Dinky Dai on the night

By Paula Newman

It's hard to get your head around the appeal of standing in front of a massive crowd and cracking jokes that could just as easily be met with vitriol as raucous laughter.

But it's Dai Henwood's bread and butter - and it's his tendency to lean much more towards hilarity than humiliation that makes him an obvious choice to host this Wednesday's 2008 Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards, screening live on C4.

That and the fact he's possibly the only television personality in the country who could open a prestigious ceremony with an interpretive dance routine - as he did at last year's awards - dressed in a blue leotard and fluffy tiger slippers and live to tell the story.

It's the second time around for the comedian, who is also the star of C4's Roll the Dai series, so he knows what he's got himself in for.

"It's a hard gig because it's an industry gig - there's all the musos there, and let's be honest a lot of them have already had a few wines before they get there," he laughs.

Then there's the thousands at home glued to their TV screens tuning in to catch all the live action from the biggest night in New Zealand music. Not to mention the thousands of screaming fans who will pack themselves into the mosh pit at this year's venue, Auckland's Vector Arena.

"Putting on a live show is the hardest thing to do because who do you cater for? It's difficult when you're the host to not focus on the people in the audience right in front of you because they're the immediate concern. But you've also got the people watching at home," Henwood explains.

Moving the show to Vector Arena is a good thing, he says. "It's going to be more like a rock show - more accessible and open to people," he adds.

It's Henwood's "She'll be right" Kiwi attitude, clearly evident in the latest series of Roll the Dai Outback, which saw him confronting crocs and downing Fosters in the Aussie bush, that has made him one of the country's most-loved personalities.

And the 10 years he's spent travelling the globe as a stand-up comedian mean he's well prepared.

"I think people realise it's on live TV; that I'm willing to take them on and that the guy with the mike often has the upper hand."

As he points out he's taken his comedy to some of the most far-

flung regions of New Zealand too, and if he can handle heat from the Manawatu, he can handle anything.

"I've just spent the weekend performing in Palmerston North," he laughs. "That's sorted me out for hecklers."

But there is one thing that's got Henwood a little anxious and that's the possibility of a political spat - known to rear their heads at events like this.

"Naturally artists are lefties, given right-wing governments aren't usually the first to crack out the arts funding, and having the music awards in the middle of a very heated election campaign - I'm hoping not too many drunken people get up on a high horse."

Still, as the pint-sized comedian says, he'll be the man with the mike and there's no better way to diffuse a stoush than to throw the attention elsewhere. But he'll pick his victims carefully.

"I'll probably take the mickey out of musicians I know personally, rather than someone like Savage, who might stand on me afterwards," he says with a laugh.

However, as Henwood rightly stresses, his main concern will be making sure the night runs as smoothly as it can because after all he's there to celebrate the best Kiwi music has to offer - a cause close to his heart.

"It is a serious show where we're rewarding the musos who have worked so hard. You know, they release these albums and people still get bugger all money for it. These are people putting in their heart and soul," he says.

* 2008 Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards screen on C4 this Wednesday at 8.30pm.

- Herald on Sunday

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