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.
November 2014 marks 25 years since New Zealand TV’s third channel began broadcasting. This 25th birthday sampler pack looks back at iconic drama (Outrageous Fortune), upstart news shows (Nightline), fresh youth programming (Ice TV, Being Eve) and comedy high watermarks (bro’Town, Jaquie Brown, 7 Days). As the launch slogan said "come home to the feeling!"
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."
One of NZ TV's first forays into stand-up comedy, this talent quest based show ran for two series (the second as A Bit More after Ten). It was hosted by Jeremy Corbett and his brother Nigel (in his TV debut), with Ian Harcourt (ex-Funny Business) as a resident judge (aided by two celebrities each week). Home viewers also voted, helping propel eventual winner Late Night Mike into the first final. Michele A'Court, Te Radar, Jon Bridges, Dean Butler and Andrew Clay graced its set and later graduated to its stand-up successor, the long running Pulp Comedy.
Auckland's home of stand-up comedy, The Classic theatre in Queen Street, is the subject of this "behind the scenes" mockumentary TV series. Anchored by MC Brendhan Lovegrove, episodes follow a night's performances; onstage routines are intercut with action from the green room and front of house. The line between reality and self-deprecatory fiction is blurry, with the participants happy to send themselves up. Show biz glamour is in short supply and, at times, it's preferable to look just about anywhere except the screen. A second series screened in 2012.
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).
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.
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.
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.