Jon Bridges developed his stand-up comedy skills while studying English and Computer Science at Massey University. In the early 90s he moved into television with sketch show Away Laughing and drama Homeward Bound. In 1995 he joined the team of cult youth show Ice TV. By 2009 Bridges had become a producer, on the first of seven seasons of hit panel show 7 Days. The show won him two awards. In 2017 he oversaw the launch of Three's primetime show The Project. Bridges has written for kidult series Secret Agent Men and The Amazing Extraordinary Friends — plus a column for The Listener, from 2006 to 2011.
We did it for six years, it was sort of a youth TV show on in the early evening, and we did a lot of comedy in that show as well. It was quite different, we used our own cameras and shot the stuff ourselves. That was very unusual in those days. Jon Bridges on Ice TV, in an interview with The Spinoff, 2 April 2015
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.
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.
Since debuting in 2009, award-winning panel series 7 Days has introduced a range of Kiwi comedy talents to television audiences. Three's show takes an irreverent look at the past week in the news, with regular segments like “my kid could draw that” and “what’s the taxi driver talking about”. Jeremy Corbett hosts; the two teams of regular and guest comedians have included Paul Ego, Dai Henwood, Ben Hurley and Urzila Carlson. The show echoes the format of Britain's long-running Mock the Week. Corbett has described 7 Days as the comedy show he's always wanted to make.
Well-received comedy panel series 7 Days debuted on TV3 in 2009. The show takes an irreverent look at the past week in the news with such regular segments as “my kid could draw that” and “what’s the taxi driver talking about”. Jeremy Corbett hosts, and there are two teams of regular and guest comedians including Ben Hurley, Jeremy Elwood, Dai Henwood and Paul Ego. This episode’s special guest is Flight of the Conchords star Rhys Darby, and Labour MP Darren Hughes features in “politician in the hot seat”.
Rocked the Nation launched in 2008 with six one hour-long shows. Production company Satellite Media ransacked the archives and interviewed protagonists, to survey 100 key moments in Kiwi music history: including smash hits, riots, TV talent shows, and sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. Hosted by Karyn Hay, the series screened on C4 during NZ Music Month, and was the channel’s highest-rating series to that date. Follow-up series counted down 100 New Zealand Pop Culture Stories (2009, hosted by Rhys Darby) and 100 New Zealand Sporting Moments (2011, hosted by Dai Henwood).
TV personality Jaquie Brown plays (and plays up) herself for delightful comic effect in this hit TV3 satire. Former Campbell Live reporter Brown plays an egomaniacal journalist looking to climb the media ladder any which way she can. Auckland's aspirational set: a cast of Metro social page alumni and wannabes, are skewered with self-referential glee. The second series was retitled for DVD release as The Jaquie Brown Odyssey; both series won acclaim and Best Comedy gongs at the Qantas Film and TV Awards. The Listener gushed: "A local sitcom that doesn't suck."
Created by superhero fan Stephen J Campbell, this light-hearted adventure series follows teen Ben Wilson (Carl Dixon) who discovers his father and grandad have done time as superheroes. Still getting to grips with the basics of being one himself, Ben enlists family and friends to help fight assorted villians. The show ran for three seasons, and spawned web series The Wired Chronicles and Origins. Nominated for awards in Rome and New Zealand, it picked up one in Korea. The eclectic cast included the tried (David McPhail) and the new (Hannah Marshall from Packed to the Rafters).
The Simon Eliot Show was a ground-breaking quiz show for children, based on hit book Everything You Need to Know about the World. Contestants interacted in real time with Simon, an animated host with blue skin. Children played from home via the internet using a webcam, while Simon hosted the show from his bedroom in a Wellington ‘virtual' studio. Viewers were also able to text in to win a prize. Running for two seasons, the show won an NZ On Air award for Outstanding Innovation in Kids Programmes.
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.
Ventriloquist David Strassman has appeared on talk shows and TV specials in Aotearoa, Australia, the United Kingdom and his native United States. Strassman's first TV series debuted in Australia in 1998; the next year Strassman played on British network ITV. The basic formula of a chat show hosted by a man and a shameless puppet was then carried over to New Zealand. Strassman's alter egos include the irascible Chuck Wood and the cuddly Ted E Bare. Among his local guests were Kiwi TV personalities (Mike King, Robyn Malcolm) and the occasional musician and politician.
