Oscar Kightley, MNZM, is a man of many talents. After launching The Naked Samoans, he worked with the comedy troupe over five seasons of hit series bro’Town, NZ's first animated show to play in prime time. The group also featured in movie Sione’s Wedding and its 2012 sequel, both of which Kightley co-wrote. In 2013 he took on a serious role: starring as a Samoan-Kiwi detective in TV series Harry.
A revolutionary who has changed the complexion of local popular culture. Writer Diana Wichtel in The Listener, 9 December 2006
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.
A who's who of Kiwi television names reminisce about iconic comedian Billy T James in this short video, celebrating NZ On Air's 30th birthday. Jemaine Clement, Oscar Kightley and Hilary Barry are among those describing Billy T as a national treasure, mischievous and cheeky, while friend Peter Rowley recalls the day he died. Billy T was already a household name by the time NZ On Air was created: an NZOA-funded sitcom and a celebration showcase allowed Kiwis to see him as much more than a comedian. He inspired many comedians, and left a legacy of brilliant moments.
At a time when Pasifika people were rarely seen on-screen, Tagata Pasifika was a bastion of Pacific stories. For Oscar Kightley, it was "more than just a TV programme" — it meant on-screen representation for his Pasifika community. In this video celebrating NZ On Air's 30th birthday, Kightley also recalls how impressed his mum was with presenter Susana Hukui's "impeccable" dress sense. Veteran Tagata Pasifika producer Stephen Stehlin talks about working on one of Aotearoa's longest-running series, and the importance of presenting stories about our all-important "front yard".
Big hair, big shoulder pads and big earrings feature in this video celebrating Three’s 30th birthday. On 26 November 1989, TV3 — the first privately owned TV channel in New Zealand — transmitted from its Auckland studios for the first time. The promo opens with fresh-faced news reporters/presenters hamming it up for the camera, including Joanna Paul, Eric Young and Genevieve Westcott. The rest of the clip celebrates Three's successes (Outrageous Fortune, bro’Town, 7 Days) and takes a light-hearted look at its failings, revisiting times it went into receivership.
The Breaker Upperers is the tale of two women whose business is ending other people's relationships. Leading both the cast and the filmmakers are Madeleine Sami (Super City) and Jackie van Beek (What We Do in the Shadows). Sami's character finds herself falling for a teen (James Rolleston) who needs to dump his girlfriend. The film began winning acclaim after debuting at US festival South by Southwest, in March 2018. It had a successful New Zealand cinema release, and was purchased for screening by Netflix. The impressive cast includes Rima Te Wiata and Rose Matafeo.
A tragic chapter of Samoan and New Zealand history is explored in this Coconet TV documentary. Nearly a quarter of Samoa's population was killed in one month in 1918, after flu sufferers were allowed to disembark the ship Talune in Apia. New Zealand was heavily criticised for not quarantining the vessel. This excerpt shows how the deadly virus spread around the world, killing a third of the population, and explores Aotearoa's colonial interests in Samoa. Interviewees include Oscar Kightley and ex Samoan head of state Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Ta'isi Efi.
In these short clips from our ScreenTalk interviews, directors, actors and others share their memories of classic films, as we mark 40 years of the NZ Film Commission. - Roger Donaldson on odd Sleeping Dogs phone calls - David Blyth on Angel Mine being ahead of its time - Kelly Johnson on acting in Goodbye Pork Pie - Roger Donaldson on Smash Palace - Geoff Murphy on Utu's scale - Ian Mune on making Came a Hot Friday - Vincent Ward on early film exploits - Tom Scott on writing Footrot Flats with Murray Ball - Greg Johnson on acting in End of the Golden Weather - Rena Owen on Once Were Warriors - Melanie Lynskey on auditioning for Heavenly Creatures - Ngila Dickson on The Lord of the Rings - Niki Caro on missing Whale Rider's success - Antony Starr on Anthony Hopkins - Oscar Kightley on Sione's Wedding - Tammy Davis on Black Sheep - Leanne Pooley on the Topp Twins - Taika Waititi on napping at the Oscars - Cliff Curtis on The Dark Horse - Cohen Holloway on his Wilderpeople stars
Taika Waititi's fourth feature is the tale of a city kid and a grumpy uncle on the run. Raised on hip hop and state care, Ricky (Shopping's Julian Dennison) goes bush with his foster uncle (Sam Neill). The authorities are on their tail. In this excerpt, the pair get caught, and s**t gets real. Wilderpeople is based on Barry Crump book Wild Pork and Watercress. Keen to recapture the style of classic screen yarns like Came a Hot Friday, Waititi's aim was a funny, accessible adventure. The result won acclaim almost everywhere it went, and became New Zealand's biggest ever local hit.
