, Aroha Bridge started life as a comic strip in NZ Herald’s Volume magazine before it appeared on the Herald’s website in animated form.
Selling out is the theme of the third part of Jessica Hansell’s 10-part animated web series. Cousin Ira offers the twins a gig playing at the grand reopening of the Aroha Bridge dairy on the condition they play a song about the dairy. Kowhai leaps at the chance to play a “festival” crowd, while Monty is dubious about promoting “big business”. Each episode of Aroha Bridge features a track created by a fan on an app accompanying the series. Production company Fumes also makes Super City starring Madeleine Sami, voice of the Hook twins’ spaced out mum.
Kowhai and Monty Hook run into some chic city girls at the dairy who invite them to play at an art opening. Under the influence of his mum’s “alternative medicine”, Monty pens an ode to spaghetti which Kowhai tries to reframe as a feminist thinkpiece. Crooner Frankie Stevens voices the twins’ slightly scary dad in this 10-part animated series created by Jessica Hansell. Wellington animators Skyranch is a collective of artist/musicians including Luke Rowell aka Disasteradio, responsible for the background sight gags.
Monty’s crappy administration skills prompt the Hook twins (Jessica Hansell aka musician Coco Solid and Rizvan Tu’itahi) to look for a manager in Hansell’s 10-part animated web comedy about a band dreaming of stardom. At the Aroha Bridge dairy they run into intriguing Scotsman Dougie (Frankie Stevens, also the voice of the twins’ macho dad) who just happens to be carrying all the right management literature under his arm – but Monty is suspicious of his motives. Aroha Bridge is based on Hansell’s comic strip Hook Ups, for music magazine Volume.
Frankie Stevens impersonates himself as a judge on the televised musical talent show Aroha Bridge Factor in this sixth episode of Jessica Hansell’s animated web series. Kowhai and Monty (Hansell and Rizvan Tu’itahi) audition with a track from Kowhai’s musical meisterwerk The Phantom of the Hiphopera. But in front of the judges, the twins’ effort to “street up” their story comes back to bite them. The twins’ costumes by Wellington animators Skyranch and Scotty Cotter’s goofy cousin Ira are highlights of the episode.
Inspired by her idol, the all-dancing, singing and acting Alaze Rhetoric, Kowhai forces Monty to attend dance lessons so they too can bring a triple threat. But hot Euro dance teacher Francine (voiced by Madeleine Sami) is blind to Kowhai’s self-proclaimed talent and only has eyes for Monty. The voices for Jessica Hansell’s 10-part web series about the music biz were recorded in a single afternoon, with crooner Frankie Stevens onboard as the twins’ ex-army dad. Comic use of a dairy doorbell merits special mention in this Aroha Bridge episode.
The Hooks’ blissed out mum (Madeleine Sami) has a vision of a Reiki studio in her basement, displacing the twins’ practice room in this eighth episode of animated series Aroha Bridge, based on Jessica Hansell’s comic strip Hook Ups. After answering an ad, the twins end up sharing rehearsal space with pretentious synth outfit the Rugged Sharks, but their music is not quite as crap as it first seemed, leading Kowhai to consider ripping them off. Hansell aka musician Coco Solid and Rizvan Tu’itahi star as a band from the ‘burbs dreaming of the big time.
The Hook twins (Jessica Hansell aka rapper Coco Solid, and Rizvan Tu’itahi) pimp their social media profile in the penultimate episode of Hansell’s animated comedy series about a suburban band with stars in their eyes. They go the cheap route by posting a sensationalist clip of their ex-army dad (Frankie Stevens) freaking out over a kitten (he is kittenphobic), however Kowhai recovers her morals and apologises in a lyrical highpoint of the series: “Oh dad, I’m so sorry/ I threw a baby cat in your face/ Oh dad, I’m so sorry/ I was panderin’ to my fanbase.”
Mum is cornrowing Dad’s hair for a costume party in this final episode inspired by the lyrics of a track sent in by a series' fan (“Halloween party, Halloween!/ Halloween party, Halloween!”). Cousin Ira lures the twins into the lair of enemy band the Rugged Sharks, where they realise they are the wait staff. No one gets Kowhai’s Riddler costume and Monty drinks to ease the pain. This 10-part animated music biz satire stars Jessica Hansell and Rizvan Tu’itahi as Kowhai and Monty Hook; Madeleine Sami as mum; Frankie Stevens as dad and Scotty Cotter as cousin Ira.