Comedian and actor Jason Hoyte talks about leaving Radio Hauraki and his fantasy of owning a country pub like his character in The Brokenwood Mysteries.
1 How would you describe the characters you create with Leigh Hart?
Our characters are always an exaggerated extension of ourselves. Comedy works best when you try and make it as real as possible. The more real it is, the funnier it is. If you're playing comedy, then you're not doing it right. When our fishing show Screaming Reels got sent to Australia, everyone thought it was real. The comments were hilarious; "What sort of bull**** show is this? They never even catch a fish - the losers". To me, that was a real compliment.
2 Did you ever plan your Radio Hauraki show Bhuja in advance?
Counting down 30 seconds until we went on air, it would be very common for us to say: "So what are we talking about?" Sometimes I'd actually start talking with no idea what was going to come out of my mouth. Other times I'd be talking with no idea what I was talking about. Then Leigh would jump in and I'd respond. Leigh's great with punchlines. I'm a rambler. I can tell a good story, but he'll end it with a bang. So it was 90 per cent off the cuff. When a Swedish company bought the rights to Late Night Big Breakfast, they asked us to send over the scripts but we've never had a script for anything.
3 Why did you leave radio?
I love radio - it's what I'm best at in most respects but I was starting to lose perspective. I wanted to step back and change things up in my life a bit. I still keep my hand in. I've done Hauraki's breakfast show three times this year. My fantasy is to have my own little radio studio overlooking the sea somewhere like Nelson or the Coromandel where I can do my own show from midnight till dawn.
4 You appeared in Wellington Paranormal as a boat captain with a hook for a hand. Was the character your own invention?
No, they came up with the character and the script but you're encouraged to improvise and take it where you want to go. They're a lot of fun to work with and that's how I enjoy working. I didn't see the episode, but from what I recall I spent most of it speaking about faeces.
5 Growing up in Rotorua, when did you discover comedy?
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I've always been a talker. I'd drive my dad crazy asking continuous questions until he'd end up yelling, "I don't know, Jason! I don't know!" You could say it was curiosity, but it annoyed the crap out of my father. I went to boarding school at Dilworth. That environment can be pretty brutal. I always found humour a way of defusing any potential stress, so I was very much the fool. I was in a group of friends with Brendhan Lovegrove that all ended up in the creative arts.
6 Are you religious?
I did go through a phase of wanting to be a priest when I was about 14. I even wore a crucifix for a while. I thought I looked good in a collar and I liked talking. That lasted for a year but then I came to my senses. I wouldn't class myself as religious now, but I am spiritual. I believe there are things greater than us, for sure.
7 How has fatherhood changed you?
I met my wife Caitlin doing a play together at the Basement. She already had a daughter and then we had three daughters together. Looking back, we don't know how we survived. We were both actors, we had literally no money. It was tough. But you find a way of getting through. We've been together 24 years now.
8 What do you know about love?
My dad gave me some really good advice. Most of the time he just shouted at me and told me to get my act together, but he did tell me to never stop wooing my wife and I think there's truth in that. There's always something more to learn. You change and grow together. Our three eldest daughters have left home, so we've reached a whole new chapter in our life. We want to travel and do that sort of stuff. It's exciting.
9 Any tips for parenting teenagers?
Give your kids space to make mistakes because that's the way we learn. You don't want your kids to go through difficulties and pain, but you've got to allow them to find their own way in the world. I've always been brutally honest to the point of embarrassment. I'd make them cringe because I'd cut straight to the chase and talk about things like boys - to their absolute horror. If you're blunt and you make it funny, it's less painful for them to actually talk to you about it.
10 When have you failed?
I've failed plenty of times and on many fronts. I used to give myself a really hard time, being a bit of a perfectionist. I'd berate myself. The dialogue going on in my head, I realise now, was overwhelming. The stories that I was telling myself about myself were so negative it became hard to operate. I understand now that failing is part of life. You don't always get it right. The important thing is to get up and try to do better next time. I give myself a break now and let go of things more.
11 Have you ever felt really down and how did you come through that?
I used to wake up every morning in a kind of despair. You could say it was mental illness in the sense that I would ask myself, "What's the point of it all?" Then I'd spend the rest of the day trying to prove to myself what the point was. Now I just enjoy the smaller moments in my life. I enjoy my family. I enjoy what I've been given. I look after myself way better now too.
12 You're about to appear in season six of Brokenwood Mysteries. How would you describe your character Ray?
He's your classic Kiwi bloke; the quintessential pub owner who enjoys interacting with people. Also a wheeler-dealer, always looking to make a buck. But underneath he's a good person. He cares about his family and his customers. When people go astray, he's not judgmental. He's fun to play. I'd quite like to have my own pub or cafe. It could be a side-line to my radio station by the sea. My daughter Scarlett, who is an uber chef, can do the food. My daughter Milly is a barista. My wife makes amazing cakes. I'll do front of house.
• The Brokenwood Mysteries series six premieres this Sunday, November 10, at 8.30pm on Prime TV.