It’s lights, cameras and giggles as we go behind the scenes with Jono and Ben.
What does it take to make an episode of Jono And Ben? TV Guide’s Sarah Nealon goes behind the scenes of the local comedy show, hosted by Jono Pryor and Ben Boyce, to find out.
When the idea of writing a story about what goes on behind the scenes at Jono And Ben is raised, the publicist is upfront.
My plan is to sit in on some meetings, watch the filming and find out how an episode comes together.
The publicist says ‘yes’ I can attend meetings with the show’s writers and production crew but ‘no’ its stars Jono Pryor and Ben Boyce won’t be there.
Huh? Who doesn’t attend meetings about their own show? Are they too precious? Mercifully, they are nothing of the sort.
Because the pair are so busy filming segments for their TV show, they miss a lot of meetings.
The following week on Monday at 9am I’m sitting in an old church building in Auckland where Jono And Ben’s weekly production meeting is about to start. Pryor and Boyce, who also have a weekday afternoon radio show, are not here.
Positioned on a back wall is a whiteboard chart divided into five sections by black lines. The black lines represent ad breaks. Each section is adorned with post-it notes.
On each small bit of paper is the name of a sketch or gag. The position of each post-it note on the whiteboard indicates where on the show the sketch or gag will appear.
There is nothing glamorous about this space but it does feel like a fun and energetic place to work.
Those present today include comedians James Roque, Jamaine Ross and Lana Walters. Before long the show’s head writer Chris Parker walks in carrying a laptop.
Jono And Ben’s producer Bronwynn Bakker pulls up a chair and runs through a list of what’s planned for this week’s episode.
Ten minutes into the meeting, Guy Williams arrives clutching a box of Coco Pops. Everyone laughs as he makes his presence known.
Items planned for the episode include Jordan ‘How To Dad’ Watson overseeing a focus group and Brynley Stent playing an online game as fictional Gloriavale devotee Providence Gratitude. There is also a Williams’ spoof news report in which he visits a video store.
At the meeting’s end, Williams tells everyone to put a hand on top of his hand. It feels like something a sports or a sales team might have done 30 years ago. “Go team!” he shouts. It’s hard to know whether Williams is being serious or ironic.
Two days later I’m sitting in what’s known as the ‘alts meeting’. The alts I’m told are ‘the alternative jokes’. These are the lines spoken by Pryor and Boyce when the show is filmed before a studio audience.
While some lines are ad-libbed, a huge chunk are carefully scripted. It’s a collaborative effort between the writing team (all of whom are comedians in their own right) and Pryor and Boyce.
Present for this 8.30am meeting are Roque and Walters, who are part of the writing team headed by Parker. Jono And Ben producer Bakker is also in attendance.
“Are the boys not in this morning?” asks Roque, clocking Pryor and Boyce’s absence.
“No. They are on set,” replies Bakker.
Parker has been up past midnight working on ‘the alts’ with other writers via shared online documents. Staying up this late is nothing unusual.
Laptops are opened and the writers take turns reading the alts aloud. It’s amusing, fast-paced and, at times, baffling, particularly, when there are no accompanying images for stories. (The aforementioned images will be shown to the studio audience when the episode is filmed.)
Some things cross the line or, for whatever reason, simply don’t work.
“That won’t be used,” says Parker when a gag doesn’t hit the mark.
After the meeting I visit an indoor tennis arena on Auckland’s North Shore where Pryor and Boyce are filming a segment.
Pryor is decked out in black jeans, a red-and-black check hoodie and Doc Martens while fashion-conscious Boyce is sporting drop-crotch pants and a trendy sweatshirt.
The guys are casually hitting balls over the net. It’s 9.45am and they are due to finish at 10.30am. But five minutes later, when the crew is clearly happy with what has been captured on camera, it’s time to leave.
That evening I head to the Jono And Ben studio.
Hanging out in the make-up room are the show’s hosts plus Guy Williams, Bakker, Jordan
Brynley Stent and Angella Dravid. Final tweaks to the script are being made and a couple of people are working on their laptops.
Meanwhile, Chris Parker is entertaining the audience as he runs through some house rules regarding health and safety and, of course, mobile phone etiquette.
At 8.15pm it’s show time. From a backstage side curtain, Pryor and Boyce walk on to the stage to applause and take their seats behind their usual desk.
Pryor addresses the audience: “So, guys, just laugh. Have fun, abuse us, make yourselves at home.”
Filming takes just over an hour. Some pre-recorded sketches are shown on a large screen while other sketches, including two that were filmed that day, aren’t ready yet.
The audience is encouraged to clap for an unseen sketch and no one seems to mind. Some items poke fun at Three staples The AM Show and The Block. Another segment has a cheeky dig at Seven Sharp.
It is an enjoyable evening with lots of laughter and, arguably, it’s more fun watching the show this way than at home.
As soon as filming stops, Boyce and Pryor graciously invite the audience on stage for selfies. A long queue quickly forms.
Bakker stays up late to edit the show and the next morning it is viewed by television executives and a lawyer in case there is anything legally contentious.
Sometimes, more editing is required. The episode goes to air that night on Three.
On Friday, I chat with Bakker, who has been with Jono And Ben since it began. She confirms that Wednesday night’s recording of the show was a fairly typical evening.
She also explains how she works with Pryor and Boyce, and how inspiration can strike at any time.
“When that suits them to be creative is when that suits them – so that might be 10pm on a Saturday night or I might get an email at 10am on a Sunday morning. “It’s that whole thing where being creative doesn’t really happen between the hours of nine
Jono Pryor and Ben Boyce