Raised in Sydney as part of a Māori-Irish family, Vicki Walker was part of a groundswell of comedy talent that made its mark in Auckland in the late 1980s. Alongside Ali Duffey, she also instigated Girls Gotta Eat, a cadre of female comedians whose shows regularly attracted 500+ audiences. Although hopes of a TV version never eventuated, Walker made her mark on-screen via sketch show Away Laughing (1991-92). Walker played the husband-hunting Felicity — thought to be New Zealand's first TV comedy character written and played by a woman. Walker has also co-hosted That's Fairly Interesting, and taught drama.
The great thing about playing comedy roles is you can be anyone. And if you're writing, you can create the character that you're going to sit behind. I think that's a really important thing for women now ... to write and to be brave. That fear never goes away, and it's a lot easier to not invent something, not turn up somewhere, do nothing. But nothing comes from nothing. There's always a great reward when you do create something, and go ahead and do that character. Vicki Walker, in her extended interview for 2019 TV series Funny As: The Story of New Zealand 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.
Pulp Comedy succeeded the talent quest A Bit After Ten as a TV outlet for stand-up comics. Its origins lay in Auckland's Comedyfest which was established to capitalise on the city's burgeoning early 90s stand-up scene. Showcases at the Powerstation led to a request from TV3 for a television series. Produced by Mandy Toogood and Simon Sinclair, it ran for eight years and provided national exposure for novices as well as leading lights like Mike King, Ewen Gilmour, Flight of the Conchords, Michele A'Court, Brendhan Lovegrove, Philip Patston and Cal Wilson.
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.
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.
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.
10AM was among the first of a run of magazine-style arts shows to screen in a morning weekend slot. Debuting on TV1 in mid 1990, it was hosted by Radio New Zealand veteran Kathryn Asare. 10AM mixed reports and studio interviews (conducted by Asare) on various topics involving the Kiwi arts scene. Producer Gil Barker felt Asare was a television natural, fighting pressure to give the role to an established “telestar”, or change Asare’s image. He also brought in writer Peter Hawes to help bring a lighter touch to the show than arts programmes from the past.
This wryly-titled 80s show was a homegrown take on US show That’s Incredible!, with the spectacular stunts and supernatural happenings of the original replaced with more downbeat kiwiana kitsch subjects. This excerpt from an end of season review looks at highlights from presenter Phil Keoghan’s contribution. The future Amazing Race host tries a spaghetti eating competition (post-bungy jumping), giraffe feeding, land sailing, snowboarding, male cheerleading, cow pat tossing and a cowboy up challenge. TFI was the first series from production company Communicado.
This 80s relic was a homegrown take on US show That's Incredible!, with spectacular stunts and supernatural happenings replaced with subjects that were more kiwiana kitsch than wow! It was the first show from production company Communicado; presenters included Tim Shadbolt, Neil Roberts, Sue Kedgley, Phil Gifford and Phil Keoghan. In a Vanity Fair interview to illustrate Kiwi's "enormous understatement" Jane Campion famously quipped: "You know, they used to have a program on TV in New Zealand, That's Fairly Interesting. [...] In America, it's That's Incredible!"