As 7 Days celebrates 400 episodes, Alex Casey talks to the first ever kid to have their messed-up drawing analysed by a panel of comedians.
It is August, 2009. John Key is the prime minister, the biggest song in the country is ‘Sweet Dreams’ by Beyonce, and an eight-year-old Charlie Britzman is proudly presenting his artwork on brand new comedy show 7 Days. His pencil drawing features 10 stick figures, all in various states of distress, with a rugby goal post looming behind them. “Die” utters one. “Die” another repeats. Between them, a figure with crosses for eyes has already taken their instructions on board.
“Good thing I’m not in that fight”, a bystander stick figure observes. “Not yet”, another warns.
Back in the 7 Days studio, the audience erupts into hoots and applause. “Crikey”, says Paul Ego. Irene Pink points out that all the characters are naked apart from their huge shoes. Ben Hurley is more concerned, rightfully, with the character who is impaled by spikes. The scene is, as Charlie soon explains, an artistic recreation of the “big rugby punch up” between Kelston and Auckland Grammar. “That’s pretty much all that is happening and I hope you like it,” he shrugs.
Fourteen years and 400 episodes later, Britzman is returning to 7 Days studio tonight to relive his glory days as the child artist who launched a thousand haunted pics. Week after week since 2009, a different primary school kid has shared their cursed interpretation of a news event with the panel of comedians, who try their best to guess what the hell is going on. It never fails to shock, amuse and draw coos from the crowd, cementing it as one of the most enduring 7 Days segments of all time.
7 Days producer Rob Brown says ‘My Kid Could Draw That’ was the brainchild of Amanda Alison, creator of Mean Mums and one of the original 7 Days writers. “It’s our very own unique panel show game that isn’t done anywhere else in the world”, he says. “It’s very Kiwi, and makes it feel family too.” Highlights from over the years include the invasion of the rat bats, sportspeople struggling to align their heads with their bodies and the world’s happiest donut.
“It’s nice to share in a bit of Kiwi history, which I suppose it is, at least so I’ve been told”, Britzman laughs over the phone from the departure lounge at Melbourne Airport, Auckland-bound. “It feels a little bit like another lifetime, but I’m just really happy that the show has had such a good run and that I could be a part of it in some way.”
Now working as a stage lighting specialist in Melbourne and moonlighting as a DJ under the name DJ 42C, 23-year-old Britzman can still recall how the first ever ‘My Kid Could Draw That’ came to be. He was at Waitakere Primary School when one of the Deans came into class and interrupted the lesson with an “exciting” activity. “I remember we were all told to do a drawing”, says Charlie. “We were given a variety of different headlines to choose from or, if we had any news headlines that we had noticed ourselves, there was a bit of creative freedom there.”
He can’t recall exactly why he would have settled on the brutal brawl involving 100 students that saw one knocked unconscious, but can take a guess. “My little band of brothers in primary school had been having some little confrontations out on the rugby field, so maybe it was a bit contemporaneous to our struggle as primary schoolers”, he laughs.
After he added the final touches to ‘Big Rugby Punch-Up’ (graphite on paper, 2009), it wasn’t long before young Charlie was approached by 7 Days producers to have a chat on camera. “I definitely remember being excited, but what I remember even more vividly was the resentment from my friends about being chosen for the role.” Looking back now with adult eyes, he says it is clear that the “violence and absurdity” of the work was undoubtedly it’s appeal.
Charlie got to stay up to watch his debut on 7 Days, and although “chuffed” with the cameo, did not play it up at school. “I didn’t want to gloat or draw any attention to myself, but I did think it was funny.” Rewatching the segment ahead of his return to 7 Days, he says it is clear why the idea has worked so well for so many years. “There’s that childlike innocence that comes through – from the mouth of babes and all that.”
Brown says everyone involved in 7 Days is feeling “really old” after Britzman’s return. “Charlie’s gone from a small kid to fully growing up and becoming a DJ man in Melbourne. And we’re still here banging out the show each week”, he says. “I guess we’ll come full circle soon and get his kid to draw.” As for the artworks themselves, many were returned back to parents but there’s still a “swag” of them floating about the 7 Days office. “Maybe we should do a gallery of them”, muses Brown. “Make some money and give it to the teachers.”
Unfortunately, Britzman says he has no idea what happened to ‘Big Rugby Punch-Up’ (2009, graphite on paper), the artwork that launched a 7 Days stalwart. Over a decade later and now a proper adult living in a country far away from heckling New Zealand comedians, he admits he does still pick up the pencil every now and again. “I’ve not improved very much, to be honest”, he says. “I’m still stuck in the stick figures phase.”
The 400th episode of 7 Days airs Thursday June 15 at 7.30pm on Three.