Comedian Guy Williams says his MCing of the Labour-Greens State of the Nation event was one of his best-ever gigs.
That may not be saying much, he admits. Speaking at a full house at the Mt Albert War Memorial Hall today, he conceded that his last appearance was "at the staff room at Burger King".
Williams, who appears on the Jono and Ben TV show, was invited to MC the event by the Greens.
"I think it went pretty well," he told the Herald. "Given I've based my career on things going wrong, it was probably one of the most successful things I've ever done."
In New Zealand we weirdly treat politics like it's some sort of taboo subject that only comes up for an awkward family dinner before an election, when really we should talk about it all the time and everyone should be engaged and interested.
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He jumped at the chance to host the event. After witnessing the poor youth turnout at the local government elections he said he was on a mission to get more people engaged in New Zealand politics.
"In New Zealand we weirdly treat politics like it's some sort of taboo subject that only comes up for an awkward family dinner before an election, when really we should talk about it all the time and everyone should be engaged and interested."
New Zealanders "jump on you" if you have "a couple of mild [political] opinions", he said.
But he wanted to be open about his left-wing beliefs rather than "pretend he was neutral". He has not felt any backlash yet from fans, he said, aside from "a few nutjobs on Twitter".
Williams joined the Labour Party in 2008 while studying political science at Victoria University. Former Labour Prime Minister David Lange was a big influence and "the reason I became a comedian", he said. He also dabbled in student politics, unsuccessfully running for head of the student body at Victoria University.
He is now a paid-up member of the Green Party, saying they "lined up" with his progressive values and his belief in "greater redistribution" by Government.
Having had a taste of a national politics, he is tentatively planning a daily politics-based web series in the lead-up to the election. An avid fan of the US satirical news show The Daily Show, Williams said political comedy was yet to take off here.
"I think comedy can make politics a lot more interesting than it is. I'm surprised more politicians don't use comedy to their advantage. Especially when you look at our rich history - David Lange, even Robert Muldoon was known to be quite funny."
But don't expect him to run for office. While he once dreamed of being a "lovable larrikin" holding court in the debating chamber, he is now more interested in political commentary.
"I kind of decided I would focus more on being an outsider rather than someone who has to make things better."
WHAT HE SAID
"There's a lot more people here than the last gig I did at the staff room at Burger King."
"Think of me as a slightly less embarrassing Mike Hosking."
"[My Dad]'s a National voter. And why not? What's there not to be proud of? We're the first country in the world to change our flag to the same flag."
"Hopefully John Key is watching. I often wonder what he must be feeling right now. 'At the end of the day, I've done a lot of great stuff. Changed the flag to the same flag. I was a pioneer in developing the three-way handshake'."