Celebrating the many faces of Taika Waititi

Joseph Harper celebrates Taika Waititi’s ingenious early comedy gems on NZ On Screen.

There’s lots of cool pre-Waititi era Taika – when he was better known as Taika Cohen – on the internet. There are a couple of really lo-fi vids of him and Jemaine Clement as The Humourbeasts hosting some kind of talent quest in Queenstown.


There are a few really really terrific 48 Hour Film Festival shorts made by Waititi and future Eagle vs Shark star, Loren Horsley: The excellent deconstructionist Heinous Crime, and the proper nutso Falling Leaves.

NZ On Screen houses this episode of artsy gabfest The Living Room where he looks great in a ponytail and does many funny takes to camera while celebrating/deriding his own success:

It was shot just after Waititi’s breakthrough short film, Two Cars One Night, took out the Best Drama award at the Aspen Film Festival and set in motion his journey to doing a crack-up gag at the Oscars, where he was nominated for Best Live Action Short Film. Which ultimately lead him to the helm of a fricken’ Marvel superhero movie!?!

It’s pretty buzzy and cool to see him faff around at Bats, or wearing in his trademark ‘funny teeth’, totally unaware that he’s on the verge of breaking into super success. Also I really like his ski jacket.


My favourite Taika clip of all time, though, is a 2003 episode of the late, great Pulp Comedy where we get to see Taika doing standup.

There’s plenty of olde timey New Zealand standup on NZ on Screen (including this one with #rare Jo Randerson standup footage and nowadays 7 Days bigwig Jon Bridges looking like he’s got a big wig on). The Pulp Comedy ones are the slickest, but Taika’s bit is definitely the least slick. Apart from the inside of his fake teeth, which is probably suuuuper slick.


It’s a classic vid. You’ve got the entrée of Brendhan Lovegrove looking great and doing some (assumedly) very timely deep-vein thrombosis material. Then you’ve got Taika shambling out and launching confuse rays in all directions. He even manages to make a particularly annoying ‘funny guy’ crowd member, somehow work.

I love everything about it. I love the wig. I love the teeth. I love the air of extreme unpreparedness. It’s brilliantly weird. A bit of touch-and-go crowd work followed by a very long deconstruction of the world’s most hack joke – “I just flew in… and boy are my arms tired” – and, finally, his immortal egg bit.

It’s the kind of thing that’s best not to think too much about. Just enjoy this glimpse of one of New Zealand’s best artists, back when he spent 100% of his days wearing funny fake teeth.

The Spinoff is made possible by the generous support of the following organisations.
Please help us by supporting them.