Collection

The Billy T James Collection

Curated by NZ On Screen team

Billy Taitoko James is a Kiwi entertainment legend. His iconic ‘bro’ giggle was infectious and his gags universally beloved. This collection celebrates his screen legacy, life and inimitable brand of comedy: from the skits (Te News, Turangi Vice), to the show-stealing cameos (The Tainuia Kid), and the stories behind the yellow towel and black singlet.

Top Half - Rowan Atkinson

Television, 1983 (Excerpts)

Thanks to BBC sketch show Not the Nine O'Clock News, Rowan Atkinson was a BAFTA-winning comedy star when he toured New Zealand back in 1983. Atkinson and Kiwi reporter Chas Toogood hatched a plan to turn the clichéd celebrity interview on its head, by Toogood never actually getting to interview his quarry. Atkinson shot each scene just once. The piece was done for regional news show Top Half in an Auckland hotel, near the end of a Kiwi tour. Atkinson's show Blackadder had debuted just two months previously. He would go on to star as Mr Bean and Johnny English. 

Series

Jono and Ben

Television, 2012–2018

In 2012 television pranksters and funny boys Jono Pryor and Ben Boyce remixed the best elements of their popular shows Pulp Sport and The Jono Project, to concoct Jono and Ben at Ten. Three's satirical news and entertainment series ran for seven seasons. Comedians Guy Williams, Rose Matafeo and Laura Daniel also featured. The series began life on a Friday night at 10pm, before moving to a Thursday 7:30pm slot in 2015 (when the title was shortened to Jono and Ben). Despite a fan petition to 'uncancel', the last episode aired on 15 November 2018.

Series

Away Laughing

Television, 1991–1992

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.

Skitz - 'Best Of' Excerpts

Television, 1997 (Excerpts)

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. 

Series

Skitz

Television, 1993–1997

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.   

Town and Around: Wellington Highlights

Television, 1968 (Full Length)

Nightly magazine-style show Town and Around played on New Zealand screens during the second half of the 60s. Hosted by Peter Read, this end-of-1968 special from the Wellington edition showcases highlights from over 500 items that year. The concentration is on lighter material, most famously a hoax piece on a farmer who puts gumboots on his turkeys. In another piece reporter John Shrapnell discovers that locked cars in the city tend to be the exception. Also featured: an interview with entertainer Rolf Harris, and an impromptu Kiwi street-Hamlet.

Interview

Tom Parkinson: Producing the legends, from Hudson and Halls to Billy T…

Interview, Camera and Editing – Andrew Whiteside

Tom Parkinson is a veteran television producer and director who has worked on iconic Kiwi TV shows such as Hunter’s Gold, Hudson and Halls and Telethon. Parkinson was a key force behind many of our hit comedies in the 70s and 80s, including Billy T James’ shows, A Week of It, Issues, and Letter to Blanchy. Parkinson is also a former Head of Entertainment Programmes at TVNZ, and helped launch TV3.

Billy T James - A Celebration

Television, 1995 (Full Length)

Having made a comeback after heart surgery in 1990, legendary entertainer Billy T James passed away in August 1991. Four years later that anniversary was commemorated with Billy T James - A Celebration. Hosted by Pio Terei, the special highlights some of Billy’s best moments of both comedy gold, and his vast talents as musician. Interviews with Billy T and his colleagues (including showband veteran Robbie Ratana, comedian Peter Rowley, and screen wife Ilona Rodgers) offer insight into the real man behind arguably New Zealand’s most beloved entertainer.

Series

Pete and Pio

Television, 1994–1995

Pete and Pio was a sketch comedy show based on the talents of its two leads, Peter Rowley and Pio Terei. Each episode opens with a stand-up double act performed to a studio audience and closes with a musical number led by Terei. The sketches mostly star Pete and Pio together, with a small supporting cast. This was Terei’s first lead television role, and was followed later by his own show Pio! which also aired on TV3. Rowley has had a long career in comedy, most notably his collaborations with Billy T James in the 1980s.