Barry Humphries 17.2.34 – 22.4.23


One of the great Australian comedians has died:

Barry Humphries has left this earthly stage, and taken with him his brilliant creations – Dame Edna Everage, Sandy Stone, Barry McKenzie and Sir Les Patterson. He was 89. . . 

In a statement, his family said: “He was completely himself until the very end, never losing his brilliant mind, his unique wit and generosity of spirit. The characters he created, which brought laughter to millions, will live on.”

Across a career spanning almost seven decades, Humphries reduced audiences to tears of laughter, and much else besides. “Tragedy dampens the spirits,” he once said. “Comedy dampens the upholstery.”

A supreme clown and the sharpest of social satirists, Humphries took special delight in puncturing pomposity, ignorance and self-importance. Cant and woke were anathema to him.

With Dame Edna he created a comic grotesque – resplendent with her wisteria rinse and iridescent face furniture – who wielded condescension like a weapon. As Sir Les, he elevated vulgarity into an art form. “Are you with me?” he would say as he dropped another double entendre.

Humphries’s act came fully alive in the theatre where his audience were also his victims. But the television talk show could almost have been made for him. Humphries’s comic genius spread through the English-speaking world thanks to his countless TV appearances with hosts including Michael Parkinson, Clive James and Joan Rivers.

It was disconcerting, in the rare moments that Humphries allowed it, to hear the voice of Dame Edna out of costume. In a 1987 TV interview with Clive James and comedian Peter Cook, Humphries – dressed like a bank manager in a pinstripe suit and red tie – came out with that familiar falsetto.

In Edna’s voice he said, “Barry Humphries is a passe entertainer who never was funny in my opinion, and I happen to know his mother agrees with me.”

Born in Melbourne in 1934, and schooled at Melbourne Grammar – but not educated, he pointed out – he gravitated early on to the bohemian world of theatre and the arts. He disdained sport, and loved dressing up and playing practical jokes, the more disgusting the better.

He joined the Union Theatre Repertory Company, and it was on a tour of regional Victoria with a production of Twelfth Night that he invented the character that became Mrs Edna Everage.

Over the years the housewife of Moonee Ponds became an Olympic Hostess, and then a dame, her celebrity growing in magnitude from superstar to megastar and, finally, gigastar. . . 

It was put to him more than once that his brand of comedy, paraded on the world stage, was against the national interest, presenting a poor image of Australians abroad.

He told Clive James: “It’s odd, isn’t it, that people like John Cleese – who make wonderful comedies about bad service in British hotels – never get rapped over the knuckles. But in Australia, you just have to make a few little jokes about our more endearing faults to be accused of treachery, and indeed pilloried as a traitor.”

His comments about transgender people in 2018 – he described trans identity as a “fashion”, and sex-change surgery as “self-mutilation” – led the Melbourne International Comedy Festival to cancel him, wiping his name from the Barry Award. . . 

Michael McIntyre on the NZ accent


QI – revolutions


QI is a recent find on YouTube, I enjoy the humour, the quick wits, and that I learn something with every episode.

Red White and Brass


You can read more about the film here.

Sean Lock on political correctness


A Reply to the Laddies


Janey Godley gives a Reply to the Laddies:

This is a response to the traditional Burns Night Toast to the Lassies.

Melbourne Cup picks


Using the completely unscientific system based on no knowledge at all, my picks for today’s Melbourne Cup race are:

VERRY ELLEEGANT (NZ) trained by Chris Waller and ridden by James McDonald.

EXPLOSIVE JACK (NZ) trained by Ciaron Maher & David Eustace and ridden by John Allen


TRALEE ROSE (NZ) trained by Symon Wilde and ridden by Dean Holland

Time to follow Tasmania?


A couple of months ago the Prime Minister was using Australia as an example of what not to do.

There is one state that is an example of what to do and that’s Tasmania which hasn’t had a case of community transmission of Covid-19 for more than a year.

The obvious advantage it has over the rest of the country is it’s separated from them by water.

The South Island is separated from the North by water too, is it time to get a much harder border at Cook Strait?

