The Delta outbreak may have interrupted 7 Days' latest season, but the show's regular comedians hope lockdown won't impede their end-of-year tour.
The panel show's annual tour, 7 Days Live, is coming back for another year, with Jeremy Corbett, Dai Henwood and Paul Ego set to be joined by Justine Smith, Hayley Sproull and Ben Hurley in a 13-town tour starting late November.
It's a gig the show's cast looks forward to every year, but in the middle of a Covid-19 lockdown that has forced 7 Days to take a break in the middle of the season, Henwood and Smith are more eager than usual to get back on the road.
"I'm always so excited for the tour but imagine what it's like to have everything else fun taken away in the build-up to the thing that is the most fun you can have at work," Smith said via Zoom.
Henwood agreed, noting he is "quietly very excited" and is hoping the alert levels will be at a point by November 20 that shows will be able to go ahead.
"I keep getting contacted by people about when 7 Days is coming back to TV and if the show is touring. The appetite is definitely there so I think people will be ready for a laugh by the time the show rolls around."
The tour has become an annual tradition, with its end-of-year timeframe meaning that for many it becomes a "default Christmas party", according to Henwood.
Smith puts the live show's success down to the camaraderie the cast has. "We're such good mates and we love each other. We've got mad props and respect for each other's comedy.
"That's why we can give each other so much shit because the audience can tell there's a lot of love behind it. It's like stupid grown-up school camp."
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While the latest political news and international headlines will undoubtedly pop up during live shows, lockdown and Covid-19 will unavoidably be major topics of comedy – and the audiences are all for it.
"It's something we've collectively been through," Smith said. "I thought I had some pretty shit gags about lockdown but people went nuts for it because every single person in New Zealand can relate to it."
Henwood said while some comical stories have popped up during lockdown, much of the news for the last two months has been "grim".
"I'm just dying to get out there and talk about the light stories, to poke a bit of fun, and to give the news a spin that relates to people who have been sitting in their lounge room hours a day."
Comedy's ability to find the "point of commonality between people", as Henwood puts it, means the industry has had a role to play in helping the country recover from the stresses of lockdown.
A recent opinion piece on Newstalk ZB around funding for the creative sector during Covid-19 has sparked criticism from the arts community. While Henwood said while he agrees health and education need more funding, that shouldn't come at the sacrifice of the arts and comedy.
His lockdown sketch show, Dai's House Party, received funding from NZ on Air as part of an emergency package to make shows during the March 2020 lockdown, and Henwood said the feedback was "amazing" and showed the benefit of taxpayer funding in the sector.
"Having some entertainment that was local, about what everyone was going through in this moment rather than binging material on Netflix ... it bounded the community more."
Both he and Smith agree that the arts tends to be picked on during times like this, rather than the criticism being turned on other industries that have significantly higher taxpayer investment.
"Comedy brings something so important to people's mental health," Henwood said. "The arts are immeasurable. They are so crucial to society, yet you can't measure the benefit they have. The arts is just crucial to having a balanced society."
• The 7 Days Live tour begins in New Plymouth on November 20. Tickets go on sale on September 23. 7 Days returns to Three next week.