A comedy series without a script? Sounds like a recipe for disaster. But powerhouse comedy couple Jackie van Beek and Jesse Griffin are hoping to prove it can be done with Educators.
The TVNZ OnDemand series, due to launch in May, coincides with the NZ International Comedy Festival.
The husband-and-wife team, who both have extensive comedy backgrounds, joined forces with best mate and fellow comedian Jonny Brugh, of What we do in the Shadows fame, to create the new show, which tells the story of a group of hopelessly inept teachers at a suburban high school.
The trio came up with the unscripted concept, giving the actors the opportunity to improvise with their own dialogue and gags — but they weren't convinced a network would go for the idea.
"Over the years we've done quite a few improvised comedy shows on stage, so it's not at all foreign to us as a concept," says Griffin.
"But it's not often done on screen in NZ, so when we suggested it to TVNZ and they immediately said, 'Go for it', we were stoked."
The group pulled together a who's who of comic actors from NZ and Australia for the series, including fellow 800 Words co-star Rick Donald.
"We spent heaps of time joking around with Rick and talking about comedy during 800 Words," says Griffin. "So, when we organised a proof of concept shoot for Educators back in 2017, it was a no-brainer to get Rick involved."
800 Words co-stars Renee Lyons and Paul Glover are also in the series. Griffin, 44, storylined and directed the series while Brugh, 48, and van Beek, 43, both have starring roles as the hapless principal and the school guidance counsellor. The series also features Cohen Holloway as a woodwork teacher, Kura Forrester as a drama teacher and Tom Sainsbury as a relief teacher. The core cast is rounded off by Yvette Parsons as the office lady.
A host of other stars will pop up during the series, including Madeleine Sami, Ana Scotney, Oscar Kightley, Joel Tobeck, Chris Parker, Byron Coll, Wesley Dowdell, Hayley Sproull and Karen O'Leary.
Griffin acknowledges the hardest part of the shoot was trying not to laugh out loud during filming.
"You don't know what's going to be said in a scene, so when really funny lines or curveball concepts emerge, it was impossible not to laugh."