Tony Holden's producing and directing career spans generations of classic Kiwi comedy, from A Week of It, Gliding On, The Billy T James Show, to Spin Doctors. CEO of production company Comedia Pictures since 1985, Holden has also spent four years as TVNZ's manager of commissioning and production.
Billy T James ranks as a key figure in the development of Kiwi comedy. Billy honed his talents as a singer and comedian on stages worldwide, then brought them to a local TV audience on throwback show Radio Times. His self-titled comedy show was a major ratings hit. His turn as the Tainuia kid in Came a Hot Friday is still fondly remembered — as is Billy T's infectious chuckle, black singlet and yellow towel.
Lawyer turned satirist AK Grant was writing partner to comedians David McPhail and Jon Gadsby. Together the three created breakthrough comedy hit A Week of It; Grant went on to write for McPhail and Gadsby, Letter to Blanchy and the sitcom version of The Billy T James Show. He passed away on 29 June 2000, at the age of 59.
After making his name as part of comedy troupe Funny Business in the 80s, Willy de Wit found national success when the foursome won their own sketch show in 1988. From there de Wit appeared in a host of comedy shows throughout the 90s, including More Issues, Sportsnight and Comedy Central, before becoming a host on Radio Hauraki in 1998. He stayed with the station for 12 years.
Producer Matt McPhail’s CV includes a number of Kiwi comedy hits. He started his career directing 1990s youth show Ice TV, before helping write and direct internationally successful superhero series Amazing Extraordinary Friends. His producing credits include The Jaquie Brown Diaries, the acclaimed Hounds, and downlowconcept feature Gary of the Pacific.
One of the funniest people on either side of the Tasman, John Clarke’s brand of droll wit (always delivered with a wickedly understated authenticity) defined the high-water mark of Kiwi and Australian comedy for 30 years. Spawned in the early 70s, his gumboot-clad character Fred Dagg marked a defining moment in the development of New Zealand comedy. Clarke passed away on 9 April 2017.
Rose Matafeo captured attention in 2018 when, at age 26, she won the top comedy award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Matafeo has also made a mark on-screen. She was a presenter on TVNZ youth show U Live, before writing and performing for Jono and Ben and Funny Girls, and becoming a regular face on English television. She is set to star in Kiwi movie comedy Baby, Done and British sitcom Starstruck.
Peter Rowley has performed alongside many Kiwi comedy legends, including David McPhail, Jon Gadsby and Billy T James. After debuting on hit 1970s sketch show A Week of It, he joined the ensembles of McPhail and Gadsby and (in 1985) The Billy T James Show. In 1994 Rowley won equal billing alongside comedian Pio Terei on Pete and Pio, before going on to co-star in McPhail and Gadsby's Letter to Blanchy.
Writer James Griffin has been pivotal in an eye-opening proportion of the successful TV comedies and dramas made in New Zealand since the mid 1980s. His credits stretch from Gloss to award-winner 800 Words and big screen comedy Sione's Wedding. Working alongside writer Rachel Lang, he also co-created Westie family drama Outrageous Fortune and hit show The Almighty Johnsons.
Writer, producer and actor Paul Yates is a comedic "everyman". His CV includes sketch shows Facelift and Telly Laughs, pre-teen series Freaky and The Killian Curse, and teen sitcom Girl vs Boy. He’s written for popular sitcoms Willy Nilly and Sunny Skies, and is producer and co-writer for Wellington Paranormal, the hit spin-off from 2014 movie What We Do in the Shadows.