Andy Warhol was wrong.
In the future, everyone won't be famous for 15 minutes.
Instead, they'll have to endure encounters with complete strangers who will recognise, then embarrass them for something like a full half-hour. And always when they least expect it.
Jaquie Brown - who's been famous for playing the fool on local telly for at least 15 minutes - stumbled on this unfortunate truth of modern celebrity while lying on her back in, ahem, a gynaecologist's surgery a while back.
"He was, er, beavering away," she says, her eyes widening, "and he literally pops up and goes I know you from somewhere'. I'm like Oh, do you?' "Then he says Ummm, oh it's Jaquie Brown! Oh my God, you work in TV!' Down he goes again and then he pops his head back up. My kids love you. My sons ... wait until I tell them I met you today ..." Oh dear, oh dear. One is forced to agree when she recalls this as a "most beautifully awful, cringing scene"; it sounds like an outtake from I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here: Uncut; or the worst kind of anxiety dream. Which rather begs the question why she, and now I, would mention it all.
Well here's the thing. What might have remained an extremely private embarrassment is about to have a very public re-enactment, and - brace yourselves - it's going to take place in your living room in the very near future. Indeed, it will have pride of place as one of the first scenes in the very first episode of a new comedy called The Jaquie Brown Diaries, screening on TV3 from next Friday.
You might call this an act of bravery, if it weren't for the fact that making television comedy in New Zealand is, in itself, a feat of courage. However, the inclusion of this unedifying slice-of-Jaquie-life does rather point to what's going on in Brown's show: it is a local variation of the now well-established entertainment phenomena of exploring the nature of modern celebrity with a view to making us wet our pants with laughter.
Over the last decade Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Larry Sanders Show, Entourage and Extras have each mined the culture's obsession with celebrities, stirring it with satire and a dash of reality so that we civilians might be allowed a blackly comedic peek into the dark heart of fame.
Or something like that.
With its setting in the media and rollcall of schleb cameos, The Jaquie Brown Diaries also dips a toe in the pond of celebrity culture, albeit in the rather shallower, buy-it-at-The-Warehouse-and-blow-it-up-your-backyard version available here.
But none of this - not the parallels with overseas comedy classics, not the Nightmare on Gynaecologist Street, not even that she's made a New Zealand comedy - begin to explain how terribly bold Jaquie Brown is being in her latest venture. What's truly plucky is that her new show is precisely (and perhaps a little alarmingly) eponymous: she quit her job as a daffy "light relief" reporter on a TV current affairs show - Campbell Live - so she could play, well, a daffy "light relief" reporter in a comedy about daily TV current affairs show. In other words, she's starring as herself.
The real Jaquie Brown looks like she could do with a nice, long lie-down.
Seated on one of her Kingsland home's two chocolate leather couches, she has eyes with deep rings that even makeup can't hide. The six, non-stop weeks of filming the series ended in January. "Only now am I feeling like I'm a nice human being again," she says. She laughs, but it sounds a little tired too.
With filming completed, the final editing nearly so and an on-air date finally set by the network after some toing-and- froing, she is stuck in a purgatory of waiting and wondering.
"I am nervous. It's the biggest thing I've ever put my whole everything into. I'm probably 70 per cent nervous and the rest is hopeful confidence."
The Jaquie Brown Diaries is a step into the unknown, though that's hardly an unknown experience for Brown, who moved here from London at 15 and stayed in New Zealand alone when the rest of family returned to Britain when she was 18. She's been taking career risks too since she walked through the doors of bFM in the mid-1990s with no radio experience whatsoever, and then did the same thing with television a few years later, first as a music TV presenter on TV2 then C4 before growing up, well sort of, to be the "fun fairy" on Campbell Live.
In retrospect, one wonders about the wisdom of her stint at Live. During her two or so years with the show she was Barking Brown, the madcap reporter. There were stories about sex toy parties, her series on New Zealand clubs and societies, she let parrots walk all over her, sat in a bath full of chips, and she asked an old duck at the Wanganui Spoon Society, "Have you heard the term spooning?" Her work stretched from the insane to the inane.
