Temuera Morrison’s Happy Hour

Temuera Morrison’s Happy Hour

September 2 2014

Temurea Morrison knows what it's like to be in his famous uncle Howard's shoes. He was literally wearing them as he took centre stage to present new TV variety show Happy Hour to a live audience.

''Howard Morrison's son, Howard Jr, gave me his shoes after uncle died and I decided to wear them in his honour. While I was on the stage, I felt Uncle Howard's spirit was there with me. I found myself thinking of him and realising, this isn't easy. Perhaps I should have watched him a little closer.''

Happy Hour is a comedy show combining live variety performance, guest interviews, satire and sketches.

Shot in front of a live studio audience, the series is hosted by Temuera Morrison, Keisha Castle-Hughes and Thane Kirby. The Modern Maori Quartet (Francis Kora, Maaka Pohatu, James Tito and Matariki Whatarau) are the in-house band

The show is produced by Bailey Mackey, who was the man behind The Life and times of Temuera Morrison.

Mackey had been watching Morrison giving a talk to kids doing kapa haka in another of his TV programmes, The Kapa, and knew he'd found the right guy to present the variety show that was forming in his head.

''I was sent out there to give these young kids a motivational speech. I had them laughing and afterwards Bailey said 'I have a great idea for a show that just came to me when you were talking to the kids...' I wasn't paying much attention but I did think what planet is this guy on when he explained it.

''Then blow me down it all started to happen. Next minute we were all getting together and running through some ideas. Then we are singing and dancing and I realised this is actually going to happen. ''I found myself reading scripts about Dr Ropata back in Guatemala and I said 'this is absolutely ridiculous' and they said yes and we're going to film it and I said but how can we film something so ridiculous?' I thought, well, this must be comedy.''

Morrison has not done a lot of comedy. Serious drama has been his game. But comedy or drama, it still had to be taken seriously, he says.

''I learned that comedy is quite a serious business. You still have to go through the process, learn the dialogue, work with the other actors.''

Saying that, he had a lot of laughs filming the show.

Comedy may be a serious business but it's still pretty good fun, particularly when it came to appearing in the sketches.

''In one of the sketches I thought we were going to go to the jungles of Guatemala but due to budget constraints we had to film it in a tent in someone's back yard. The whole set up was quite hilarious.''

Morrison says while he is best known for serious roles like Jake ''The Muss' Heke in the unforgettable Once Were Warriors, he's always been quite a funny guy.

And he's had plenty of stage experience in his uncle's heyday. It was something of a family affair back then, he says.

Howard always use to us his family on stage, says Morrison.

''We would be called out to sing backing vocals for songs like How Great Thou Art. I really enjoyed being on stage with my uncle. It was magic.

''Kapa haka was my theatre and my stage experience as a kid was performing with cultural groups. I guess I had the ammunition sitting there, it was just a matter of bringing it out and tapping into those talents again.''

The variety show is a sure fire winner, Morrison reckons. It always has been, it's just been in a hiatus. With shows like New Zealand's Got Talent and The X-Factor, the genre is alive and kicking again.

Morrison grew up on the greats of New Zealand entertainment, the likes of Dalvanius Prime, John Rowles, Howard Morrison, Prince Tui Teka, Nash Chase.

''All these great singers and entertainers. A lot of Maori got into the music scene. They all got so big they got into the Sydney scene, some of them made it to Las Vegas. It was a golden era.''

Morrison co-presents Happy Hour with Oscar-nominated actress Keisha Castle-Hughes, whose husband, Jonathan Morrison (no relation) is a writer on the show.

Castle-Hughes is a real pro, he says.

''She has a lovely sparkle in her eye and is full of energy. She is very professional and a lot of fun.

''I'd love to act with her one some time. Maybe I could play her father. I seem to be playing everyone's father these days.''

Happy Hour 9.30pm, Saturday, TV One.

- Stuff