Alex Casey talks to Leigh Hart about the return of Late Night Big Breakfast, the finest morning TV parody show New Zealand has ever made.
Late Night Big Breakfast is set to return to TVNZ in 2020 after a five year hiatus, creator and comedian Leigh Hart has confirmed. Filmed in a fully-operational Target furniture store, the surreal parody show was last seen on broadcast television in 2014, when it aired at 10.20pm on TV1.
Many audiences members were confused, taking to Facebook to call it a “crap” and “garbage.”
“As bizarre as it has been – and it’s probably the strangest thing to appear in primetime on mainstream New Zealand TV since Back of the Y – it never strays too far from its source material,” wrote Duncan Greive in an obituary for the show. “It’s the best New Zealand TV show of the year, dense and strange and violently unpredictable. So, naturally, it hasn’t been renewed for a second season.”
Hart, who you will know as ‘That Guy’, the Hellers sausage guy, the Bhuja guy, or the Moon TV guy, says that now is the right time for Late Night Big Breakfast to return. Not because of the increasing madness of the world, or the chaotic state of television, or because everything is as stupid as the Sandwich Buddy – but just because he feels like it.
“This sort of show is unique and it’s not the sort of thing you can do week in week out,” says Hart, “it’s got to come at the right time.”
He and longtime comedy collaborator Jason Hoyte have been plotting their return to television since Screaming Reels in 2017, he says, but had their plans waylaid by their daily drive show Bhuja on Radio Hauraki. Hoyte left the show earlier this year, leaving fans concerned that the duo had gone their separate ways.
“When you’re in radio, you become quite complacent,” says Hart. “You feel so busy and you are doing a lot of things everyday, but then a couple of years pass and you realise you never made that TV show you were meaning to do.”
The Spinoff understands that filming on Late Night Big Breakfast begins at the start of November, with the show set to air in 2020 on TVNZ DUKE and in a late slot on TVNZ 2.
But wait, there’s more. Hart is also preparing to launch Moonflix, a free online streaming platform that will contain his rich back catalogue of comedy content from over the last 15 years. “It will have all of Moon TV, behind the scenes stuff, anything we want,” he says. “People are always asking for old stuff and you can only send out so many DVDs.”
It’s a decision that speaks to the business savvy which has informed much of Hart’s career. When TVNZ didn’t renew LNBB in 2015, for example, he took it to NZME’s online platform WatchMe instead.
“All our shows we’ve made in the past few years have been sponsored by the commercial market, and if it doesn’t make it to TV then you can always stick it online,” he says.
“I’ve always had that attitude – you just gotta be practical. If you can’t get the money from TVNZ or Three, then go out and get it yourself. Because, if your stuff is good enough to find an audience, then it’s good enough for a sponsor to benefit from.”
But with increasingly fragmented audiences, is Hart worried that his niche comedy won’t find the right people? “It’s exactly the same as when we first made Moon TV – people don’t get it… and then they really get it, says Hart. “You’ve got to just stick at it and let them come to you, rather than trying to pander and water it down.”
Local audiences are also diversifying and becoming more sophisticated in their comedy tastes, says Hart, largely thanks to services like Netflix and YouTube. “Half the stuff you see now in comedy probably wouldn’t have even worked ten or even five years ago, but audiences are now so much wiser and more familiar with different genres and styles.”
Rest assured, Late Night Big Breakfast will stay true to form in 2020. Although Jeremy Wells’ involvement has not been confirmed, Hart will be returning to the Target shop floor alongside Jason Hoyte, with the promise of more coverage out in the field. “We’ve got an eco-lodge up north where I am quite keen to teach Kiwis how to live better. Might do some hunting.
“It’s like a cake really,” says Hart, describing what doesn’t really sound like a cake, “you chuck in stuff as you go and then realise there’s too much of this and not enough of that.”
Hart also promises some familiar faces returning to the soft furnishings department. Mathai Johnson from early LNBB segments on Moon TV will be back for a cameo or two, as will Neil Finn, Joe Bennett and, he hopes, prime minister Jacinda Ardern. But she’s not even the top billing in Hart’s mind.
“For me, I’m most excited about Mike the Mongolian Throat Singer – someone like him can really cut through. No disrespect to Neil Finn or Jacinda.”
Regardless of who swings by the furniture store, Hart maintains that he and his co-hosts will remain the butt of the joke. “You won’t know what to expect from moment to moment, but the joke will always be on us as the hosts of an incompetent TV show that takes itself very seriously. It’s really just about having fun again, putting the fun back into television.
“It’s not rocket science, it’s just a TV show hosted from a furniture store.”
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