Writer and comedian Jon Gadsby, QSM, likely spent more time being funny on NZ television screens than almost anyone — aside perhaps from his longtime partner in crime, David McPhail. After appearing together on breakthrough comedy show A Week of It, the two helped form the comic backbone of the long-running McPhail and Gadsby, satirical show Issues, and the outdoor escapades of Letter to Blanchy.
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 successful What We Do in the Shadows spin-off.
Mark Wright became one of NZ television's most familiar faces in the 1990s, by imitating other people. The drama school graduate became a a reluctant comedian in an era of skit based shows that included Issues, LaughINZ, That Comedy Show, and Newsflash. His work on Issues and Sportsnight won him two NZ Film and Television awards. Wright's CV also includes a long run of stage roles, as well as live MC'ing and film acting.
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.
Rose Matafaeo won attention in 2018 when, at age 26, she won the top comedy award at the Edinburgh Festival. 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. A lead writer and co-star of sketch show Funny Girls, she has become a regular face on English television. In 2019 she began making Kiwi film comedy Baby, Done.
Jemaine Clement is the bespectacled half of folk-comedy duo Flight of the Conchords, who achieved international cult status in their own HBO series. Clement's screen career began after he appeared on 90s sketch shows Telly Laughs and Skitz. Following his big screen debut in Tongan Ninja, he starred in misfit romance Eagle vs Shark. In 2014 he co-directed and acted in hit vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows.
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.
Folk musician Marcus Turner spent three years as one of a trio of presenters on kids show Spot On, where he became known for his musical performances and comic sketches. After leaving the show in 1984 he worked as a director, including on documentaries for NHNZ and another kids classic, Play School. He also spent time in the UK as a fulltime folk musician. Turner passed away in early February 2016.
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.
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.