Dai Henwood is hunting three All Blacks. He's sneaking around Auckland's Pullman Hotel, chasing them up and down lifts and using covert methods to gain access to their hotel room.
Eventually he finds them: Ali Williams, Tony Woodcock and Ben Smith. Although the situation is not what Henwood had envisaged.
This comedian-All Black pairing is part of a skit for TV3's Red Nose Day: Comedy for Cure Kids. On Friday "pretty much every New Zealand person who's ever been on television", says Henwood, is helping to raise funds and awareness for the children's charity.
A seasoned veteran when it comes to hobnobbing with celebrities, and a cog in New Zealand's fame machine himself, Henwood was nervous for his first time working with the All Blacks. "I've filmed with a lot of famous people over the years, interviewing people like Russell Brand and P Diddy and so forth, but for some reason I've got more butterflies around the All Blacks," he says. "You don't want to look like a dick and you want to make sure that what you're saying is funny and, to be honest, I was on a bit of a buzz after that because they were all laughing at what we were shooting."
Meanwhile, back at the Pullman, the All Blacks are zipping through their scenes like professionals. They listen as scriptwriter and comedian Jesse Griffin and director Jon Wild run them through the shoot. Everything is going smoothly except for a misbehaving lift. Williams, Woodcock and Smith step inside for a scene and the doors start to close as someone calls the lift to level two. "Cut, bring them back" - the lift is stopped just in time. If only that person knew the surprise that nearly awaited them.
Comedy for Cure Kids will have a strong live element to it, hosted by comedians Jeremy Corbett and Paul Ego. The Henwood-All Blacks caper will screen alongside other celebrity appearances, including a reunited Outrageous Fortune cast and reality TV faces. There's also a new Flight of the Conchords song, specifically written for Red Nose Day.
This will be mixed in with TV3's regular Friday night comedy lineup of 7 Days, Would I Lie to You? and Jono and Ben at 10.
"The best thing about it is [everyone has] been extremely willing to take the mickey out of themselves. No one's been precious and the whole idea behind this night is comedy and having a laugh to raise money for the kids."
Still back at the Pullman, the All Blacks are lighting tealight candles in their hotel room.
"Do you guys do yoga?" the director asks. They look at each other and shake their heads before sitting on yoga mats and assuming meditative poses. They wear All Blacks T-shirts and their burly legs are crossed in tight jeans. The director is pleased with their performances: "A bit of omming like that's good, Ali.'
Henwood attempts to break the sportsmen's composures. A mention of taking Ben Smith out for a scallop fritter is enough for giggles to ripple through the room. "Have you had a scallop fritter before?" laughs Williams. Henwood confesses the cuisine was an epiphany.
The first Red Nose Day held in New Zealand was in 1989. To date, Cure Kids has invested $29 million into child health research. It's an impressive figure but every donation counts when statistics say one in 30 children have a life- threatening illness or genetic malformation.
While filming for the comedy night, Henwood met some of the child ambassadors. "They're so strong but I couldn't comprehend what they've had to go through," he says. "I always feel like a kid on the inside so it's nice to help kids that are in a far worse state than I ever was."
Williams, Woodcock and Smith also have the privilege of meeting some of these brave little battlers. Richie, Frances, Cherokee and Jackson have arrived at the Pullman to film some snippets with the All Blacks. The children's faces light up as they enter the room and they're endearingly shy and excited at the same time. The All Blacks are encouraging and make the kids laugh while wearing their bobbly red noses. Afterwards it's hugs all round.
Henwood has some serious objectives for Friday night's comedy marathon.
"I hope that it raises awareness, that people have a bit of a laugh and they see a great comedy show but that it also may put Cure Kids . . . in people's minds so that they're thinking about it a bit more day to day [rather] than just every now and again when they see a person wearing a silly red nose."
Red Nose Day: Comedy for Cure Kids, Friday, from 7.30pm, TV3.
Cure Kids If you want to be at Auckland's Q Theatre for the live filming of Red Nose: Comedy for Cure Kids, visit trademe.co.nz and search "Cure Kids". The auction of two tickets, with proceeds going to the charity, closes tomorrow at 8pm. Last year $2.8 million - 100 per cent of donations from the general public - was invested in research. You can make a $3 donation by texting Cure to 933, or make a larger donation by phoning 0800 CUREKIDS (0800 2873 5437) or by visiting curekids.org.nz.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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