Created by Dave Armstrong and Kerry Jimson, The Semisis was a satirical take on a contemporary Samoan-Kiwi family. In this opening episode, the Semisis handle eviction by heading to a campground with all their belongings. There romance buds, the palagi next door neighbour (Brian Sergent) proves unwelcoming, and the South African camp commander is even worse. The over the top Semisis family began as part of 90s TV sketch show Skitz; Armstrong consulted with cast members and a group of young Samoans from Porirua, while writing the scripts.
Audiences first discovered dysfunctional Samoan-Kiwi family The Semisis via 90s sketch comedy series Skitz. In 1996 they got their own spin-off show. A talent-heavy cast found themselves lobbing lines and props in each other's direction: future Naked Samoans Dave Fane and Robbie Magasiva, performer Jackie Clarke, and Hori Ahipene, as the family matriach. Creators Dave Armstrong and Kerry Jimson got input for storylines from the cast, director Danny Mulheron and a group of young Samoans from Porirua. Seven episodes were made by Wellington's Gibson Group.
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.
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.
This item from arts show Frontseat asks whether it is right for actors to portray other races than their own. Samoan Kiwi David Fane — who won both fans and criticism, after voicing Jeff da Māori on bro'Town — argues that playing another ethnicity is only an issue when the actor does a bad job. Actor Rachel House (Whale Rider) raises wider issues of indigenous people telling their own stories; and Cliff Curtis, known for a wide range of ethnicities on screen, says he needs to be just as careful playing Māori of other iwi, as when he is playing other races.
Over a decade ago Robbie Magasiva gave himself two choices - rugby or acting. Since then, Magasiva has made audiences laugh in Skitz, The Semisis and Sione’s Wedding, and has starred in numerous screen dramas including Shortland Street, Cover Story, Jackson’s Wharf, Doves of War and The Tattooist. He made the acting call and hasn’t looked back.
Hori Ahipene could perhaps be described as New Zealand’s most 'diverse' actor, having played both male and female characters in TV comedies and dramas. In the 90s Ahipene gained a loyal fan base by appearing in the TV sketch shows Away Laughing, Skitz and Telly Laughs. Two of Ahipene’s popular gender-swapping roles were Mrs Semisi in Skitz and The Semisis, and Beverley Best in the Māori Television sitcom/chat show B&B. Ahipene has also appeared in TV dramas such as Maddigan’s Quest, Mataku, and Shortland Street. In 2009, Ahipene returned to wearing a frock on screen playing ‘Angel’ - a transgender prostitute in Outrageous Fortune. Ahipene’s film credits include Jubilee and The Piano.
David Fane failed comedy at drama school. But since leaving Toi Whakaari, Fane has delighted audiences with his comic performances in Skitz, The Semisis, Tongan Ninja, bro’Town, Sione's Wedding, Outrageous Fortune, Eagle vs Shark and Radiradirah. Fane has also appeared in the drama series The Market and The Strip, and the feature film The Tattooist.
Radio Wha Waho was a pioneering bilingual sitcom about a down on its luck rural iwi radio station. The talkback in this Māori-style WKRP in Cincinnati is in te reo and english; the on-air crew include a DJ with delusions of being a ladykiller (a pre-Mrs Semisi Hori Ahipene); a young fireball seeking fame in the city (Greg Mayor); and Aunty Doss (Kath Akuhata-Brown), the heart and soul of the operation. In this first episode, directed by veteran Marae producer Derek Wooster, the station faces permanent silence after a DJ's late night talk causes offence.
Radio Wha Waho was a pioneering bilingual sitcom about a rural iwi radio station that is close to collapse. Among characters talking back in te reo and getting up to antics on this Māori-style WKRP in Cincinnati are a smoothtalking DJ with delusions of being a ladykiller (a pre-Mrs Semisi Hori Ahipene); a young fireball who wants to graduate to a big station in the city (Greg Mayor, future star of Stewart Main short Twilight of the Gods); and Aunty Doss (Kath Akuhata-Brown), the heart and soul of the whole operation. Produced by TVNZ's Māori department.