Being Chinese: A New Zealander’s Story author Helene Wong grew up in 1950s Aotearoa, and has worked in the arts as a performer, writer, and film critic. She discusses her varied career in this Funny As interview, including: Growing up with radio comedy, being the class clown at school, and realising that you could make people laugh with voices and accents The university capping review being a revelation and a liberation — how it presented an opportunity to deal with issues and was more than just "prancing about on the stage" How the introduction of television meant being able to see politicians — "their physicality, their flaws and their body language" — which provided wonderful source material for satirists Working with Roger Hall, John Clarke, Dave Smith and Catherine Downes on university revue One in Five, and mimicking three-screen promotional film This is New Zealand to open the show Working for Prime Minister Robert Muldoon in the 70s as a social policy advisor — despite spending “the previous few years having a lot of fun satirising him” — and feeling that he had a "kind of dark force field around him" Reaching a turning point in comedy about Asians in New Zealand; Asians have started to "take back the power" and "as opposed to encouraging audiences to laugh at us, we’re now getting them to laugh with us"
Beat Rhythm Fashion was a Wellington post-punk band formed in 1980 by brothers Dan and Nino Birch (who had grown up in Hong Kong). They were part of the “Terrace Scene” (centred on large, old flats near Victoria University) but the finely crafted, swirling sophistication of their sound set them apart from more aggressive musical neighbours. After signing with Mike Alexander’s Bunk label, they released three well received singles — but a projected move to Australia failed to eventuate and an August 1982 gig at Wellington’s Clyde Quay Tavern was their last.
Musician turned TV producer turned radio presenter Simon Morris pops up among the Funny As interviews mainly to talk about John Clarke — one of the funniest guys Morris has ever met. Among the topics covered: How Morris and Clarke first bonded in a cafe at Victoria University Clarke's love of the way British comedian Peter Cook combined "low comedy and unbelievably high comedy at the same time...and that was John really" Joining Clarke for a badly-reviewed student extravaganza, where Clarke was one of the only standouts How hit TV show Gliding On (on which Morris directed) utilised the classic sitcom formula of a bunch of characters in a single setting, who irritate one another Working on the TV pilot for comedy group Funny Business, who arrived "just three years too soon" For more on John Clarke, check out this extended interview with Clarke's daughter, writer Lorin Clarke.
Growing up around stage shows and TV studios, future Billy T award-winner Dai Henwood knew from early on that he wanted to be involved in comedy.
Raybon Kan gave up his legal career to become a humorist and stand-up comedian.
Tangata Whenua was a groundbreaking six-part documentary series that screened (remarkably in primetime) in 1974. Each episode chronicled a different iwi and included interviews by historian Michael King with kaumātua. These remain a priceless historical record. The Feltex Award-winning script was by King and director Barry Barclay. The NZBC said the series had "possibly done more towards helping the European understand the Māori people, their traditions and way of life, than anything else previously shown on television". Paul Diamond writes about Tangata Whenua here.
This film tells the story of the world’s rarest wading bird, the black stilt (kakī). With its precise beak and long pink legs the stilt is superbly adapted to the stony braided riverbeads of the McKenzie Country, but it is tragically unable to deal with new threats (rats, ferrets, habitat loss). An early doco for TVNZ’s Natural History Unit, the magnificently filmed drama of the stilt’s struggle for survival makes it “stand out as a classic of its genre” (Russell Campbell). It won the Gold Award at New York’s International Film & TV Festival (1984).
Before he achieved worldwide fame as an actor, Sam Neill directed documentary films for the National Film Unit. This film examines the philosophy, early achievements and frustrations of one of New Zealand's most innovative architects, Ian Athfield. Athfield won an international competition in 1975 to design housing for 140,000 squatters in Manila, in the Philippines, yet struggled to gain recognition back home. This film culminates in Athfield's trip to the Philippines to pursue the project. Shooter John Toon later memorably shot feature film Rain.
Taika (Boy) Waititi's first feature is an offbeat comedy about two lonely misfits and their attempts to find love. Lily (Loren Taylor) is a shy fast-food cashier with a crush on clueless gaming geek Jarrod (Conchord Jemaine Clement). When Lily crashes Jarrod's fancy dress party wearing a shark costume and impresses the self-styled ‘Eagle Lord' with her gaming prowess — excerpted here — she gets her man. But their budding romance is sorely tested by Jarrod's obsession with a childhood nemesis. Empire called the film, "a comic delight destined for cult adoration."
Russell Campbell has been analysing film and television for more than four decades. A longtime lecturer in film at Victoria University, Campbell’s books include Observations, a volume on New Zealand documentary — a field in which he has extensive first-hand experience.