Brown showed naivety too, when she fell into a honey trap set by Auckland public relations agency Pead PR in late 2006. In attempt to promote a new product, it promised a prize of an overseas trip to media types if they used the word "starkish" in stories. Brown inserted the word in a report (as did othermore experienced journalists such as Mark Sainsbury) and had to face questions from TV3 news boss Mark Jennings.
She did attempt a few "serious" stories on Live she says - "I don't think they went down well" - but really she was the show's Queen of Quirk, a crown nobody should wear for long.
Gerard Johnstone, who's both cowritten and directed The Jaquie Brown Diaries, suggests Brown, whose qualification is not journalism but a photography degree from Unitec, felt she didn't fit in at Campbell Live, a gig she quit last July.
Brown is somewhat circumspect when you put this to her.
"I loved working on Campbell Live ... [but] I think part of my fish-out-of-water feeling was the environment. I'd come from C4 where everything is colourful and it's music and everyone is swearing ...
In the news department I was surrounded by quite serious journalists all day, every day. I didn't feel I was as professional as everyone else, or as smart as everyone else and I would sit on my computer and send photos of cute animals to people just because it would give me a little joke." For her part, Campbell Live producer Carol Hirschfeld says she and host John Campbell were sad to see Brown leave.
"She was much adored. But I also knew that she absolutely needed to take another step." It just so happens that the next step looks rather like the Queen of Quirk, now abdicated, might be taking the piss out of her old mates.
The private Brown is a rather more serious creature than you might think.
Her home, a thoroughly modern abode, asserts she's a thoroughly modern madam, and one more interested in style than silliness. Even the frightening-looking exercycle - with big black handlebars that look like bull's horns - which sits between her living room's retro couches is a piece of cool design. Apparently it's been moved into the living area because she and her boyfriend Guy, an advertising creative, will marry next year and she obviously wants a bum that looks good in a wedding dress.
A flat-screen TV the size of a window is the living area's focus, sitting above surprisingly ancient-looking video and DVD players. There's an modern open-plan kitchen, a small dining table, and little contemporary artworks dotted around, including one by artist Yvonne Todd, a bizarre photograph of a cat with pixillated face. Yet her home's most prominent feature is its seclusion. Set slightly back from the road, you'd hardly know it was there.
It was in this almost complete privacy that the idea for The Jaquie Brown Diaries first took shape last March over drinks with friends director Gerard Johnstone and producer Hayley Cunningham. "We all had a burning desire to make television that we felt really passionate about," Brown says. "So we got together one night and had a glass of a wine and started talking ... about funny things that had happened to me during the week." "It was like she was a fish out of water a little bit at Campbell Live," says Johnstone, who first met Brown when C4 was still TV4. "I thought that could be really funny.
We thought it could be a little bit Curb Your Enthusiasm, a little bit like [1990s Australian satire of current affairs TV] Frontline." Cunningham says the trio awoke next morning thinking "through our hangovers that it still seemed like a good idea, which sometimes doesn't happen". Brown then pitched TV3 by email, before New Zealand on Air stumped up around $645,000 (the total budget was a paltry $660,000) and suddenly they were making something none of them had any experience in: television comedy.
Kelly Martin, TV3's director of programming, says she like the idea of putting Johnstone (who had earlier made a pilot for TV3 which wasn't picked up) together with Brown despite their inexperience in comedy. "I'm sitting here saying show me what you've got' ... I think it's good if we can get new people involved in comedy and drama." Johnstone co-opted yet another newbie, playwright and former PR hackette Jodie Molloy - "she's got a filthy mind and some funny stories" - and the pair set about writing six, half-hour episodes, fast. Meanwhile Brown began her fretting.
Immediately. The key question - could she act? Then of course there was ever-so-slightly delicate issue of how her Campbell Live colleagues would react.
"We brought [Campbell and Hirschfeld] over here to my place," says Brown, "had some wine and cheese and just talked about what we were doing and our concerns that people would draw parallels, that they would say hey that's John Campbell you're taking the piss out of' which is not the case at all. Carol and John are so wonderful. They really, really are. John was like look I've been in this industry long enough now, I know how it works'."
There can be few more painful experiences than watching TV being made. Less than a month before their show hits our screens, the cast and crew of The Jaquie Brown Diaries holed up in an editing suite in Epsom for an evening and, though they had just one scene to film, it would take five long hours to complete. Inside the stifling suite (the air-conditioning was shut off due to noise), Johnstone was directing Brown and comedian Mike Loder (who plays Darren, the grumpy editor), explaining how he wanted each line delivered. A 30- second exchange is played out again and again, with Brown and Loder trying subtle shifts in dialogue, timing and movement.
