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.

The TV Guide - - CONTENTS -

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

Wat­son,

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

to five.”

Jono Pryor and Ben Boyce

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