Twelve Questions: Dave Fane

Dave Fane is an actor, comedian and Flava breakfast radio host who was once head boy at St Paul’s College. An original member of the Naked Samoans group and writer for bro’Town, the father of three says he is sometimes his own worst enemy.

Flava DJ Dave Fane failed comedy at drama school. Photo / Chris Gorman
Flava DJ Dave Fane failed comedy at drama school. Photo / Chris Gorman

1. What's with the white beard?

I have always been a big fan of Santa Claus and his great teachings of kindness and breaking and entering.

2. What did you know of theatre growing up?

Absolutely nothing and I know just a teeny wee bit more now. We had an amazing teacher at school who took this group of badly behaved, honking Island boys to see Once on Chunuk Bair. I must have been about 13. We sat there going 'this is stink Miss. Can't we get out Miss?' and the show started and we all got carried away. When people went over the top we were in tears. When the cast came out for curtain call we shat our pants - we thought they had actually died!

3. What did your parents want for you?

What all parents want. For their sacrifices to be justified. We weren't Catholic - we were hardcore Methodists - but my parents wanted us to go to St Paul's College. My oldest brother was there, and the one older than me, but my father couldn't afford to send all three of us.

I remember being pulled out of class one day and we went trotting down to Seddon College (now Western Springs) to sign papers and my brother who was really bright was really despondent about it. Then about 5pm that night the principal from St Paul's turns up at our house and they did a deal so we could all attend. I love that school for that.

4. Describe your childhood home.

It was a Ponsonby villa back in the day. Happy, laughter-filled rooms, the smell of chop suey and taro on Sundays, first port of call for the extended family, lots of love and a smidge of tough love, all-enveloping hugs from my grandmother and a raucous party or two. My parents were masterful at hands-off parenting, guiding you towards places of safety but if you got too close to something that's going to hurt you that gentle hand flies out and hits you on the head. It's always been done out of love.

5. Were you a funny kid?

No, I was a surly child that just sat there and looked at people. That's what I was like in primary school. But at home there was always laughter around me and I'd laugh with my brothers and sister. I've never really been a comedian though. I failed comedy at drama school. That hurt. Still hurts to this day. The comedy tutor said I couldn't call a Formula One race as a blind person. I don't even remember that guy's name.

6. How did your parents feel when you became head boy at St Paul's?

The principal turned up at the house to tell us and they were so proud. Yeah, I was bright but I was also troublesome. I questioned authority. No, I won't tell you why I was expelled. I don't want my kids to know. My parents were shamed and upset but I hadn't given the school any other option. I understood that, even then. My parents wanted what all Pacific Island parents want - for their children to be doctors or lawyers or work in a bank, but if anything they just wanted better things for us than they could have achieved. I went to uni and studied languages - Russian for a girl called Phaedra who was just using me for her homework; Hebrew and Japanese cause I thought it was cool. English Lit. The acting just happened.

7. Was bro'Town an important show for New Zealand?

It became important because it was a signal that "look, hey, we can laugh at each other", much like how Billy T started. But for us it was just entertainment. We were animated satirists, movers and shakers as far as what we saw and lampooned. Man it was fun. I'm working with the Nakeds at the moment, putting some stuff together. I can't tell you what it is yet.

8. Your satire has got you into trouble too, such as when you were accused of saying racist and homophobic things at the 2010 Radio Roast. Were you treated badly, do you think?

No. But I'd prefer not to talk about that. I was dumb. Did I learn anything? Hell yeah. I learned a million and twenty things. You go "are you that person?". When I'm really down I always think "pick yourself up" and "are you that guy?". When clouds are darkest is when humour is the greatest. Am I sometimes my own worst enemy? Yeah, but isn't that true of everyone?

9. When have you been at your lowest?

When I had a stroke. I was 31. I had a hole in my heart apparently and it's jumped through the hole and gone up to the head and gone "kabang". Yeah, it changes your life. You're brain-damaged. I was sitting there knowing I couldn't bathe myself. I thought f*** it. You have to try and get better. [Wife] Bronwyn and I had a daughter then and one of the low points was when she came to see me. I couldn't look her in the eye, I felt so guilty. You don't want your kid to see you as a defeated person. But I had so many people who helped me. Bronwyn watched me in speech therapy with this English woman who I couldn't stand and she realised there was a big divide in how to teach speech to Pacific Islanders so she trained as a speech therapist. How's that for love?

10. What kind of dad are you?

I'm a dad that's a work in progress. At times I'm conflicted by my kids' ideals. With Bronwyn being Palagi I sometimes think "that's so unSamoan" of my kids'. My parents loved Bronwyn as soon as they met her. We only got married a few years ago. I had to be sure she was the right one and that's why I decided after the third child, yes, maybe she's the one I've been waiting for all my life and I happily married her.

11. You've been with Bronwyn since drama school: how do you make love endure?

You can't make love do anything, you have to remember to find it again every single day. Some days are easier than others.

12. What do you want to teach your children?

To respect themselves, trust that they will make mistakes but that they can rectify them. Laugh everyday, to keep an open mind, be a child 'til the age of 80 then grow up, to have empathy for what's around them, to fart and blame someone else, to be thankful for good friends and mindful of bad ones. Kindness. I guess I'd want them to be the extraordinary them that they can be.

Listen to David Fane each morning on Flava - check flava.co.nz for frequencies.

- NZ Herald

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