In 2013 actor/director Peter Tait invited a team of actors to an Auckland bar to perform a read-through of a script, involving strange aquatic substances and opportunistic robbers. His plan: a film within a film where thespians and real-life bar owners play versions of themselves. At its heart, Not Set in Stone celebrates the actors — their talent, willingness to send themselves up, and generosity towards low budget projects like this one. The in-jokes include screen veteran Greg Johnson as a wannabe actor, and a final curtain cameo by Jacinda Ardern and Oscar Kightley.
This TV3 drama series follows a troubled Auckland cop (Oscar Kightley). Solo parent to a teenage daughter following his wife’s suicide, Detective Sergeant Harry Anglesea is thrown into a murder investigation and an underworld of P and gang violence. Harry, not a stickler for the rules, marked a rare dramatic turn for Kightley. Sam Neill played his boss. Herald reviewer Paul Casserly called it a “great, gritty crime show”. Written by Kightley, director Chris Dudman and veteran South Auckland detective Neil Grimstone, Harry was notable for using unsubtitled Samoan in prime time.
Comedian (and rooster) Oscar Kightley fronts this 2013 beginner’s guide to the Chinese zodiac. His mission: to explore the 12 oriental star signs. As the Kiwi population heads towards one in six being of Asian origin, Kightley surveys a cavalcade of contemporary Kiwi personalities for their views on stargazing, from his Harry co-star Sam Neill to lawyer Mai Chen. This excerpt is a potted history of the oriental zodiac, aided by animation; then it's enter the dragon. Made for TV3’s Inside New Zealand documentary strand it was directed by bro’Town creator Elizabeth Mitchell.
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.
This first episode of this 2013 crime drama begins with a meth-fuelled bank heist gone very wrong. Harry is a troubled Samoan-Kiwi detective (played by Oscar Kightley, a million miles away from bro' Town) pursuing justice in South Auckland. Sam Neill, in his first role on a Kiwi TV series, plays Harry’s detective buddy. Off the case, Harry struggles with his teen daughter in the wake of his wife’s suicide. The Chris Dudman-directed series screened for a season on TV3. Broadcaster John Campbell tweeted: “Not remotely suitable for kids. But nor are many excellent things.”
In the five years since Sione's Wedding, the Duckrocker quartet have experienced marriage, children, Australians and the good lord. Then their minister reunites them on a quest to find Bolo (Dave Fane) — once their driver and conscience, now MIA. The sequel to the break-through PI-Kiwi hit reunites the original cast, and adds in a dodgy minister (Kirk Torrance) and a new director (Outrageous Fortune's Simon Bennett). On the burden of following Wedding, Stuff reviewer Steve Kilgallon adjudged: "seen on its own merits, it [Sione's 2] proves worth the wait".
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.
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.
An all-star team of Kiwi talent contributed to this sketch comedy — including Taika Waititi, Rhys Darby, the bro'Town team, and 'special guest stars' Jemaine Clement and John Clarke. In-between one-off and ongoing sketches, there were regular appearances by Taika Waititi as an oddball alien character with plans for planet Earth. There were also animated inserts like laconic sheep tale The Pen, FOT (Funny Orange Thing) and the Kiwi accents of Beached Az. Eight episodes screened on TV3. Bro'Town creator Elizabeth Mitchell was producer and lead director.
From early teleplay The Evening Paper to the edgy Outrageous Fortune, this episode of 50 Years of New Zealand Television talks drama and comedy. Key players, from actors to executives, recall a host of signposts in the development of storytelling on Kiwi TV screens. John Clarke recalls 1970s sitcom Buck's House; Paul Maunder remembers the drama that likely helped introduce the DPB; and TV executive John McRae recalls worries about the projected cost of global hit Hunter's Gold, and mentioning the word 'placenta' on the first episode of Shortland Street.
Eclectic comedy show Radiradirah featured Taika Waititi, Rhys Darby, Madeleine Sami and the talents behind animated hit bro'Town. The fast-paced sketch show included Monty Python-style animated inserts, the laconic talking sheep of The Pen, and bro'Town-ers Oscar Kightley and Dave Fane as elderly women who've done it all. This first episode introduces a number of ongoing characters, including an oddball alien with a beard, and crusading space captain Hemi T Cook (both played by Waititi). Radiradirah was created by bro'Town's Elizabeth Mitchell and Oscar Kightley.
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).
