When Tim Batt was working the sound of a live recording of The Male Gayz podcast, he had a sudden realisation: "Why didn't I put a camera in here? This is amazing; this is a show, right here."
That was the first seed of what is now The Male Gayz web series, an adaptation of the hit podcast featuring comedians Chris Parker and Eli Matthewson, produced by Batt's Little Empire podcast network.
The six-episode web series remains centred around what fans of the podcast will love ("Just two gays yackin' about whatever they like, no filter," says Matthewson) while broadening its scope with special guests and out-and-about segments. Made on a super-tight budget, Matthewson, Parker and Batt describe it as a fast-paced, humorous look into the personal, political and more hilarious aspects of what it means to be queer today.
With 25-minute episodes, Batt, Matthewson and Parker say they were interested in creating a more substantial web series in the age of bitsy, fast-paced internet content. Each episode rides on a singular theme, such as identity, faith, relationships or a sex segment known as the "Sealed Section".
"There'll be us playing games based on that theme, us talking to a guest, who we feel would be interesting talking about that theme, and then out-and-about," says Parker. "We do a drunk friends and family segment, which is us on K' Road at like 2am in the morning, talking to wasted people as they leave Family Bar, which is really fun."
As for the guests, the aim was to include as many different experiences as possible, with a roster that features Labour MP Louisa Wall, performer Mika Haka and rapper Randa. "We wanted as few gay white men as possible," says Matthewson, "given that we were already hogging the screen for most of the episode anyway."
"For people who maybe don't know the podcast, it's a great introduction into who we are, and to getting into gay pop culture a little bit," Parker continues. "And it's not just for the homos; this is content for anyone to digest."
Batt has high praise for Parker and Matthewson, who he says "did everything in a week", owing to the small budget and time constraints. But all three agree that the high-pressure environment helped them arrive at some of their best work.
"I think the best moments, especially when it's just me and Chris, are when we're discussing what happened, in like hour nine of the day," says Matthewson. "That makes us very honest. We shared things we've never shared."
Parker agrees. "It's really honest. Like, sharing stuff that I shudder to think about… But hopefully other people can relate to that because it just feels so like, 'are we allowed to say this?' I feel like once you start feeling that, you should be saying it." When I ask for specific examples, Parker offers something that Matthewson shares in the show that I literally cannot put in print.
But underneath the comedy of the show, Matthewson and Parker, who both also write for Jono and Ben, 7 Days and Funny Girls, discovered something more personally rewarding about The Male Gayz.
"Within [those shows] you're trying to write for a different kind of audience," says Parker. "So to finally have time for us to speak right down the camera to our audience, and not have to go, 'oh, we have to explain this term', or, 'oh, we should probably pull that back because they don't get that', and just be like, 'f*** it'… was just so liberating, and really exciting and fulfilling."
And in our current heteronormative television landscape, The Male Gayz aims to provide a breath of fresh air.
"Just by virtue of these guys coming out of New Zealand, you can't help but be a part of your context," says Batt. "There doesn't seem to be a ton of contemporary, fun beacons of queer content coming out of New Zealand where it's like this, which is like, here's us, it's a chat, and it's personal, and it's funny, and it's take it or leave it, rather than stuff being very serious."
Who: Chris Parker, Eli Matthewson and Tim Batt
What: The Male Gayz
When: Three episodes debuting July 1, airing weekly after that
Where: TVNZ On Demand