We talked about coffins and we talked about tea, and we mourned the latest demise of reggae legend, Lee “Scratch” Perry. The problem of dancing when cursed with two left ft was talked about. And we bonded over shared experiences of attempting to maintain semen samples heat, agreeing that, sure, below one’s arm is greatest.
On the road from his Auckland dwelling, comic, actor, tv host and unexpectedly zen dude Dai Henwood was in good spirits, although lockdown was taking its toll.
“I’ve to get off the telephone quickly and do a Zoom with one in every of my children,” he stated after we had talked for an hour, the dialog veering everywhere. “We’re presently home-schooling a 9-year-old and a 5-year-old. However spending extra time with my spouse is wonderful. A whole lot of the happiness I’ve now could be due to her.”
A number of of Henwood’s massive tv gigs have been on maintain. “I simply want we might get to some extent on this pandemic the place we might preserve filming. We solely filmed one 7 Days episode earlier than lockdown, and Dancing With The Stars was alleged to be gearing up now, too.”
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The previous has began up once more, with out dwell audiences. The latter has been shelved – for the second 12 months in a row.
Henwood is grateful to be in such excessive demand. Like most comedians, he went by way of some bleak durations whereas attempting to hone his craft in entrance of detached crowds.
“Mate, you needed to have quite a lot of self-belief within the early days. I began in 1997, and for the primary 10 years, comedy was not thought of cool in New Zealand, and there was no cash in it, both. There was hardly any comedy on tv, hardly any rise up, no massive native hits like Flight of the Conchords. You’d attempt to get gigs in pubs, they usually have been a blended bag.”
In some venues, they’d go away the tele blaring within the nook. Typically, the intercom from the pub kitchen would reduce in over the PA system: “Steak and chips for Gary. Gazza – steak and chips!”
One of many earliest gigs Henwood can keep in mind was on the Levin Cosmopolitan Membership.
“You’d come off stage and the locals would say, mate, what the hell are you doing? Brian’s the humorous man right here! They usually’d level at some workmate who all the time cracked them up after a number of pints. Or they’d be, like – we’ve had Fred Dagg and Billy T already, so we don’t want any extra comedy, particularly from a bizarre younger dude such as you!”
When you didn’t snort, you’d cry. Henwood has finished his justifiable share of that, too, however principally years in the past and much from dwelling.
After profitable the Billy T Comedy Award in 2002, his profession appeared to be gaining traction, so Henwood dug deep into his financial savings and headed abroad. He shudders as he remembers a run of depressingly under-attended reveals in Melbourne, then Edinburgh.
“I went to highschool with Bret McKenzie from Flight of the Conchords, so I shared a flat with Bret and Jemaine [Clement] in Edinburgh. The Conchords have been promoting out so many reveals they needed to ebook additional gigs. I performed to tiny crowds. A whole lot of them would bail part-way by way of.” One man solely got here alongside as a result of he had identified Henwood’s mum rising up in Taranaki. As soon as he’d informed the comic in regards to the household connection, he up and left as properly. “They weren’t good occasions. I used to be broke and depressed and ingesting quite a bit, and it was Bret who talked me down, in the long run. He was variety to me throughout a time after I actually wanted it. He satisfied me to maintain going.”
Henwood got here dwelling and rethought his fashion into one thing “extra Kiwi, extra private, and kinder”. A tv exec noticed him at a dwell gig and provided Henwood a job internet hosting early C4 sequence Insert Video Right here. He was on his approach.
“These early TV issues gave me again my confidence, and I simply began going from power to power. I’m very grateful issues have gone this manner, after some shaky durations alongside the way in which.”
Dafydd Morgan “Dai” Henwood, now 43, was born in Wellington. His late father Ray, a stage and tv actor of long-standing, got here right here in his 20s from Swansea in Wales, co-founding Wellington’s Circa Theatre alongside Dai’s mom Carolyn Henwood, the primary girl appointed district court docket decide within the capital.
