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LNBB Appreciation Day: Jason Hoyte and Versimilitude

Late Night Big Breakfast has produced some of the funniest and most bizarre New Zealand television this year. The quality should come as no surprise given the talented team behind it. Leigh Hart and Jeremy Wells have already established themselves as television funny men of note with their past efforts. For my money though, the breakout star of Late Night Big Breakfast is Jason Hoyte.

rare xena appearance

also was on xena

Hoyte’s comedic roots trace back to legendary absurdist comedy duo Sugar and Spice. Winners of the 1998 Billy T Award and revered by the nations fanciers of weirdness, Sugar and Spice disbanded in 2001, but Hoyte continued to lurk around our entertainment industry, doing stints on various New Zealand shows, most notably some excellent work on Danny Mulheron’s Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby.

At some point in the mid-00s Hoyte joined the Moon TV team. Immediately adding his lusty baritone to some voice-over sequences, as well as taking a leadership role in Speedo Cop Division as Chief Inspector Reeves.

One of my favourite recurring Moon TV sketches followed a team of Doctors. What began as a fairly straight forward medical drama piss-take, evolved from season to season into some of New Zealand’s most bizarre and inspired television comedy. “Doctors” became “Sea Doctors”, where the medical melodrama took place almost exclusively on a Kelly Tarlton’s travelator, until they were shut down for running an after hours fish and chip shop. This revelation led them to rebranding as “Ice Doctors”, at which point they didn’t seem to have any patients and were simply a group of doctors dramatically managing an ice rink.

Enter Jason Hoyte as the flamboyantly dressed and ludicrously accented Ritt Parker, a wonky corporate villain who sold the ice rink and promptly bought a failing Indian restaurant (turning the team into “Naan Doctors”). At this point the segment had amassed a hilarious and absurdly named ensemble, including: Dr. Bojangles, Dr. Butterchiken and nurses Waverwee, Bernaise, and Rachel McKenna; and had become one of the all-time great New Zealand sketches.

Hoyte is particularly brilliant in these pieces, with his overblown delivery and moments of off-kilter physical comedy (I’m thinking of his ungainly ice-skating and voracious butter chicken consumption) as well as his continuity be damned eye-patch work. The Doctors segments were made all the more surreal by the fact that Jason Hoyte was simultaneously doing stints on Shortland Street as John Grainger, the slimy CEO of a dodgy pharmaceutical company.

In his work on the inaugural season of Late Night Big Breakfast, has deployed a number of comedic tricks. Occasionally unleashing random outbursts of an entirely inappropriate aggression- his “FUCK!” at the very notion of having to cook a quiche lorraine in a Masterchef parody segment was a series highlight. And joining the likes of Zach Galiafinakis and Schmidt from New Girl in the pantheon of top-level word mispronouncers. But for the most part, what I love so much about Hoyte’s performances are how realistic they are.

the lads

the lads

Jason Hoyte, in his work on Late Night Big Breakfast as well as Radio Hauraki’s equally inspired (and excellently named) Sports Bhuja, has discovered that the best way in which to satirise the already-cartoonish blather that makes up so much ‘magazine television’ and ‘hot-take radio’ is to simply hold up a mirror to it. Hoyte’s performances are so authentic, they’re barely parody at all. Hoyte delivers his infomercial segments with such a credible, buffoonish sincerity, that it’s not hard to imagine him moonlighting as a presenter on the real Good Morning.

His character is so convincing that any divergence into more surreal terrain is rendered all the more hilarious, be it through a violent outburst or by simply furrowing his brow, turning his head and issuing forth an impotent smile as though the format’s vapid emptiness has expanded to include the entirety of the presenter’s skull. It’s great stuff.

Late Night Big Breakfast feels to me like a star-turn for Jason Hoyte, and with his Sugar and Spice co-hort Jonny Brugh making all kinds of waves here and abroad in Taika Waititi’s latest effort, What We Do in the Shadows, it feels like we could be in the midst of a Sugar and Spice renaissance.

The final episode of Late Night Big Breakfast screens on TV One at 10.20pm tonight.

Watch the entire first season on TVNZ Ondemand.

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