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Josh Thomson’s life in TV (Image: Tina Tiller)
Josh Thomson’s life in TV (Image: Tina Tiller)

Pop CultureApril 20, 2024

‘The room went dead quiet’: Josh Thomson on his worst 7 Days moment

Josh Thomson’s life in TV (Image: Tina Tiller)
Josh Thomson’s life in TV (Image: Tina Tiller)

Josh Thomson on the 80s milk ad jingle he can’t stop singing, the beauty of The Simpsons, why Jersey Shore is as good as Shakespeare and more. 

For someone who spends a lot of time on our screens, popping up in everything from 7 Days to Taskmaster, Educators to Good Grief, Josh Thomson doesn’t have a lot of time to watch TV. “I’ve got two little kids and I’ve also got a bad habit of building stuff with my hands,” he says, explaining that his latest project is an intricate toadstool fairy cake for his daughter’s birthday. “I’m also morally obligated to watch stuff that my friends are in, which is really annoying.” 

Even while filming one of his latest TV projects, The Office Australia, Thomson kept his hands busy on set. “It was filmed in a real office and all our computers worked, but mine was the only computer that the cameras couldn’t really see,” he explains. “So I did about eight months worth of taxes and edited my wife’s web series. When the show comes out and you see me pulling out my ear pods and looking shocked, it’s because I’ve just been busted editing.” 

Funnily enough, it was in the edit suite where he started out on 7 Days. “I had helped edit the footage for the first few years and then one day I was like ‘oh, can I have a go’ and they were like ‘yeah, have a go’,” he laughs. Admitting to having “bad” stage fright, he remembers a lot of “terror and fear” in his early appearances. “The show starts and it’s quick and it’s all happening and it’s like you’re just watching a TV show, but it’s real life,” he says. 

“Often I’d freak out and panic and say something quite full on at the start,” he recalls. “I remember one time I said something really horrible, and the room went dead quiet apart from a small gasp off to the left. And then I looked over and saw Dai [Henwood] just shaking his head.” But as the years went on, Thomson says he figured out the secret to 7 Days success: “I stopped caring so much and I became a lot better.” 

Although he may have stopped sweating his own performance, Thomson is serious about the impact that 7 Days has had on comedy in Aotearoa. “There was a long time where we basically just settled for having sports stars being our comedians on TV,” he says, referring to the likes of SportsCafe and Game of Two Halves in the 2000s. “It was fine for sportspeople to tell a joke, but for a comedian to tell a joke it was like ‘don’t tell me what’s funny’.” 

When 7 Days came along, the country was introduced to weekly, topical comedy and a rotating cast of local comedians, without a rugby player in sight. “It was a format, it had a writing team, and it was based on the news so it became appointment viewing so you could talk about it the next day,” he says. “Now it’s become a place for young comics to aspire to be on. It really is an iconic comedy institution, and hopefully it keeps going a little bit longer.” 

Following his latest appearance on 7 Days, Thomson took The Spinoff through his own life in TV, including the milk ad jingle he can’t stop singing, the power of Mr Bean, and why Jersey Shore is as good as Shakespeare. 

My earliest television memory is… I think my first memory is watching Play School with Rawiri Paratene, who was also in What Becomes of the Broken Hearted. I remember he had a very intense scene in that movie, and I audibly screamed because it was the guy from Play School. 

Rawiri Paratene on Play School (Image: Youtube)

The show that I would rush home from school to watch is… When I was at school it was still OK to leave your children abandoned until five o’clock. So I would finish school, walk home through pig paddocks, and I’d get home with an hour and a half before any adults came home. Our first ever VHS tape was Star Wars, so I watched Star Wars every day after school for about two years. 

A TV moment that haunts me is… I often think about the Mr Bean episode where he meets the Queen. He gets so worked up about it that when he finally gets to meet her, he bows, headbutts her and knocks her out. I was watching it with my dad, and my dad stood up and started applauding because he was laughing so much. I realised that Rowan Atkinson had done a TV performance that was so funny that it made some psychopath in Timaru stand up in his own lounge and start applauding. It was just such an interesting interaction between an appliance and a human. 

My earliest television crush was… Probably Suzy Aiken. Or Lana Coc-Kroft. Or Angela Bloomfield.