Mike Yardley says it is:

The Government has failed to tighten up the ropey Auckland boundary and the risk it poses. And there’s been no desire from Wellington to seal off the zero-Covid South so that restrictions can be loosened.

Nero would be astounded at the scale of fiddling that has torched Christchurch’s most prestigious week.

So now the South is losing its biggest party, how about a comfort blanket?

The island of 1.2 million people hasn’t clocked a Covid case in the community for 336 days. As far as we know. The wastewater testing keeps coming up negative, all over the island.

Yes, Delta will finally reach the South, but why give it an early invitation, or a helping hand?

I believe the South Island should be sealed off from the North, by way of far tougher travel restrictions for the next six weeks. Only critical workers or the critically in need should be allowed to cross the Cook Strait, pre-conditioned on being vaccinated and testing negative. . .

A Stuff editorial also asks for a harder border:

Border protections within the country need to be shored up, considerably.

The South Island needs hard-border protections against the Delta variant’s creep out of the Auckland region.

The lower North Island, too, deserves something more than the velvet rope the Government has strung up in some of the harder-to-police parts of the Auckland border,.

The shortcomings of a border strategy have been evident in the upper North Island but more can and needs to be done to staunch the virus’ progress south – at least long enough to buy valuable time for vaccination protections to be built up in the community.

Public health experts, community and business leaders have all but linked arms to call for tougher criteria for who can cross the border out of Auckland and Waikato. Otago University’s Nick Wilson describes a limiting of what qualifies as essential travel, and requiring southbound travellers to be fully vaccinated, and have a nasopharyngeal Covid test, and then a rapid test at the border.

How hard would it be to require the full vaccination and the two tests for anyone leaving?

The lower North Island is surely able to be better defended by a hard-border approach too.

This shouldn’t be seen as coming at the expense of an encircled Auckland but it far better protects the health of more southern New Zealanders, let alone regional and national economies.

Moreover, it mitigates how thinly stretched resources might be. This is not a situation where misery loves company – less stressed areas are better placed to send, for instance, medical assistance where it’s most needed.

The obvious comparison, certainly for the South Island, is Tasmania, where an enviable record during the pandemic has not simply been attributable to the fact that the community there has a giant moat.

Many of the measures will ring familiar – border closures, testing, contact tracing – and there has been real rigour to requirements on returned travellers from other more problematic parts of the Lucky Country, quite apart from international returnees.  . . 

Keith Woodford says we need a Covid reset:

. . .Leadership sometimes means admitting errors and doing a reset. I have always liked the Eisenhower quote, of which there are several versions, that ‘planning is everything but plans are nothing’.  There is no point in trying to defend the indefensible. . . 

The late and lax rollout of vaccination is indefensible.

Had more people been fully vaccinated sooner, Delta would not be such a threat.

The vaccination programme has gone up several gears, but what else could be done?

In addition to any soft borders, there need to be two hard borders, one separating off the North Island into two, with Waiouru being a key border point. There would need to be additional hard-border points on Highways 2, 3, 4 and 5, with Highway 43 also blockaded.

Cook Strait provides a superb natural border between the North and South islands. Freight would continue by air and sea. The Cook Strait ferries could use different drivers, with North Island drivers leaving their loads on the ferry at Wellington and fresh drivers picking up the load in Picton. All passenger air-transport between the islands would cease except for medical emergencies.

These two hard borders do not necessarily replace existing soft borders. Rather, they are defensible borders with prospect of being maintained.

These hard regional borders may need to remain in place even after all within-region movements are opened up. At some point regional hard-borders would be removed for those who are vaccinated, but perhaps not until considerably later for the non-vaccinated.

In contrast, softer borders protecting regions such as Rotorua and Taupo will almost certainly be bypassed. All they can do is slow down the infection rate outside of Auckland before eventually being made irrelevant. . . 

There comes a time when individuals have to take responsibility for their own welfare. Society cannot be responsible for those who will not get the vaccine. . .

The alternative of staying in Level 3 over coming weeks appears to combine the worst of all outcomes. It is now evident that exponential growth is highly likely to continue. We will indeed end up with two groups of people, these being the vaccinated and the infected, but with everyone’s lifestyle affected.

