GUEST BLOG: Bryan Bruce – RIP David McPhail

Very sad to hear of the passing of David McPhail today.
I had the privilege of working with him on several occasions and had the opportunity to appreciate both his comic and acting talent at first hand.
Such a professional – such a joy.
I interviewed David and his onscreen partner Jon Gadsby for my 1998 documentary Beyond A Joke which looked at the early days of comedy on New Zealand television.
You can find that interview by clicking on the link below. It is in part 2
RIP David


Bryan Bruce is one of NZs most respected documentary makers and public intellectuals who has tirelessly exposed NZs neoliberal economic settings as the main cause for social issues.


  1. I used to love the McPhail & Gadsby show, for once, Kiwis could see NZ characters & our own sense of humour portrayed on TV & laugh at ourselves rather than having to laugh at English or American Comedy stereotypes? The Billy T James Show was inspired by David McPhails show? David’s biting & unforgettable caricature as a sneering, crooked cheeked Rob Muldoon was a joy to behold & is a Kiwi legend for those who remember? RIP David & say hello to Muldoon, Lange & Billy T, for us, I’m sure you’ll be providing more bellyaching laughs for everyone in the Afterlife!

  2. Well done @ Bryan Bruce. I was waiting for someone to mention David McPhail.
    Among other things he did a very good pig muldoon. No disrespect to actual pigs.
    Is there any, even vague equivalent comedy duo on television at the moment like McPhail and Gadsby? Is there television?
    I can’t watch television because I don’t have a cat to kick or a cushion to throw. I was self held-captive in a Dr’s surgery recently for routine’s, bloods etc and to determine if I was in fact alive and I had to endure day time tv with frail strangers. I couldn’t rant and rave and howl in indignation. All I could do was gurgle dark things under my breath as I wondered if I dragged my chair over for a leg up, could I rip the flat screen off its hinges and throw it through a wall.
    The thing that concerned me, among many other things, is if tv is targeting its audience, as it does, then who, or what, the fuck is the audience!? Are there that many dumb people out there to make it profitable? As for the commercials!? Oh my God! I haven’t watched conventional television for more than ten years, possibly longer and never without a remote control and again, Oh My God! The insidious, insipid yap, the flickering mind-control editing, the banality of it. Jesus Christ!
    I read recently that ellen DeGeneres’s ‘show’ has bit the dust. It was the ‘show’ that was ‘showing’ at the Dr’s. Oh no? What took so long? That nasal twang garbage is gone! Aw nah?
    It didn’t take long for me to want to crawl to the receptionist to beg for euthanasia.
    McPhail and Gadsby was home grown and brilliant. And more than thirty years ago.

  3. Hi Bryan thank you for your post. I am just old enough to remember the brilliance of David and Jon Gadsby who captured the political scene in New Zealand when we were a different country.
    David was a national treasure and we will always owe him a debt of gratitude for his tenacity , brilliance , and creativity that i don’t think has been truly recognised.
    David rest in peace and you were bloody good !

    This from RNZ.

    ” McPhail said he did not get a good response from his superiors when he pitched an idea for a satirical comedy in New Zealand in 1977.

    “I was told there was no place for satire, New Zealanders didn’t really have a sense of humour, and besides we had no right to make fun of public figures “


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