Every now and then here at NZ On Screen, we like to stick our necks out and choose a Top 10. And our collective opinion is that these are the funniest New Zealand television series to date: from bro' Town to Billy T, from Gliding On to the tag team hijinks of 7 Days. Plus 10 runners-up that we couldn't agree on. Read on to find out more.
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."
This episode of the stand-up comedy show ends with an early screen appearance by Flight of the Conchords. The duo perform two songs that will later appear on the first HBO series, and debut album. The funky 'Ladies of the World' goes beyond Julio Iglesias, while the epic 'Bowie' (three and a half minutes into clip three) pays homage to the man whose complex changes of tempo and vocal range proved too difficult for them to play. Mike King hosts, John Glass reflects on bachelorhood and kissing etiquette, and Chris Brain references bikers, the Wiggles, Bill Gates and Star Wars.
Director, writer and actor Taika Cohen (aka Waititi) features in this episode of the stand-up comedy TV series with an off the wall performance as Gunter the German "joke" teller — a buck-toothed, bewigged persona pitched somewhere between Andy Kaufman and Sacha Baron Cohen. Fiona MacKinnon is in more conventional territory recounting her graduation and 21st, and musing about moving suburbs in Wellington. While Andrew Clay has tattoos and one night stands on his mind, and a concern that the early years of the 21st century are lacking in poetry.
In this episode from the stand-up comedy TV series Rhys Darby (prior to his association with Flight of the Conchords) steals the show: a very limber tyrannosaurus rex impression animates a surreal tale about taking his grandfather to the movies that results in dinosaurs running amok in Auckland's Queen Street. Elsewhere, Mike Loder's conclusion that no disgrace could lead to Tiger Woods losing his sponsorship deals, and Justine Smith's opinion that her hometown of Christchurch is rather lacking in excitement may not have quite stood the test of time.
Fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Flight of the Conchords headline this episode of the TV stand up comedy series with the creepily earnest 'If You're Into It' (guaranteed to lose all but the hardiest of new girlfriends) and their hip-hop folk opus 'Hiphopopotamus'. Host Brendhan Lovegrove explores the speech patterns of Southlanders, Andre King does his best to ensure he won't be invited back to Palmerston North, and Sully O'Sullivan reveals himself as a menace to small animals and moving vehicles (but with a possible future in survey research).
This special episode of the TV stand-up comedy series showcases a newly blonde Cal Wilson and features guests Flight of the Conchords, who spoof small town tourism operators, take office supplies as metaphors for love to absurd lengths, and serve up some overly polite, self censored gangster rap. Wilson's other friends are her own creations. Katie the Chief Bridesmaid's contribution to nuptial disharmony invokes Rowan Atkinson's 'Father of the Bride Speech' by way of Lyn of Tawa, while her "sister" Adele is a painfully earnest feminist poet in a neckbrace.
Of the four performers on this episode of Pulp Comedy, Sam Wills arguably makes the most lasting impression. His fast-talking magic show is a far cry from his later mute act, The Boy With Tape On His Face (aka Tape Face), which in 2016 became a viral sensation via TV's America’s Got Talent. Although his Pulp Comedy performance is significantly more vocal than the one that would make his reputation, his quirky use of props remains familiar. Elsewhere on the show Mike Loder has a dangerous encounter with a wētā, and host Paul Ego gets in trouble trying to order a coffee.
Self-described as “Ewen Gilmour’s not-so-special”, this episode from stand-up showcase Pulp Comedy praises Gilmour's beloved West Auckland. Waitakere mayor Bob Harvey even presents his Cultural Ambassador with the coathanger to the city. Nothing escapes the late comedian’s warm-hearted bogan barbs, from cerebral palsy to the Avon River. Also included are an ode to hitchhiking, George Mallory’s claims to have beaten Hillary, the love-making benefits of a goatee, flying high, stoned semen, westie Halloween and using the SPCA as a cattery.
Pulp Comedy succeeded the talent quest A Bit After Ten as a TV outlet for stand-up comics. Its origins lay in Auckland's Comedyfest which was established to capitalise on the city's burgeoning early 90s stand-up scene. Showcases at the Powerstation led to a request from TV3 for a television series. Produced by Mandy Toogood and Simon Sinclair, it ran for eight years and provided national exposure for novices as well as leading lights like Mike King, Ewen Gilmour, Flight of the Conchords, Michele A'Court, Brendhan Lovegrove, Philip Patston and Cal Wilson.