Luxurious colours and swanky costumes abound in this music video directed by the multi-talented Oscar Kightley (Sione's Wedding, Harry). Featured are cameos from Scribe and the director himself. The simple but elegantly-executed concept sees Ladi6 (aka Karoline Tamati) alternate between channelling Billie Holiday and streetwise personas. The song is taken from the debut Ladi6 album Time is Not Much (2008), which debuted at number four on the New Zealand music charts.
The work of artist John Reynolds takes in painting, photography, clothing, tattooing and landscaping. Shirley Horrocks frames this Artsville documentary as a series of questions. The answers reflect Reynold's exuberant personality, his strong family life, his sense of humour, and his adventurous art-making. Following a year in Reynolds' life, the film observes him as he makes and debuts a big painting (Cloud) at the 2006 Biennale of Sydney, works on large-scale outdoor works, redesigns a swanndri, and takes time out to appear in an episode of bro'Town.
Actor Robbie Magasiva and discus champ Beatrice Faumuina oversee this hour-long Tagata Pasifika 20th birthday celebration. Presenters past and present survey changes in the Aotearoa PI community over the show’s run: from education, arts and culture (Ardijah, OMC, Michel Tuffery’s corned beef bulls and the Naked Samoans), to political pioneers (Mark Gosche, Winnie Laban), and sports heroes (All Black icons Jones, Lomu and Umaga). Among those talking about the show’s importance to NZ Pasifika culture are Helen Clark, Annie Crummer and many others.
In this documentary 'Naked Samoan' Oscar Kightley, and Māori radio/TV personality Nathan Rarere use DNA technology to trace their families' ancestry. They discover that their forebears originated in Taiwan before migrating to the Pacific via Vanuatu (and the Cook Islands, for those going on to Aotearoa). On the DNA trail they meet locals and find striking cultural similarities — even in Taiwan, where the indigenous people look Polynesian, and provide a haka-like welcome. The film won top honours at the International Oceania Documentary Film Festival in Tahiti.
Sione's Wedding is a feel-good feature comedy about four 30-something guys who must each find a girlfriend before their best friend Sione's wedding — or be left out in the cold. Through the efforts of these bumbling blokes to get the girl(s), the film brought to life the colour and humour of the urban Samoan community in Auckland, the world's largest Polynesian city. A breakthrough PI-Kiwi film, Sione's broke box office records when it opened in cinemas throughout New Zealand in March 2006. Actor Oscar Kightley co-wrote the script with James Griffin.
This hit animated series about five Auckland school kids was created by Elizabeth Mitchell and theatre group Naked Samoans. This episode sees Vale (Oscar Kightley) dealing with deadlines, punch-ups and prima donnas as he rushes to write and direct the school musical. In the audience are HRH Prince Charles, Chris Knox, Scribe and Helen Clark, who all end up joining in during a showstopping final number about togetherness. "Stop the violence. We're honkies and Asians, horries and curry munchers. Morningside for life."
This documentary chronicles a shameful passage in New Zealand race relations: the controversial mid-70s raids on the homes and workplaces of alleged Pacific Island overstayers. Director Damon Fepulea’i examines its origins in Pacific Island immigration during full employment in the 1960s, when a blind eye was turned to visa restrictions. As times got tougher, that policy changed to include random street checks by police, despite official denials. Resistance by activists and media coverage helped end a policy which has had a long term effect on the Pacific Island community.
Hit animated comedy series bro'Town was born from the poly-saturated comedy of theatre group The Naked Samoans. This episode from the second series sees the boys taking on a cast-off racehorse called Honky, and with help (and hindrance) from Vale and Valea's gambling-addicted father, training him to race in the Morningside Cup. Valea faces up to his horse phobia to ride Honky on the big day. Meanwhile special subtitles help explain what this horse is really thinking.
This animated TV comedy series is a modern day fairytale following the adventures of five kids growing up in one of Auckland's grungier suburbs. With a fearless, un-PC wit and Simpsons-esque celebrity cameos, it managed to be primetime and family-friendly. The popular show was made by Firehorse Films, and developed from the brazen and poly-saturated comedy of theatre group Naked Samoans. Screening on TV3 for five series it won Best Comedy at the NZ Screen Awards three years running and a Qantas Award for Ant Sang's production design. "Morningside for life!"
This hit animated TV comedy follows the adventures of five kids growing up in the Auckland suburb of Morningside. This rugby-themed episode starts with God praising George Nepia (with Jesus weeping because he’s no good at sports), before heading down to Morningside for a lesson on teamwork. As the Sylvester 1st XV face up against a superstar team which includes Tana Umaga and Stacey Jones, Mack pulls a sicky so that his mates won't find out how little he knows about the game. Michael Jones is the Savages' inspirational coach.