The NZ TV ad I can’t stop thinking about is… There was an ad for flavoured milk that might have only been in the South Island called FM. FM stands for Flavoured Milk, which is a great name for a product that is flavoured milk. They had a really 80s ad that would say all the flavours and it would be like ‘chocolate… strawberry… bana-na-na-na-na-naaa”. I always used to run around my house, poking my head through doorways, singing “bana-na-na-na-na-naaa”. 

My TV guilty pleasure is… Jersey Shore. I turned my nose up at that sort of programming for a long time, but then I watched it with my flat, and it was really good. I watched so much of it that I started making links with Shakespeare in my head. I stood up one time and yelled “oh my god, The Situation [Jersey Shore] is Iago [Othello]”. It seems so low brow, but really it’s these universal stories of humanity. Also, I don’t know how Pauly D gets his hair to stay up. 

My favourite TV Moment is… When Timaru won Top Town, I lost my mind. I think until very, very recently, there was a Timaru Top Town Milk Bar, still holding onto the legacy of that one television moment for over 30 years. 

My favourite TV character of all time is… It’s a three way tie between Homer Simpson, Tyrion Lannister and David Brent. Tyrion is just so well-written, and the actor is incredible. Homer is a huge part of my childhood, and also The Simpsons just has so many beautiful moments that will make me bawl. There’s that one episode where Homer finds his mum who abandoned him, and then he gets abandoned again. The final shot is him just sitting on a car, looking up at the stars, and it’s so beautiful. 

Homer and the night sky

And as for David Brent, well The Office just hit me so hard. It changed everything – everything suddenly felt upside down, mockumentary felt dead because why would you bother (ironically I did go on to make a mockumentary called A Night At The Classic), and it just altered so much for me. For years I told myself “don’t touch your tie” when I was acting, even if I wasn’t wearing a tie. I’d be so wary of anyone doing any Brentisms or anything like that. It was just incredible. 

The most stylish person on television is… Luciane Buchanan is an actress who was in The New Legends of Monkey with me, but she’s also in The Night Agent. She’s very cool looking all the time, it’s very annoying. I also find Jeremy Wells looks really stylish in everything he wears. That might just be more to do with being incredibly handsome. 

The funniest TV show of all time is… I really, really love Seinfeld. I used to love a lot of Kramer, and his physical comedy, but Costanza’s meltdowns and outbursts crack me up so much. I do a lot of Costanza-ing myself now. I find it really funny when people get very angry about pathetic, small things. People having an argument in a car that I’m in? That’s my favourite thing in the world. I filmed a show in Australia called Young Rock during Covid, so had two weeks of quarantine there and back, and a huge part of my daily routine was watching Seinfeld. 

My favourite Taskmaster NZ task was… There was one that involved an air horn, where I tried to scare Paul. I did something with a bunch of rope and pulleys, so when Paul would open the door I would blast the airhorn. I was really stoked when it worked, but then I couldn’t get back into the room without making the horn blow. I remember finding that pretty embarrassing and funny at the same time, and then they put the whole thing in the edit and I enjoyed watching it back quite a bit. 

Ray O’Leary and Josh Thomson on Taskmaster NZ

My favourite TV project I’ve ever been involved in is… Taskmaster NZ is the most fun I’ve had as a performer in terms of non-scripted stuff. When it comes to scripted, it would probably be Good Grief, which was a comedy set in a funeral home. I had a lot of fun on that. 

The TV project I wish I could have been involved in is… I like comedy, but I really love a big budget prestige show. I loved The Last of Us so much. That episode with the gay couple was so stunning even though it didn’t have much to do with the central plot. If I had written something like that, I think I would have just walked into the sea. To take this pulpy, pop genre and totally reinvigorate it was amazing, it just felt so considered and so well done. 

My most controversial TV opinion is… I’ve been thinking about this recently because they are making Spartacus again, and a lot of people I know have to be nude for it. Why are we still making horny TV? I get that we needed it in the 80s and 90s, when you could almost set your watch to a woman being nude within the first 12 minutes, but do we need that anymore with the internet? I just think it doesn’t have as much shock value or as much lustiness anymore. 

A show I will never watch, no matter how many people tell me I should is… I am contradicting myself here, but I don’t think I should ever watch Married at First Sight. Because once I start, I know I’ll have to watch all of it. 

The last thing I watched on television was… Shōgun on Disney+. It’s so good and so meticulously crafted, I’m really enjoying it. 

Watch 7 Days 7.30pm Thursdays on Three, or here on ThreeNow

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