Irony has often been a bit of a struggle for Kiwis. We have a hard time making fun of ourselves. About the only thing more unbearable, is when other people make fun of us. That is simply not on.
It is likely the consequence of a number of factors. Our need for constant reassurance may be part of the cause.
There is also an overwhelming earnestness at work, seen in our attempts at ‘Uncomfortably Correct Pronunciation‘, which does not lend itself well racy banter.
Furthermore, the egalitarian, level playing-field nature of Kiwi society, where everybody deserves a fair go, makes it difficult to crack a joke at one’s own expense or, worse, at the expense of some less fortunate group or member of society (who, lets face it, are so often ripe for the comedy pickings), without at least one person rising to the rescue of a lengthy awkward silence with, “Ah, mate, now you can’t really say that.”
The result of all of which is, a history of some of the most cringe-inducing, morbidly unfunny stand-up comedy, writing, theatre sports, TV sketch shows and sitcoms* of all of the english speaking countries (McPhail & Gadsby)
However, there is hope. It is worth pointing out that this situation appears to be improving – and New Zealand may indeed have finally found it’s flat-voweled comedy voice. All we had to do was be ourselves. Typically, however, it took someone overseas to find it funny, before Kiwis started paying attention (Flight of the Conchords).
* Some argue that the reason there has historically been little or no quality, locally produced, television comedy, is because all the executive positions at TVNZ have, traditionally, been filled by c**ts. This argument also has merit.
** UPDATED July 18th 2009: In fact, so raw is the Kiwi sensitivity to comic mockery, that in March 2009, only a couple of months after this post was published, newspapers in New Zealand and Australia ran with a story about a swell of local criticism towards the good people at www.fushnchups.co.nz, a blog started by a couple of Australians living in NZ intended as an honest, but light hearted guide to life here as a trans-tasman import. At one point, it even prompted Professor Philippa Mein Smith, of the NZ Australia Connections Research Centre to call the site “Pathetically Rude”.
Fortunately there was also, by contrast, a significant number of comments from both sides of the Tasman agreeing that New Zealanders really need to take themselves a little less seriously.
However, perhaps the most embarrasing aspect of this whole fiasco, is that the author of Kiwianrama didn’t pick up on any of this juicy news until July, a good four months late.
What a tool.