Inevitably, Johnstone said "Cut. Great. I just want to do one more ..." After an hour and God-knows-how-many takes, it felt a bit like waiting for a bus while someone tells you the same joke over and over again. Brown clearly grew frustrated by the time it was taking to get it right. The sound guy, Fred Enholmer, reckoned she might be about to lose it and bolt outside for few deep breaths. "It's happened before," he said, smirking.
Seated in the editing booth dressed in an outrageous pink, faux velvet tracksuit, Brown fidgeted and pulled faces between takes. She told me a little later it was like learning to act all over again. Time was short and "You don't want to f*** it up." Watching Brown act revealed just how hard she's worked to not to f*** it up. She was very focused and rather stern. Brown playing Brown for laughs is a long way from the genuinely charming if restive girl I'd met at her home.
The shoot also unmasks the other Jaquie Brown, the comedy character. She's far ruder, moodier and scattier than the real Brown. "She's totally flawed, she's insecure, she's overambitious," Johnstone says.
"She's an idiot." The comedy's set-up - for God's sake don't call it a "situation" - has Brown as a C-grade celebrity called Jaquie Brown who wants to raise her profile and stop a new, beautiful reporter Serita (played by Madeleine Sami) stealing her thunder and her job. The cast is filled out by Jonathan Brugh as the news anchor, Geeling Ng as the tough producer, Ryan Lampp as useless flatmate Tom and Hannah Banks as publicist Kim Sharee.
There are also a multitude of local cameos including Helen Clark, Anika Moa, Mark Sainsbury and Jackie Clarke, for whom Brown is often mistaken. In one very funny scene shown to Canvas, Clarke and Brown end up in full-on fight using, in a stroke of genius, cocktail food as weapons.
However, the plan to have cameos from overseas celebrities didn't, due to the very tight budget, pan out, except in the case of a chap called Vanilla Ice. Unfortunately the scene starring the American rapper, which was shot against a green screen in Florida, probably won't make it to the final cut.
"This Florida crew who filmed it were characters," Johnstone says. "I think they were illegal immigrants. It came back and it was a little bit out of focus ..." However, the cameos are window-dressing.
The star of the show is Brown.
And, as the weeks have ticked towards the premiere, she has been doing it hard.
Nerves. Brown is a bundle of them. Can she act? Can she act? Well on the first day, she didn't even know where to stand.
"I didn't know what to do! I think each of us had some sort of breakdown because of the absolutely overwhelming work on our shoulders. So I'm arriving on set and I've never done anything like this before and there's a clapper-loader saying take one' and there are two cameras and all these crew, and I'm sitting there going aargh!' You've just got to suck it up and try to be confident." Yet every day of the six-week shoot was a struggle, trying to remember lines, trying to remember how she was supposed to feel in each scene, trying to act naturally.
"I never felt like oh, I've conquered it'.
Every day was really intense. I got shingles down my left side because of the stress. We were all crazy. We'd have to take sleeping aids to get us to sleep because our brains were moving so fast and noisily every night that you couldn't just get into bed and relax. Words would go around and around in my head every night ..." Her performance hasn't been her only concern. The trio - Brown, Johnstone and Cunningham - formed their own company, Young, Gifted & Brown, to make the show and invested their own money.
Brown won't say how much - only that it was "enough" - but since leaving Campbell Live her income is much-reduced. She was paid only for the duration of the production, and has been supporting herself since with MC-ing work, advertising voice-overs, an inflight radio show for Air New Zealand and a weekly appearance on TV3's breakfast show Sunrise. "I'm lucky Guy is so supportive." Which is a given from your fiance.
It's winning public support which is the biggest test. And Brown, despite being a successful if minor TV star for nearly a decade, isn't taking that for granted.
"I'm nervous about the reaction from the public, my peers, reviewers ... people who matter - which I shouldn't care about. You shouldn't make television for what other people think, but unfortunately, if it's TV, you do need people to watch it for your future success." And, of course, for your future embarrassment at the hands of complete strangers.