The intrepid Ice TV trio — Jon Bridges, Nathan Rarere and Petra Bagust — head to Nelson to host the 1998 Montana New Zealand Wearable Art Awards. They meet the creators of the fantastic fashion catwalk extravaganza, whose garments are inspired by everything from Alice in Wonderland, roadkill, X-rays, birds, and the Buzzy Bee, to taniwha and Pasifika. The 'Illumination Illusion' section (designed to be seen in ultravoilet light) is a highlight. Bridges and Rarere revel in going behind the scenes of the 'bizarre bras' section, and Bagust tries on a possum-skin bikini.
Ice TV was a popular 90s TV3 youth show hosted by Petra Bagust, Jon Bridges and Nathan Rarere. This 1998 'best of' sees a 20/20 satire (a world's biggest bonsai trees scam); Bagust meets Meatloaf, Bridges meets American brothers boy band Hanson, visits a 'storm-namer', and they both go on Outward Bound; Rarere road tests Elvis's diet (peanut butter and bacon in bread, deep fried); plus the trio go to the zoo and gym to discover why humans are the "sexiest primates alive". Included is the show's trademark sign-off, where L&P bottles are subjected to various stresses.
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.
John Clarke created an unofficial Kiwi national anthem when his alter ego Fred Dagg first released 'We Don’t Know How Lucky We Are' in 1975, simultaneously celebrating and poking fun at national pride. This video is a 1998 update of the song, instigated by TV's SportsCafe. Times change, but the recipe remains the same: "good clean ball and for God's sakes feed your backs!" Alongside a roll call of celebrities, politicians and sports stars — Sean Fitzpatrick, Chris Cairns, Zinzan Brooke — Clarke spreads the grateful gospel at the United Nations.
Ice TV was a popular TV3 youth show which ran for six years from 1995 to 2000. It launched the careers of hosts Petra Bagust, Jon Bridges, and Nathan Rarere. Irreverent, fast-paced, and imbued with a (mostly) family friendly sense of fun, the show consisted of a series of skits, music, satire, gags and interviews — plus a trademark finale where bottles of the sponsor's soft drink were subjected to various stresses.
It's the first semi-final in the first series of this stand-up comedy talent quest presented by Jeremy and Nigel Corbett (who assert their edgy, early 90s credentials with a running gag about Nirvana). Judges Ian Harcourt, Theresa Healey and Strawpeople's Mark Tierney preside over a line-up comprising a very composed Michele A'Court, mildcore rappers Hip Hips, The Back Garden, Jo Randerson (in angry-ish feminist mode), a particularly hirsute Jon Bridges and eventual winner Late Night Mike (with Harcourt generating as many laughs as the contestants).
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.
Away Laughing was an early sketch comedy show from Wellington company Gibson Group. In this episode from the second series, skaters, spies, panelbeaters and Buck Shelford are the butt of jokes. Kevin Smith and Murray Keane play two Australians mocking New Zealand place names; a trio of firefighters make idiots of themselves in a classroom; ingratiating priest Phineas O'Diddle (Danny Mulheron) arrives at the pub in time to join in on Hori's birthday; and onetime Telecom promo man Gordon McLauchlan interviews two gorillas about Telecom's privatisation.
Homeward Bound was TV3’s bid for New Zealand on Air funding for a local soap opera. Set around the lives of the rural Johnson family, 22 episodes were produced for the then-nascent network (the series ultimately lost out to TVNZ’s Shortland Street). Created by Ross Jennings and written by Michael Noonan, it represented a move back to a small town way of life after the Gloss-y urban excesses of the 1980s; it also explored pressures facing country communities following the stock market crash. The cast included Liddy Holloway, Peter Elliott and a young Karl Urban.
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.
Debuting on 6 May 1991, this TV3 comedy show saw sketches tested out before a live (unseen) audience — and dropped from the episode if no one laughed. The performers were a mixture of rising standup comics (Jon Bridges) and theatre talents (Danny Mulheron, Carol Smith), plus late actors Kevin Smith and Peta Rutter. Producer Dave Gibson wanted to avoid satire and politics, in favour of the challenge of broad social comedy. Among the regular sketches were a pair of gormless skateboarders and ingratiating priest Phineas O’Diddle. Another season followed in 1992.
This sketch comedy series screened over two years in the early 90s. Many of the Gibson Group show's skits were tested and filmed in a theatre, in front of a paying audience. This first episode sees laughs come from Watties spaghetti and a roll call of emerging comic talent of the era. Danny Mulheron and Hori Ahipene act up, Tim Balme plays Trivial Pursuit, Kevin Smith gets his vernacular on negotiating NZ customs, Peta Rutter crushes on Steve Parr, and Facial DBX comedians Jon Bridges and David Downs are teenage skaters who talk digital watches while wearing day-glo.