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What Now presenters old and new celebrate the show’s 25th anniversary in 2006 (Photo: Whitebait Media)
What Now presenters old and new celebrate the show’s 25th anniversary in 2006 (Photo: Whitebait Media)

Pop CultureApril 29, 2023

What Now’s greatest presenters: Where are they now? 

What Now presenters old and new celebrate the show’s 25th anniversary in 2006 (Photo: Whitebait Media)
What Now presenters old and new celebrate the show’s 25th anniversary in 2006 (Photo: Whitebait Media)

As the long-running kids TV show seeks a new host, Tara Ward remembers some of What Now’s most iconic presenters of the past four decades. 

What Now sits alongside Country Calendar and Shortland Street as one of New Zealand’s long-running and iconic TV shows – over the last 43 years, hundreds of thousands of New Zealand children (and adults) have woken up early on the weekend to enjoy What Now’s high-energy hijinks and chaotic creativity. It’s the series that welcomes both pop stars and prime ministers, that pulled off a live two hour broadcast during a level four lockdown, and the recent news that it’s looking for a new host made us think. Who are the most memorable stars of What Now, and where are they now?  

According to Wikipedia, the show has been home to over 40 presenters over the years, including a gorilla, a robot and a “Thingee”. As What Now seeks its next TV star – human or otherwise – let’s give ourselves a nostalgic drenching under memory’s gunge machine to find out what some of our beloved childhood heroes are up to today.  


The original What Now was appliance heavy (Screengrab: YouTube)

Steve Parr

Long before he slid into Sale of the Century, Steve Parr hosted What Now’s pre-recorded, one-hour Saturday show from 1983. It was peak moustache, with an epic theme song and segments with Alison Holst, Constable Keith and Sniff and a “feminine fitness freak, the delicious Diane”. Parr left in 1985, rising to quiz show glory and selling expensive computers for Noel Leeming. He now works in Queensland as a consultant for a house construction company. 

Michele Bracey, Danny Watson and Frank Flash hoon into 1986 (Screengrab: YouTube)

Danny Watson, Michelle Bracey, Frank Flash and Michèle A’Court

What Now hit its stride after 1985, growing into a live, two-hour Saturday show hosted by Danny Watson, Michelle Bracey, Frank Flash (a pink-suited comedic character played by Alastair Kincaid) and later Michèle A’Court. Kincaid popped up on What Now throughout the following years in various disguises and characters but by 2016 was working in the racing industry, while Watson built a radio career (most recently heard on Today FM, including this shocking moment where he talks about being dead for 45 minutes). 

Bracey went on to work as a successful TV director, while A’Court (who replaced Bracey in 1987) became a writer and comedy legend, and starred in The Spinoff’s award-winning On The Rag series. She recently became an officer for the New Zealand order of merit for her work in the entertainment and comedy industries, presumably partly for the stellar joke in this clip, which I used on every child I met this week to uproarious results. 

Simon, Michèle and Cath (Screenshot: YouTube)

Simon Barnett and Catherine McPherson 

For Kiwi kids of the early 1990s, Si and Cath were What Now’s finest team. From 1988 to 1992 they delivered a three-hour extravaganza every weekend with big jokes and big heart, often joined by fellow What Now legends A’Court, Stacey Daniels (Morrison) and Jason Gunn. Back in 1991, the show’s craft segment encouraged us to stick lollies into oranges with toothpicks, while 1992 gave us a festive reunion of all our What Now mates, past and present. The Saturday of Si and Cath’s final episode, I cried buckets.  

After leaving What Now, Barnett hosted Clash of the Codes (bring it back, we beg you), starred in Celebrity Treasure Island and dislocated his knee live on Dancing with the Stars NZ. He currently hosts an afternoon radio show on Newstalk ZB. As for McPherson, IMDB tells us she was last on our screens during the What Now 20th anniversary special in 2001. Where is she now? Definitely a mystery for Constable Keith and Sniff. 


Anthony, Fiona and Thingee (Photo: Whitebait Productions)

Anthony Samuels, Fiona Anderson and Thingee

We loved to fill our pants through the mid-1990s, as What Now heralded in a new era where puppets in skivvies were king. Fast forward to 2023 and the notorious portal to the past known as “LinkedIn” tells us Samuels is the “big cheese” at an Auckland water treatment company, while Anderson works as a change manager in Canterbury. After leaving What Now, Thingee appeared on Good Morning three times, but is best remembered for that tragic eye-popping incident.  

The gang’s all here (Photo: Supplied)

Anthony Samuels, Jason Fa’afoi, Shavaughn Ruakere, Carolyn Taylor and Props Boy

The final years of the millennium are viewed by many as the glory days of What Now, when madcap mayhem ruled our screens and one host could see through his hat. Gunge reigned supreme as What Now became WNTV and started screening on weekday afternoons, introducing exhausted school kids to blockbuster series This is Serial Stuff. These days, the five presenters are rumoured to be 25 years older than they were in 1998, and have reunited several times.

Photo: Shavaughn Ruakere Instagram

The 2000s

Totally normal everything’s fine (Photo: Whitebait Productions)

Tāmati Coffey, DJ Vinyl Richie, Charlie Panapa, Serena Cooper-Rongonui and Camilla the Gorilla 

The 2000s was a decade of many What Now hosts. Coffey, Panapa and Cooper-Rongonui guided us through the 2004-2007 era, joined by Vicki Lin, Tumehe Rongonui, Virginie Le Brun and Red the Robot. The biggest star of all was Camilla the Gorilla, the mischievous ape who arrived in 2006 and was later subject to a Fair Go investigation into whether she was indeed a gorilla. Jury’s still out on that one. 

Today, Coffey is a (soon-to-be-retired) second-term Labour list MP, Panapa lives in the UK (and made an unexpected cameo in the Meghan and Harry doco) and Cooper-Rongonui is a therapist. DJ Vinyl Richie is now a photographer and videographer, while Camilla the Gorilla retired in 2013 and was last seen losing her shit when she ran out of bananas. 

The 2010s

Gem, Adam and Ronnie (Photo: Whitebait Productions)

Gem Knight, Adam Percival and Ronnie Taulafo

A new decade saw a new hosting trio of Gem Knight, Adam Percival and Ronnie Taulafo. This “best of” montage suggests the show was now approximately 70% gunge and foam, but the delightfully frenetic chaos kept coming. Percival went on to host The Adam and Eve Show and is now a breakfast radio host alongside Lana Searle and Paul Ego (he also produced the famous What Now lockdown episode), while Knight works as a film producer. Taulafo stayed with the show until 2018, working alongside Chris Kirk and Bianca Seinafo, and is currently hosting The Feed on TVNZ2 every weekday. What now? What now indeed. 

What Now screens on Sundays on TVNZ 2 from 8.30am and streams on TVNZ+. 

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