Dai Henwood is a man of stock, stocky. His now familiar face and 5”5 frame are common to our television sets streaming in as they do every Friday night on 7Days. Henwood is a member of the “New Wave” of New Zealand comedy. He started out in Wellington before migrating to the big smoke and then overseas where he cut his teeth with the big boys in Melbourne, Edinburgh, Montreal and Tokyo. Having returned to these shores a few years ago, he is being kept busy by a number of interesting projects, acting included. But as he told me, he just needs to find time for that final episode of Entourage.
Are you finding that the Rugby World Cup is providing you with some good material for future shows?
Sort of, although the Rugby World Cup doesn’t really extend itself necessarily to perfect comedy and I suppose I don’t have much sports material in my shows. But hopefully, there’ll be some stuff that comes along when we start filming 7Days which starts this week, all the debacle about Auckland’s handling of the opening ceremony will come into question.
Out of interest, when do you start shooting for the show on Friday?
We shoot late on Thursday night, we shoot probably about two hours’ worth and then it gets edited down and run past the lawyers to make sure we haven’t done too many inflammatory spins about Rodney Hide.
Comedy was taken to a new level a few weeks ago when Wanna-Ben pranksta, Bryce Casey, donned a pilot’s uniform and tried to enter a restricted zone, thoughts on the actions of the three men?
Funnily enough, we were talking about that before I answered the phone. I found it quite intriguing; I’m in that RWC Special that they’re filming doing something far less controversial. But because I don’t know the full ins and outs of what they’re doing, I wonder what the punch line of the joke was. It is very high risk being that to get a conviction for breaking Aviation security doesn’t lend well for travelling overseas. I think it was perhaps misjudged. However, working in comedy I can definitely see they were sitting around thinking about an idea and it popped up.
It may have been an extension of the Eden Park prank perhaps?
Yeah, exactly. These days, anything around airports is soooo hardout that you’re on a hiding to nowhere really.
It’s almost that territory you shouldn’t go near…
Yeah, but hey, he still got comment from the Prime Minister on it so how often does that happen?
Speaking of MediaWorks comedy shows, how do you think Guy Williams is going on Jono’s New Show?
He’s my favourite part on it to be honest. I think he has really found his angle and in that show, he has some great segments. Even watching him live recently, he is on good form. From a personal point of view, I think I picked the right one. I backed the right horse.
Talking about comedy in New Zealand, the scene has changed quite dramatically in the last 5-10 years, what do you think the main catalyst has been for its rise?
I would say comedians travelling overseas because I know when I started out, it was very much run by what would be now the old score – Mike King, John Gilmore and that. But full credit to them because the audiences loved them. But then, the younger guys like myself and Ben Hurley and Rhys Darby, we all made a point of travelling and touring our festival shows overseas in Melbourne, Edinburgh. We all ended up living and working successfully in Britain for a while. So by doing that, you were always performing around people who were better than you which I think is something you should always do whether you be in sport or on the stage. If you are always working with people who you consider better than you, you are always trying to up your game every single gig. So we partied and toured with those people and then we came back, everyone was very keen on living in New Zealand because we all love it here, and I ended up working hard and touring every major and minor town in the country for four or five years. Then, we got TV opportunities and took the most of it. So the New Zealand public may think we are new comics, whereas we have really had six or eight years behind us before we got into the public eye.
How was it cutting your teeth in Melbourne and Edinburgh?
Good, hard. Which is something everyone needs to experience it’s not that you go on stage and everyone loves you and so forth, you go on stage and it is very hard and cutthroat. You have great gigs, but then you have appalling gigs. Maybe not so much as people are booing or anything, but you go out there and there are three people in the audience. The big thing about performing overseas is you discover whether you are actually going to continue doing it. You find out you have to have a thick skin and you have to work at it. Basically, performing overseas cements your will to do it or to give up. I stayed there and I suppose I enjoyed the challenge. I found I performed better under pressure.
You speak of Ben Hurley, Rhys Darby and yourself, was there quite a contingent of you who went over?
A lot of people still do it. I came through, like my first time in Edinburgh, I lived with the Flight of the Conchords guys and did that in Melbourne as well because we’re all from Wellington and knew each other that way. Then, everyone went their separate ways. So when I was over there, that was 2003, was when they really heated up. They stayed there and obviously have gone on to their amazing achievements. Then, Rhys ended up living over in Edinburgh and I went back and I ended up performing in Tokyo and random places like that. Everyone, no one dropped off, we just went our separate ways and now we are all bumping into each other again.
I’m curious, did you start out at The Classic like many others?
No, because I am from Wellington, I started out there. I did my first gig in Auckland in a University comedy competition but then I really cut my teeth down in Wellington. There was a monthly comedy night in a place called Bodega and what is now the San Francisco Bath House which was then called Indigo. I always set my sights on The Classic because it opened the same year I started. Once it opened, I went shit I gotta get up there because that is where the action is. I started performing there during the summer and then after three years in Wellington, I thought I better make the move up to Auckland.
What were you doing in Nelson last week?
In Nelson, I was filming a kid’s movie. I was filming a kid’s movie called Kiwi Flyer which is about the Nelson trolley derby. It was with Tandi Wright who was on Shortland Street and other things, and Vince Martin of Beaurepaires fame. So that was awesome for me because the best thing in life is diversifying so you are never bored of one thing and it was nice to do some acting. Because back in the day I used to be on Xena and The Tribe and all of that, all those classic New Zealand slash American shows. I really enjoy acting and I was playing a geeky school teacher so it was something completely different for me. Also I found out it never rains in Nelson which is bizarre.
So what is Vince Martin like I’m intrigued?
He is a jazz singer who lives in New York. He is quite the opposite of what you would think. You know the Beaurepaires guy is the Auzzie dude, but he hasn’t driven a car in fourteen years. We heard him bang out a couple of numbers and he certainly does have a good set of tonsils.
Well, he did a version of “New York, New York”, “Nelson, Nelson”. He was a lovely guy, because I grew up with those ads, they’ve been on for like 25 years. I would never have guessed when I seven-years old when I was watching those ads that I would be doing a Kid’s movie with Vince Martin in Nelson.
There is a nice symmetry to that isn’t there. Does he wear a toupée?
No, that’s all real. I thought that as well, but it’s all the real deal. He has been rocking that same hair do for a while.
In terms of interview shows, who you would most like to profile on – 60 minutes, Graham Norton, Parkinson or Jimmy Fallon?
Jimmy Fallon to be honest and Graham Norton; I try to catch as many clips of Jimmy’s as I can. I was just in the States for a bit and watching his show. I love his show mainly because I love The Roots, his house band
Favourite films are Point Break, Anchorman, Goodfellas, Pump up the Volume, Delirious – what’s your favourite line from one of these films?
Oo, that’s a tough one because you’ve got all different genres in there. Every line in Goodfellas is my favourite. But my favourite line would probably be, “You look mighty cute in them jeans” and anyone who knows that line knows exactly where it goes.
Who would you like to write your Autobiography – Michael Laws, Jeffrey Archer or Carol Hirschfeld?
There’s three people. Definitely not Michael Laws. I would say Carol Hirschfeld. Because I am quite concerned that that person have integrity, that is a crucial thing for any person and out of those three, she definitely has the most integrity.