To those who say that restrictions should be removed earlier than what I have set out here, my response is to say that we have to accept that it is only now that many people are becoming eligible for their second dose.

And to those who continue to say that we cannot leave anyone behind, I say that this current commitment is counter-productive. The non-vaccinated need to understand that broader society will not tolerate being treated in this way. And that is something that the Government also needs to understand.  Either people get the vaccine or they accept the consequences. . . .

That sounds harsh, but the alternative is that once every effort has been made to reach everyone who is willing to be vaccinated, the won’t-be vaccinated are preventing more freedom for the rest of us.

The consequences for the unvaccinated might result in hospitals being overrun with Covid cases. But lockdowns also have high health costs for people whose serious illnesses go undiagnosed, or untreated.

New Zealand’s initial response to Covid-19 gained wide international praise.

Much of that praise has turned to criticism and while the rest of the world is slowly opening up, more than a third of our population are locked down and the rest of us are waiting for what will be the inevitable spread of Delta unless the government does a reset and does it fast.

No shows


Christchurch’s  NZ Agricultural Show has fallen victim to Covid-19 – again.

The Canterbury A&P Show has been cancelled for the second year in a row.

Around 100,000 people normally attend, with many rural business trading at the event.

The event is one of three that make up the Cup and Show Week in November. The A&P show, Addington Cup Week and Riccarton Park Races were projected to bring in more than $4m of visitor spending and 22,275 visitor nights.

It’s not just the loss of the event but the loss to retail, hospitality and entertainment businesses which miss out on the people who don’t come to the city because the event isn’t taking place.

Joanna Norris, chief executive of the city’s economic development ageny ChristchurchNZ, said it was a massive loss for the city and region.

“The government’s health-based approach to Covid-19 is essential and we absolutely support it.

“However, businesses and the major events sector need a clear outline of the pathway to lower alert levels in the South Island.

“Protecting the lives of New Zealanders is of primary importance, however sustaining safe community and economic activity in the South Island is also of huge importance.”

ChristchurchNZ and the show asked the government to allow the outdoor event to trial a vaccine certificate programme but couldn’t get approval in time, Norris said. . . 

Couldn’t get approval in time. Sigh – again.

Does no-one in the government and its ministries understand the need for urgency?

This isn’t the only show to go:

. . .Organisers said the executive committee of the Hawke’s Bay A&P Society met last night to review the risks and after significant consideration, made the hard decision to cancel.

The show was scheduled to run from October 20th-22nd. It’s one of the largest in the country and usually attracts 30,000 people to the Tomoana Showgrounds. . .

Organisers of the Waikato A&P Show, which was also due to get underway in October, announced they were cancelling the event earlier this month. At the time they said this was because of the uncertainty around Covid-19 alert levels.

The Gisborne, Wairarapa and Waikato A&P shows were also due to take place next month but have all been cancelled as well.

Oamaru’s Victorian Heritage Celebrations have also been cancelled.

There will be many more shows and events that have been, or will be, cancelled as uncertainty about Covid alert levels continues.

The government can’t prop up every organisation, but underwriting the bigger regular events and shows would enable people to plan without facing financial disaster if they had to be cancelled.


8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown


Sean Lock’s best of 8 Out of 10 Cats Do Countdown


8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown


Brew and Burgh


Govt must underwrite events


Last year’s New Zealand Agricultural Show was cancelled months before it was scheduled to happen.

. . . Agricultural Show president Chris Herbert explained the cancellation was necessary as preparing for a major event in November that “may or may not be able to proceed” could result in spending hundreds of thousands of dollars that may not be recouped. . .

It was one of many events that were cancelled last year owing to Covid-19 induced uncertainty.

This week’s lockdown has prompted more including Napier’s annual Art Deco festival.

Until there is a lot more certainty that cancellations are unlikely, event organisers will be very, very wary.

It’s not just the organisations holding events that miss out from events that don’t happen, it’s all the businesses that supply, service and support them and others like those in the hospitality and retail sector that would benefit from more visitors.

