There's something inherently funny about a slow news day in New Zealand. Just last week, David Farrier shared an article on his Twitter from the Greymouth Star, headlined: New laundry opens. That was it; that's the story.
It's something the hosts of new current affairs comedy Have You Been Paying Attention? have been relishing. The quiz show, based on a popular format from Australia, tests five comedians on their knowledge of the week in news – and quizmaster Hayley Sproull, who appeared on the Australian show recently, says New Zealand's definition of current events gives our version its own strong comedic voice.
"Being on the panel of the Australian one really highlighted how much news they have compared to New Zealand," she says. "Sometimes there are going to be some chill news weeks, and sometimes there are going to be topics that you don't want to make comedy about.
"Smaller country, smaller pool, but I think in itself that's already funny – making a big deal out of a small story."
"It'll have a Kiwi touch," says Vaughan Smith, who joins comic legend Urzila Carlson as one of HYBPA's weekly contestants. "The whole first block will be all about New Zealand, so it'll have much more of a New Zealand flavour, and New Zealand's filler news will certainly play a starring role, I'd imagine."
The weekly series operates as a "straight-up quiz show," says Sproull, "except, the five people playing the quiz are comedians, which is always going to render funny answers."
Smith and Carlson are permanent guests, while the remaining three spots will be filled by some of New Zealand's funniest talent.
"The whole thing is it's not about long meandering jokes – it's about playing the quiz, having a go at the answers, and some of them are going to be very silly and funny, but it's also a game," she says. "We ask about 100 questions in the record of each episode, and that's the thing that's amazing about this show – it's so quick. It's just; question, answer answer answer, correct answer, move on, next thing."
And for those that don't feel like they have time to read the news (not you, dear reader – thank you for being here) – HYBPA doubles as a rapid-fire breakdown of the week that was. "This could be your news," says Sproull. "With the number of questions we have, there are so many stories that we cover, that theoretically you could watch this show and get your news from it."
Sproull is confident Kiwis are going to love their take on the popular format; our trademark dry wit gives the show a "fresh, joyous" feel, she says.
"The jokes come thick and fast, and you're out of there before you know it, and I think people are going to really like that," she says. "I think it really suits a New Zealand style of comedy as well. Watching the dress rehearsal yesterday, we were all like, 'We're happy that it doesn't feel like we're trying to do an Australian show' – it feels like we've put this dry, naughty sense of humour into it that New Zealanders respond to well."
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Smith says he's trying to "relax" into his style as a contestant – and that Carlson is "a lot more competitive than she lets on".
"She said, 'Na I don't even worry about the points, it's nothing', but she's fierce. That was just some South African trickery, I think."
Sproull is excited by the dynamic between Smith and Carlson – but also for the rotating cast of new voices that Kiwis will meet on the show. "Urzila is the loudest, bolshiest, naughtiest comedian I know, and then Vaughan is just lightning quick; his response time is rapid with his jokes," she says. "And then there's me being the boss and wrangling those two with a rotating cast of three each week.
"It's so great bringing people in that are maybe a bit more unexpected than the people we see on TV all the time," she says. "I think this format lends itself to some other styles of comedy that other shows might not thrive in. I'm excited for New Zealanders to see some new fresh faces on TV, which is great, and about time."
HYBPA is just one time slot in which Sproull can be seen on screen currently; she also stars in Three's sitcom Golden Boy, and earlier this year hosted The Great Kiwi Bake Off with Madeleine Sami. The comedian/actress was excited to flex some different muscles with HYBPA, particularly in an authoritative role.
"In Bake Off and HYBPA, I'm very much just myself," she says. "Especially in HYBPA, I'm the quizmaster – which I love; 29 years old and in charge of a room full of people.
"With Bake Off I just learned to not put anything on; I'm just being myself and hoping that people enjoy watching that, and not trying too hard to play the role of host," she says. "But I think people will watch Golden Boy and watch HYBPA and probably not even realise it's the same person – maybe because I'm blond now. I find it quite comfortable, just hanging out in front of a camera."
What: Have You Been Paying Attention?
Who: Hayley Sproull, Vaughan Smith and Urzila Carlson
When: From next Wednesday, 7.30pm
Where: TVNZ 2 and TVNZ OnDemand