Ki­wis up for mak­ing us laugh

Pop­u­lar­ity of New Zealand com­edy con­tin­ues to grow

Sunshine Coast Daily - Caloundra Weekly - - LIFE ENTERTAINM­ENT - Dar­ren Hallesy

IN THE 1990s, Aus­tralians loved to laugh at them­selves, with movie clas­sics like The

Cas­tle and Priscilla pack­ing peo­ple into cin­e­mas.

But some­where along the line, we’ve been over­taken by the Ki­wis.

Now come­dies from New Zealand are mak­ing Aus­tralians laugh, proven by the suc­cess of movies such as Boy, Hunt for the Wilder­peo­ple and What We

Do in The Shad­ows, all the work of writer/di­rec­tor Taika Waititi.

The pop­u­lar film­maker is ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer on The

Breaker Up­per­ers, which is the brain­child of two women who wrote, starred in and di­rected the com­edy.

Jackie van Beek and Madeleine Sami have both worked with Waititi in the past, and knew that hav­ing his name on the cred­its would get at­ten­tion.

“Taika is a very good friend of ours, and he was help­ful in two ways,” Jackie, who is best known to Aus­tralian au­di­ences as Glo­ria from 800 Words, says.

“One in that he helped us in his role as part of the

cre­ative team, and two in that he has a very de­voted fan base, and we knew more peo­ple would see our movie be­cause of him.”

The pop­u­lar­ity of Kiwi come­dies has grown all over the world, and it rep­re­sents what Jackie and Madeleine be­lieve is a shift in the way New Zealan­ders see them­selves.

“A lot of peo­ple have asked us about the ques­tion ‘Has Aus­tralia lost the abil­ity to laugh at them­selves?’ and I find that re­ally sad to be hon­est,” Madeleine says.

“Muriel’s Wed­ding, The Cas­tle, The Com­edy

Com­pany ... those were the films and TV shows that made us in New Zealand think ‘Wow the Aussies re­ally have their s--to­gether. Look at them send­ing them­selves up’. I found that re­ally in­spir­ing.

“For many years New Zealand film­mak­ers only got fund­ing for in­tense brood­ing dra­mas, and re­cently the mo­ti­va­tion has been to get more com­edy out there.”

Jackie agrees, adding: “I think there def­i­nitely is an ap­petite for Kiwi hu­mour, at the mo­ment now more than ever, and that’s be­cause not only what Taika has done, but also with Flight of the Con­chords, Rhys Darby, plus a num­ber of Kiwi comics have been putting their hu­mour on the in­ter­na­tional stage. We know in places like Amer­ica there is a de­mand for it. They are cu­ri­ous about these weird peo­ple with strange ac­cents. We felt at the world pre­miere in Texas that there was an un­der­stand­ing of our hu­mour.

“Ki­wis in the past few years have em­braced our own ridicu­lous kind of na­ture, more and more, and to be hon­est, we are cel­e­brat­ing it. We are be­com­ing more com­fort­able with our­selves as a cul­ture, and I love see­ing that on the screen – that’s be­ing the kind of awk­ward, re­served, mum­bling id­iots that we are.”

They were en­cour­aged to take on the role of di­rec­tors by friends in the in­dus­try, and it meant they would have to put their 20-year friend­ship on the line.

“We knew that both of us had to di­rect it, as it had to be both or not at all,” Jackie says.

“We made a pact in the be­gin­ning, so it was good to say that out loud.”

“It was fun; the whole process was quite ridicu­lous. Plus the more tired we got the stu­pider and stu­pider things be­came,” Madeleine said.

“We had a great time, but I felt sorry for the rest of the crew.”


KIWI COM­EDY CUL­TURE: Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek star in The Breaker Up­per­ers.

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