Henwood studied theatre/movie and Japanese religions at Victoria College, earlier than profitable “Finest New Face” on TV2’s Pulp Comedy in 1999, the Billy T Award in 2002 and the Fred Award in 2007.
Early reveals revolved round utilizing a “comparatively dumb character to kick round massive concepts”. P-Funk Chainsaw was a scrawny skilled wrestler. John D’Bankteller was a rural clerk who cherished falconeering, however used a pigeon and a rubber dishwashing glove as a result of lack of falconeering provide retailers in Taranaki
“I discovered quite a bit, performing in character, however after I got here again from Edinburgh, I made a decision it was time to carry out as myself as an alternative. Let’s simply say that has labored out a complete lot higher.”
True. This hyper little hombre is all over the place as of late. When not fronting prime-time sport reveals, he’s showing in tv advertisements, internet hosting music awards, displaying up in a tux to entertain at company occasions.
“I’ve labored bloody onerous to get right here. However I’ve additionally been fortunate, typically, getting employed for one thing that actually fits me, like 7 Days. I imply, that present simply had its twelfth birthday! Nothing lasts that lengthy on tv right here, besides the information and Shortland Road. The key of 7 Days’ success is that it’s the right combo of acquainted and contemporary. You all the time have a number of of the identical faces alongside some new faces; the identical sport, however completely different tales. It in some way stays contemporary and in addition has the sensation of a favorite previous blanket.”
Tea and serenity
Henwood comes throughout as a unfastened, high-energy critter in a lot of his tv work, however on the telephone immediately, he’s calm, considerate, chilled as. It transpired that he spends a great chunk of his time at dwelling meditating, ingesting tea, dreaming of the quiet graciousness of Japan.
“I believe I’m naturally a quiet particular person, although I additionally love entertaining on stage. Booze helped me develop into extra of an extrovert at first, however then over 20 years it grew to become clear that booze was not actually serving me.”
Henwood began meditation 5 years in the past, whereas additionally tailing off on his ingesting. He gave up alcohol fully two years in the past.
“It felt like a crossroads. I might both go down a quieter path, or I’d preserve boozing and by no means learn how it would really feel to embrace a extra considerate facet of myself. Ultimately, the meditation facet gained out.”
It felt like a loop again to pursuits he’d had as a younger man, doing a double main at Victoria College.
“One facet was theatre and movie, and the opposite was Japanese faith. We discovered about Taoism and Buddhism and so forth, however I used to be significantly intrigued by psychedelic use inside faith, when witch docs would use psychedelics to take care of energy inside their tribes.”
Someplace alongside the way in which, Henwood went to Japan along with his father, who was in a travelling manufacturing of Phantom of the Opera at the moment.
“One of many different actors was a Buddhist who took me to a temple the place I did correct zazen meditation coaching. However then I grew to become a comic and bought on the grog. A whole lot of performers have points with booze or medicine as a result of we will’t reasonable ourselves very properly.
“Typically, that’s a constructive factor. I can have a type of electrical power typically; I don’t know what I’m gonna say subsequent till I say it, as a result of I’ve let go of the same old guidelines. But it surely’s simple to hold that over into your use of alcohol and medicines, as a result of they propel you into this unusual zone the place you are feeling just like the lifetime of the social gathering.”
Since stopping ingesting, he feels “stronger and extra grounded”. He will get up at 5 every morning and does 40 to 60 minutes of meditation.
“I’ve discovered some reality in that previous saying that you simply’re usually wisest whenever you’re not saying something. Additionally, at any time when life offers you a pointy little elbow within the ribs, meditation in some way takes the sting off. It’s a bit like how folks say micro-dosing works, with out having to attempt micro-dosing.”
One other abiding supply of enjoyment is tea. Henwood drinks it straight and black, and earlier than Covid he was planning to review for his “Tea Masters”, which entails block course tastings in Australia.
“It’s one thing like a wine sommelier, however with tea. You study the historical past, the flavours of various regional types, how one can steep it correctly, and so forth.” Henwood sings the praises of the Zealong plantation at Gordonton, which produces a few of the greatest natural tea on this planet on a former Waikato dairy farm that has changed cows with camellias.
