Only in it for the fame
Stand-up comedians Steve Wrigley and Ben Hurley visit Dunedin on Saturday night to film an episode of the upcoming World Famous television show. GAVIN BERTRAM reports.
After years of hard touring in New Zealand, Steve Wrigley was told he'd only become a comedian "to be famous".
Although he's now helming the Ben and Steve - World Famous television show, which visits Dunedin to film this weekend, Wrigley laughs at the irony.
"It couldn't be further from the truth," he said. "This is the last thing we ever expected. (When I started in comedy) we loved doing it but we were looking at living on two-minute noodles and playing in tiny pubs. There was no retirement plan."
Both Wrigley and co-star Ben Hurley's early comedy forays happened while they were studying in Wellington at the beginning of the 2000s.
Together they organised comedy nights and have maintained a working relationship since. They've been involved with the hugely successful 7 Days panel since it launched on TV3 in 2009.
World Famous grew out of that connection and a show in 2012's New Zealand Comedy Festival.
"The idea was that we'd just go out and talk to the crowd and see what kind of show came out of it," Wrigley said. "We threw a few other ideas into it to break up the pace, and our producer at TV3 saw it and thought we should make a TV show out of it."
The two have filmed World Famous shows in New Plymouth, Hamilton, and Palmerston North.
Each hour-long episode will reflect the uniqueness of the city it was filmed in.
Wrigley hopes the television show will have the same kind of unifying New Zealand quality that Top Town and It's in the Bag did when he was young.
"There was a real sense of New Zealand as a community and we wanted to bring back that back to New Zealand television," he said.
"Every little region is so different, but there's a real feeling of togetherness. We thought it's about time we took comedy out of Auckland."
Multiple microphones and cameras capture the inimitable audience interactions the duo have in each centre.
It's an innovative idea for a comedy show.
Wrigley said distilling each two-hour performance into an hour for television is difficult as there's so much quality material.
He considers the format to be the most exciting thing he's been involved in over the course of his comedy career.
"Kiwis love spontaneity," he said.
"I make Ben laugh and he makes me laugh, and often the crowd makes us laugh, and those are the moments I live for. The biggest laughs that you find will come from something a member of the audience has said."
Fast facts: Ben and Steve – World Famous in Dunedin, Regent Theatre, 8pm Saturday