Jonah from Tonga taken off Maori Television

White comedian Chris Lilley dons a wig and dark makeup to play Tongan Jonah Takalua.

White comedian Chris Lilley dons a wig and dark makeup to play Tongan Jonah Takalua.

It's taken Maori Television's full board to yank Jonah from Tonga from its schedule.

The spin-off mockumentary show follows white comedian Chris Lilley as he plays 14-year-old Tongan boy Jonah Takalua. 

Lilley, an Australian, insists the show was provocative satire rather than racist comedy.


New Zealand's Māori Television will screen a controversial comedy series that has provoked criticism from Tongans living in the United States.

The Aussie comic dons a wig and dark makeup to play Jonah.

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That and his depiction of the delinquent, dimwitted Tongan teen drew flak for the negative stereotypes about Pacific people it re-enforced and perpetuated.

Originally a character from Lilley's hit Summer Heights High college satire, in 2014 Lilley gave his Jonah character his own show on Australian TV.

But Jonah from Tonga lasted one episode on Maori Television in New Zealand on Thursday night before Maori Television changed its mind.​

On Saturday, Maori Television's full board decided to replace the show with Te Taumata Kapahaka for next Thursday.

Board chairwoman Georgina te Heuheu said "the values of Maori Television include respecting all communities".

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"We are a Maori media outlet with our own standards, and a mandate to protect and promote the Maori language and culture,

"This means that as a leading indigenous broadcaster we have a responsibility to present all cultures with a degree of respect and aroha not least those of our Pacific whanaunga".

The Minister for Pacific Peoples, Alfred Ngaro, said Jonah from Tonga "perpetuates negative stereotypes of Pacific people," and "the fact it is pitched as comedy doesn't make that any more acceptable".

Kiwi comic James Nokise said Lilley's comic chops aren't strong enough to counter the show's underlying racism.

"One of the big problems, probably the fundamental mistake, is that [Jonah from Tonga's] satire and racial commentary - while strong - isn't strong enough to counter a white guy in black face being part of the joke".

 - Stuff


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