This animated hit follows the adventures of five kids growing up in the Auckland suburb of Morningside. The show's fearless, un-PC wit was developed from the poly-saturated comedy of theatre group Naked Samoans. In bro'Town's very first episode, Valea gets hit by a bus and wakes up a genius, allowing him to demonstrate that his school is not just full of dumbarses after the boys compete on a school quiz show. The Simpsons-esque celebrity cameos start strong, thanks to Robert Rakete, Scribe, Prime Minister Helen Clark, David Tua and "marvellous" John Campbell.
Through candid interviews and rare archival footage Children of the Migration tells the stories of the Pacific Island immigrants who came to New Zealand from the 1950s to 1980s, and changed the cultural landscape of Aotearoa. Presented by David Sa'ena and actor Vela Manusaute, this humorous and moving documentary includes interviews with All Black Tana Umaga, boxer David Tua, actress Teuila Blakely, hip hop artist King Kapisi and poet Tusiata Avia. Fijian European Lala Rolls directs.
Long-running travel series Intrepid Journeys took Kiwi celebrities (from All Blacks to music legends to ex-Prime Ministers) from the comfort of home to less-travelled paths in varied countries and cultures. The Jam TV series debuted in 2003 on TV One. With its authenticity and fresh, genre-changing take on a travel show (focusing on personal experience rather than objectivity), Intrepid Journeys was a landmark in local factual television. It managed to achieve the rare mix of high ratings and critical acclaim.
Brought to you from "the Samoan Embassy" (in reality the Naked Samoans' motel room) this episode of The Living Room follows the comedic theatre troupe during their time at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Then it retreats to the wild west coast of the South Island, where acclaimed cinematographer Alun Bollinger reflects on his diverse life and career. Also featured is the first 'proper' exhibition of Illicit artists on K' Road (featuring the late Martin Edmond), and a visit to small town Mangaweka, setting for Michael Reihana's surrealist short film Little Gold Cowboy.
This 2002 documentary explores contemporary Aotearoa from the perspective of Kiwis from a range of different (non-Māori, non-Pākehā) ethnic backgrounds. These citizens speak frankly about their experience of assimilation and stereotyping in a supposedly multicultural society, where ethnic food is beloved — but not ethnic difference — and where jokes and racism blur. Directed by Libby Hakaraia, the documentary screened on TV3 as part of doco slot Inside New Zealand. It was a follow up to 2000's The Truth about Māori, which looked at identity from a Māori perspective.
Made in 2001, documentary Ōtara Market visits the biggest outdoor market in New Zealand, held every Saturday in the heart of South Auckland. Presented by Samoan writer and comedian Oscar Kightley (bro'Town, Sione's Wedding) the colourful documentary tells the stories of the multicultural Polynesian, Asian, Indian and Pākehā Kiwi stallholders at one of the country's best known community institutions. Lisa Taouma (website The Coconet) directs.
Featuring extensive footage from their live shows, this episode of Tagata Pasifika explores comedy phenomenon The Naked Samoans. The performances include early versions of characters who later featured on animated hit bro'Town. Co-founder Oscar Kightley talks about the group's "licorice allsorts" cultural makeup, and how prejudice is not the same as racism. Featuring some moments of comical censorship via a voice off-screen, the episode captures the often raw, non-PC island humour that would filter into five seasons of bro'Town, and two Sione's Wedding movies.
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.
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.
Shortland Street is a fast-paced serial drama set in an inner city Auckland hospital. The long-running South Pacific Pictures production is based around the births, deaths and marriages of the hospital's staff and patients. It screens on TVNZ’s TV2 network five days a week. In 2017 the show was set to celebrate its 25th anniversary, making it New Zealand’s longest running drama by far. Characters and lines from the show have entered the culture — starting with “you’re not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata!” in the very first episode. Mihi Murray writes about Shortland Street here.
Life in the Fridge Exists was a late 80s/early 90s teen magazine show that ranged from celebrity interviews to profiles of young artists and athletes, and health education (presented by Dr Watt, aka radio presenter Grant Kereama). The Christchurch-based show saw early appearances by comedian/actor Oscar Kightley (in his screen debut), Amazing Race presenter Phil Keoghan, future Lotto host Hilary Timmins, and broadcasters Kerre McIvor (née Woodham) and Bernadine Oliver-Kerby. Life in the Fridge Exists was also the name of a short-lived Wellington band.