This collection celebrates Kiwi comedy on TV: the caricatures, piss-takes, and sitcoms that have cracked us up, and pulled the wool over our eyes for over five decades. From turkeys in gumboots and Fred Dagg, to Billy T, bro'Town and Jaquie Brown. As Diana Wichtel reflects, watching the evolution of native telly laughs is, "a rich and ridiculous, if often painful, pleasure."
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.
Writer-director Barry Prescott’s third short film might have been entitled Strictly Legless. Alge (Joe Taylor) is a double amputee with a photo of Fred Astaire above his bed, whose dreams of dancing appear unlikely until he gets some inventive help from his sister (Emma Kinane) and dance teacher (John Bach, in a nosy prosthetic). Featuring cameos from veteran actors Donna Akersten and Alice Fraser, the black comedy treads on some sensitive toes for humorous effect, while remaining warm-hearted. It won awards at festivals for the differently-abled worldwide.
"This is me. This is my husband …" So narrates Evie as she watches her younger self labour with childbirth. "And this is the bitch who will one day steal him, and ruin my life." When the bitch is shown as an angelic six-year-old the tone is set for Katie Wolfe’s award-winning black comedy (her debut short as a director). Writer Kate McDermott’s wry narration moves between then and now, as fate delivers a less than wonderful life in Auckland suburbia. Selected for the Sundance Film Festival, This is Her was a breakout festival success, earning Wolfe notice as a filmmaker to watch.
A young man suffering from mounting sexual frustration (Skitz regular Michael Sengelow) wakes up one day to find incredibly strange things happening between his legs. A comic fable about personal gardening, male organs, and finding the perfect partner, Prickle marked the directorial debut of one-time actor Murray Keane. Keane would showcase his talent for comedy again, when he directed episodes of Outrageous Fortune and Diplomatic Immunity.
For just one easy payment, you too can escape the disappointment and heartache of your existence. This quirky black comedy might make you think twice before hanging up on that next tele-marketer, as the Sunshine Man tries to help people to see what he sees. Actor Des Morgan puts in an appealing performance as the titular Sunshine Man, and Wellington electronica master Rhian Sheehan provides a haunting soundtrack to match the film’s dark style.
A mutant lamb escapes from the lab after dodgy genetic experiments, and herds of sheep are turned into bloodthirsty predators. Three hapless humans are stranded on the farm as the woolly nightmare develops. They discover a bite from an infected sheep has an alarming effect on those bitten. With his first feature, director Jonathan King (Under the Mountain) provides splatter thrills and attacks a few sacred cows. Black Sheep was invited to 20+ international festivals, where it scored acclaim and multiple awards. The interviews include King, Weta's Richard Taylor, and the cast.
Two young men (played by Michael Sengelow and Kingpin's Faifua Amiga) spend an afternoon drinking, boasting about their sexual prowess, scaring some roving evangelists — and accidentally summoning Satan, after their turntable starts playing records backwards. Satan (played for some of the time by screen legend Ian Mune) promises them everything they desire, so long as they can offer him the blood of a virgin in an hour. A comedy featuring possessed voices, jokes about bodily fluids and a Devil who can change genders. Note: some content may offend.
Director Peter Jackson's second feature Meet the Feebles offers even more bad taste than his debut. The irreverent, outlandish, part-musical satire is populated almost entirely by puppets, but it is by no means cute. The motley creatures are all members of a variety show that’s working up to a major performance. They include Bletch the two-timing pornographer walrus, an obese hippo femme fatale, a drug-dealing rat, and a heroin-addicted frog — in other words, something to offend everyone. Richard King writes about the creation of New Zealand's first puppet movie here.
Based partly on two tragedies that occurred in Europe, this darkly comic tale centres on a butcher who works near Parliament. The butcher leaves his young son to handle the customers so that he can go upstairs and engage in some hanky panky with his wife. But with rent payments due, underlying tensions soon erupt into bloody nightmare. Director Stuart McKenzie and his real-life partner, actor Miranda Harcourt, would later collaborate again on the feature film For Good.