Jon Gadsby passed away on 12 December 2015, aged 62. Gadsby and friend David McPhail were at the forefront of a group who kept Kiwi TV audiences laughing on a regular basis, over three decades. Below are some of the shows Gadsby wrote for and performed on, including classics A Week of It, Letter to Blanchy and McPhail and Gadsby, plus his own sitcom Rabbiter's Rest. The Spotlight collection also includes an interview Gadsby did for NZ On Screen in 2010.
This final episode of pioneering A Week of It ("NZ's longest running comedy programme — discounting parliament") features a three wise men parody (lost without a Shell road map); pirate Radio Hauraki; and a parliament-themed Cinderella Christmas pantomine, with David McPhail's Muldoon playing the stepmother. Jon Gadsby appears as Dr Groper, an un-PC GP; and God is a guest at an Anglican church in Fendalton. British comic legend Dudley Moore appears briefly in the extended 'best of' credits reel, alongside (Jeez) Wayne and the rest of the Gluepot Tavern lads.
After turning “Jeez Wayne” into a national catchphrase with their hit series A Week of It, comedy duo David McPhail and Jon Gadsby continued their TV dream run with the sketch comedy show McPhail and Gadsby. This 1983 'Best of' featured highlights from series five including: 'pronouncing things proper with Jim Knox'; 'This Is Your Life with Robert Muldoon' (featuring McPhail’s infamous caricature of the then PM); Lin Waldegrave’s popular impersonation of music show host Karyn Hay; and a Goodnight Kiwi take-off in 'Goodnight from the Beehive'.
Letter to Blanchy was a gentle rural backblocks comedy, and a rare example of Kiwi TV comedy makers filming extensively on location. The show centres on a trio of bumbling smalltown mates: intellectual Derek (David McPhail), rough-diamond Barry (Jon Gadsby) and tradesman Ray (Petet Rowley). In this excerpt from the third episode, Barry and Ray give Derek advice on how to get rid of a stubborn tree trunk, and plant the explosives needed to blast it out of the ground. In the Kiwi DIY way things are destined not to go to plan. "Where did the stump go?" Ian Mune directs.
A Week of It was a pioneering satire series that entertained and often outraged audiences from 1977 to 1979, with its irreverent take at topical issues. This first episode opens with a literal investigation into what Labour politician Bill Rowling is like in bed, and then Prime Minister Muldoon gets a lei (!). McPhail launches his famous Muldoon impression, Annie Whittle does Nana Mouskouri; and the Nixon Frost interview is reprised as a pop song: "Let's rip the whole world off". The well-known Gluepot Tavern skit wraps the show: "Jeez Wayne".
In this episode of the Jon Gadsby written rural sitcom, the locals at the The Rabbiter’s Rest attempt to take an overzealous young constable down a peg or two — and Michael Haigh has yet another of his police roles as the worldly wise local sergeant. No appearance from Gadsby in this episode but David Telford is the genial proprietor, Doreen the barmaid reprises Annie Whittle’s role in A Week of It and Billy T James is among the regulars propping up the bar. The humour is gentle and some of the jokes are shaggier than the local sheep flock at shearing time.
Letter to Blanchy was an old-fashioned backblocks comedy, which centered on the bumblings of a trio of mates living in a fictional small town: intellectual Derek (David McPhail), rough-diamond Barry (Jon Gadsby) and tradesman Ray (Peter Rowley). In this excerpt from the second episode, the lads plan a "traditional" hangi for local gentleman Len. Amongst much non-PC humour, railway irons are proposed in place of hot stones, pasta in place of pig, and a keg disrupts preparations. Hole-digging is much debated in the usual Kiwi bloke way.
Late comedian and writer Jon Gadsby was an integral part of the NZ television comedy landscape. With his long-time friend and colleague David McPhail, Gadsby headlined some of the most iconic comedy shows this country has produced. They first teamed up in the 1970s for hit sketch show A Week of It. The show took pot-shots at politicians, the news, and everyday life. The pair then moved on to the long-running McPhail and Gadsby. Gadsby penned two rural based comedies – Rabbiter's Rest and Letter to Blanchy. He also appeared in movies and hosted episodes of Great NZ River Journeys and Intrepid Journeys.
This episode from the second series of pioneering comedy show A Week of It takes a light-hearted look at issues of the day: sporting contact with South Africa, the 1978 election, traffic cops against coupling in cars, dawn raids in Ponsonby, weather girls struggling with te reo, and bread and newspaper strikes. Censorship campaigner Patricia Bartlett struggles with a French stick, and beer baron Sir Justin Ebriated is interviewed. John Walker, "current world record holder for selling cans of Fresh Up", is sent up, and there's a racing themed "geegees Wayne" sign off.
The debut episode of McPhail and Gadsby plunged into religion as the object of satire, and the result spawned death threats and annoyed letters to the editor. The pair dress up as angels, devils, monks, nuns, priests and Moses, and also make the first of many appearances as the smug Denny (McPhail) and not so clever Ron (Gadsby). McPhail argued later that a simple sketch involving an Anglican vicar dispensing communion unexpectedly caused the most offence. The thematic approach was soon abandoned in favour of shorter episodes, and a more familiar style of topical satire.
Jon Gadsby visits Myanmar (formerly Burma) and discovers an achingly beautiful country. But behind endless golden temples and scenes from Kipling, Gadsby finds "a place of contradiction" where many live in abject poverty, controlled absolutely by their military government (most famously the ongoing house arrest of democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi). When Gadsby visits, it is not a country to be travelled to lightly. He finds the locals to be open and willing to play host; yet he is struck overall by their "sad beauty".
Writer and comedian Jon Gadsby, QSM, likely spent more time being funny on NZ television screens than almost anyone — aside perhaps from his longtime partner in crime, David McPhail. After appearing together on breakthrough comedy show A Week of It, the two helped form the comic backbone of the long-running McPhail and Gadsby, satirical show Issues, and the outdoor escapades of Letter to Blanchy.