But organisers have to be prudent when so much money has to be spent before the events that wouldn’t be recouped if they had to be cancelled.

What’s needed is underwriting to cover the costs of planning and organising events if lockdowns lead to them being cancelled and it should come from the government.

I’m not suggesting public funds are thrown at anyone who wants to organise an event, but long-established ones like festivals and A&P shows should qualify for underwriting.

Without that insurance no-one can blame any organisation that decides that planning an event isn’t worth the risk when there’s so much uncertainty over whether it could go ahead.

Gliding On – No Smoke Without Fire


Glide Time, was the first New Zealand play I can remember seeing.

It went from stage to screen with a name change to Gliding On:

In an age before Rogernomics, well before The Office, there was the afternoon tea fund, Golden Kiwi, and four o’clock closing: welcome to the early 80s world of the New Zealand Public Service. Gliding On (1981 – 1985) was the first locally-made sitcom to become a bona-fide classic. Inspired by Roger Hall’s hit play Glide Time, the award-winning series satirised a paper-pushing working life familiar to many Kiwis. This episode features Beryl’s non-smoking campaign, Jim’s efforts to kick the habit, office sexual innuendo and a much-debated fire drill. “Morning Jim!”

Clicking on the link above will take you to the first episode.

Des O’Connor 12.1.32 – 14.11.20


English comedian, singer and television present Des O’Connor has died.

Des O’Connor once said that all he did was walk on to the stage, chat to the audience and sing a few songs.

It was a formula that made him one of Britain’s best-known stars, an old-fashioned showman who could turn his hand to almost anything – fronting his variety programme, hosting chat shows or presiding over the quiz Countdown.

An almost ever-present face on UK television, he held the record for more mainstream appearances on the small screen than any other performer.

O’Connor, who has died aged 88 after a fall at his home in Buckinghamshire, also carved out a successful career as a singer including four Top 10 hits and more than 30 albums.

Desmond Bernard O’Connor was born on 12 January 1932 in Stepney, East London, the son of a Jewish cleaner and an Irish dustman. He contracted rickets while he was a child which resulted in him having callipers on his legs until he was seven.

He was also badly injured in a car accident and spent some time in an iron lung which disrupted his primary school education.

During the war, the family moved to Northampton where he signed as a schoolboy player with Northampton Football Club although he only made the third team.

It was while working in a local shoe factory that he discovered a talent for making people laugh, once recalling his ability to reduce the firm’s typing school to giggles and to be the main source of entertainment on works outings.

His prowess as a performer came to the fore during his national service with the RAF, when his commanding officer insisted he take part in a talent show. . .



Take an Icelandic film, give it an Australian makeover and what do you get?  You get  Rams:

Kiwi actor Sam Neill is starring in an Aussie remake of an award-winning Icelandic film.

Despite being an Australian creation by way of Iceland, the synopsis for the film has a distinctly Kiwi flavour of the woolly variety.

“In remote Western Australia, two estranged brothers, Colin (Sam Neill) and Les (Michael Caton), are at war,” it reads.

“Raising separate flocks of sheep descended from their family’s prized bloodline, the two men work side by side yet are worlds apart. When Les’ prize ram is diagnosed with a rare and lethal illness, authorities order a purge of every sheep in the valley.

“While Colin attempts to stealthily outwit the powers that be, Les opts for angry defiance. But can the warring brothers set aside their differences and have a chance to reunite their family, save their herd, and bring their community back together?” . . 



Geoffrey Palmer OBE – 4.6.27 – 5.11.20


English actor Geoffrey Palmer OBE has died:

With his hangdog expression and lugubrious delivery, Geoffrey Palmer was one of the best-known actors of his generation.

He cut his teeth on the stage before launching a career as a character actor in a variety of roles in film and TV.

He was perhaps most famous for a series of TV sitcoms including Butterflies, The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin and As Time Goes By.

A reserved man, he usually remained out of the public gaze when not appearing on stage or screen, and rarely gave interviews. . . 


Dame Edna Everage on Parkinson




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