“The hand pickers are out early within the morning in conventional garb, mate, sporting gloves with razor blades glued to them. They undergo these fields like Edward Scissorhands!”
Slightly salt and pepper
Though meditation, sobriety, household and positive tea have made him “happier than ever” as an individual, there’s additionally work to do. Henwood must be humorous, week in and week out, to earn a crust. The key equation? Actual life, plus seasoning, equals jokes.
“As a comic book, I discover the tales that work greatest are often primarily based on a real-life state of affairs, then you definately add some salt and pepper to spice up the flavour.”
Living proof: An notorious story Henwood informed his mate, actor Mike Minogue, on an Auckland radio station in July. Each males spoke about attempting to “harvest” a sperm pattern in public as a result of lack of a non-public room for the aim at their nearest lab.
Now, I’ve been in the same state of affairs myself, although in my case, I merely went to the mistaken lab, bought laughed at by the receptionist, then needed to drive at excessive pace throughout city to a unique lab earlier than the pattern, um… died.
Henwood, nevertheless, talked on air about utilizing the automobile wash at a petroleum station, after first timing the wash cycle and making certain there have been no cameras contained in the suds zone. He spoke of getting a servo steak-and-cheese pie first, a cheapskate’s “dinner and a present”, to get him within the temper. He gave far an excessive amount of element re: angles and trajectory and attempting to get the tiny specimen pottle in the appropriate place whereas partly bare and lined in flaky pastry.
“Did I embellish that story? In fact! I had been out to that lab after my vasectomy, and there was no non-public room, and that’s after I considered the automobile wash factor. However what I actually did was take the pattern at dwelling, such as you, then drive throughout city with the plastic specimen jar below my armpit to maintain it the appropriate temperature so the little guys didn’t die. However the automobile wash story is funnier, so I went with that.”
‘Being buried alive was a horrible expertise’
Such is the lifetime of the skilled comedian. Every part that occurs to you turns into harvestable, then the great bits want that little additional nudge.
One in all my favorite tales from Henwood’s deep duffle bag of “true” tales comes from his youth, when he was contemporary out of college, doing extra “fruity pageant sketch reveals” than stand-up.
This story is terrifying for claustrophobes like me. I get a chilly sweat simply occupied with it.
“Mate, I do know simply the story you imply!” he says, with a rubbery chuckle. “That was in Wellington. Bret McKenzie from the Conchords was in that present, truly. He had this wonderful flat in Mt Vic, with 4 very distinguished image home windows searching into the yard.”
Every night time, round 100 paying punters would sit in that yard, gazing up because the motion unfolded throughout these 4 home windows.
“The present began off with a mock funeral the place they introduced out a coffin and lowered it into this pre-dug gap six ft deep, then began throwing dust on prime. However that entire time, I used to be within the coffin!”
The coffin was rigged so it might open quietly, approach down within the gap. Henwood would emerge on the finish of the present, rising from the grave and freaking everyone out.
“But it surely was me who bought freaked out, actually, as a result of I needed to be down there for 40 minutes, and there’s no sound worse than dust falling on the lid of a coffin whilst you’re in it. It’s actually claustrophobic, and the within of a coffin will get actually chilly whenever you’re six ft below.”
Luckily, there have been tiny holes drilled into the lid of the coffin so Henwood might breathe.
“However earlier than we did the primary night time’s present, Bret sprayed some varnish on the coffin and blocked quite a lot of the holes. It hadn’t fairly dried after I hopped in…”
Actual life, plus seasoning, equals jokes.
“The fumes made me excessive as a kite, mate, together with an enormous build-up of carbon dioxide. I used to be respiration closely with the concern, and there was hardly any air, approach down there within the chilly and the darkish.”
The salt goes on. A grind of pepper. And we’re there.
“However leaping out of a grave, that’s actually one thing, proper? Being buried alive was a horrible expertise, mate. I wouldn’t advocate it to anyone. However the payoff on the finish made all of it worthwhile.”
7 Days screens Thursdays, 8.30pm on Three