Debate no place for a thin skin & Chuckling amid the gloom

Debate no place for a thin skin & Chuckling amid the gloom

November 15, 2000, source: NZ Herald

Debate no place for a thin skin


Celebrities hurling insults at each other – now that’s entertainment. More verbal punches than in the Tua fight were thrown when television wits gathered last week to debate whether New Zealand is the greatest little country in the world. The genre has been resurrected for the one-off presentation from producer Bettina Hollings, the former programming director at TV3.

The debate, filmed in front of a live audience at the Bruce Mason Centre in Takapuna last Wednesday, was hosted by comedians Lorae Parry and Pinky Agnew. How many of the barbs make it to air or end up on the editing room floor remains to be seen, but if the better swipes of the night translate as well on to television as they worked live then it should make for an entertaining show.

Parry and Agnew’s convincing portrayals of Prime Minister Helen Clark (Parry) and National leader Jenny Shipley (Agnew) added to the humour as they controlled the debate with cutting jibes towards each other and their “parties.” Obviously, “Clark” was cheer-leader of the affirmative team, made up of journalists Bill Ralston and Pam Corkery and writer Oscar Kightley. The “Shipley” cabinet consisted of actors Craig Parker (Shortland Street’s Guy Warner), Anna Kennedy (Target’s ditzy consumer Liz) and seasoned debater Ginette McDonald.

Ralston proved an easy target for the negative side thanks to the his arts show Backch@t being canned and his recent departure as Metro editor. But the attacks went beyond employment ribbing, with McDonald dissing Ralston as once being used by Nasa as a stand-up model for a lunar landscape. His team-mates also felt the sting of her sharp tongue – Corkery’s voice was likened to the crankshaft of a pre-war Massey Ferguson and Kightley compared to a tanned Steve Maharey. In return, Kightley asked whether viewers could trust a woman who went around ruining backyards, or someone who worked on a show where tradesmen relieve themselves into drawers.

In an opportunity to see some of the young talent bubbling under the surface in television, Parker showed he can deliver the lines and script them as well, with a brilliant piece about a childhood in Fiji, moving to Glenfield and going to school with Rachel Hunter. He was a hard act for Corkery to follow but she delivered a monologue that ranged from smoking dope to the Business Roundtable.

Ground Force host McDonald sparked, although some of her jokes, and many of the others’, have been through the wash a few times and still manage to be quite grubby.

The celebs weren’t the only ones to have their say on the topic. A vox pop of ordinary Kiwis and some familiar comedians was woven into the programme.

October 19, 2000, source: NZ Herald

Chuckling amid the gloom


It’s time to have a laugh about the state of New Zealand. The depression which has settled over the land following a dismal Olympic showing, the so-called brain-drain and rising inflation is about to be offset by the TV3 Great Comedy Debate.

The question “Do we live in the greatest little country in the world?” will have Bill Ralston, Pam Corkery and playwright Oscar Kightley on the affirmative. Craig Parker, Anna Kennedy (TV3’s Target) and Ginette McDonald argue the grass is greener around the globe.

The debate will be held at the Bruce Mason Centre in Takapuna on November 9 and screen on TV3 later in the year. Producer Bettina Hollings, a former television programmer, said the subject was chosen before the Olympics but has recently come into stronger focus. “The people on the affirmative team see it as slightly more of a challenge.”

The format had been “freshened up” to move it forward and make it more popular and involving for the audience, Hollings said. “[Debate] is a wonderful part of the information genre. “I think its real genius is that it expands our thinking while popularising sometimes quite difficult subjects.”