Entertainment | Comedy

‘Promise, I’m on the right show’: Reo Māori speaking comedian excited for NZ Comedy Festival debut

If you’re looking for a catchy name for your debut New Zealand International Comedy Festival show, award-winning Wellington comedian Hoani Hotene (Ngāti Hauā) has a pro tip.

“Oh, man, you get pretty nervous about making some of these show names. Honestly, Hoh’ Mamma Jamma, that is the name that I just gave my iPhone. You know how you can name your iPhone and everything,” the 29-year-old says.

“But the more time I’ve had with it, the more it feels like it fits me quite well. Partly because Hoani Hotene is Ho at the beginning, it’s ‘Hoho’. But also, I just like the Hoh’ Mamma Jamma. It makes me think like kung fu kick, like kind of random bursts of energy, a little bit of a wild sort of thing to it.

“It doesn’t have a deeper meaning. But I like the energy that it has. I feel like it suits me pretty well.”

It’s that sort of energy that has seen Hotene, in the four years that he’s been doing stand-up, collect the accolades of National Raw Comedy Quest winner in 2022 and Breakthrough Comedian for two years running, as well as Best Joke at the 2022 Wellington Comedy Awards.

‘Angry marshmallow’

In one comedy sketch, Hotene jokes about growing up as a Kura Kaupapa kid and having a fairer complexion than many of his schoolmates

“I didn’t really see myself as any different from the rest of the kids there until I realised they kept putting me at the back of the haka,” he says in the joke’s set-up.

“And I asked the teacher, ‘What’s the deal? I know the actions and I know all the words.’ And he goes, ‘Hoani, one of the things about the haka is it requires a little bit of intimidation. And you just look like an angry marshmallow.’

“Rough teachers man.”

Hoani Hotene jokes about looking like an ‘angry marshmallow’ at Kura Kaupapa. Source / YouTube

Hotene says Māori at his shows have been “unreal” - including in Australia, where he’s performed three years running at the Melbourne Comedy Festival.

“Last time around, we did this show called USO Funny, which was the first time they had a Māori and Pasifika line up there. It was pretty unreal.

“There’s a heap of Māori in Melbourne but the first USO Funny we did, there was a kapa haka group that was travelling around. I remember asking, ‘how many people in the audience are Māori?’ and there was a big cheer. And I was like, ‘man, this is this is probably way more than I’ve ever had in Wellington.’”

It’s “pretty mean” performing in front of Māori, he says.

“I’m like a very ginger, sort of a very pale-looking guy. I don’t know, it feels good. I’ve been around Māori my whole life.

“It’s funny for those Pacific-Māori line-up shows, pretty much every time I would get up I’d have to be like, ‘hey, I know you guys are thinking like, what is this guy up to? Like, I promise I’m on the right show’, he jokes.

“I think it’s pretty mean, I like it. I think I’m usually received pretty well by Māori audiences.”

@hoanithacomedian Hope y’all had a nice Waitangi Day - Toitū Te Tiriti #nzstandup #fyp #standup #waitangi ♬ original sound - hoanithecomedian

Celebrating Waitangi Day with a Hoani Hotene twist. Source / TikTok

‘Pākehā quite like it’

Hotene frequently scatters te reo Māori throughout his stand-up routines, with his SpongeBob Tarau Porowhā skit among his most popular.

Non-Māori enjoy the reo Māori, he says.

“I went to Kura Kaupapa when I was a kid, from age five to about 11. And my dad was speaking te reo Māori at home.

“It’s funny because I can understand te reo Māori quite well now, but it’s been quite a long time. So my sense of speaking it, I do use it in my show - but I wouldn’t ever, like I’m pretty far away from calling myself much of an expert in it.

“But I think Pākehā audiences quite like it because it’s kind of quite a fun thing when I’m using it. The most I use it is in a joke about SpongeBob so I don’t think it alienates people or anything - not that te reo Māori would do that. It’s quite a silly space, which is what comedy can do.

“I think quite a lot of Pākehā audiences are still exposed to a decent amount of Māori, you know. So it tends to go down fairly well.”

Almost 70,000 people have enjoyed Hoani Hotene’s SpongeBob Tarau Porowhā te reo Māori infused joke on TikTok. Source / TikTok

‘A nervous excited’

Hotene admits to feeling anxious in the lead-up to his opening show in Wellington on Tuesday and in Auckland the following week.

“I’m pretty nervous but I think it’s fun. An hour seems like a very long time when you haven’t done it before. But you know, I’ve been doing this for about four years so in some ways this will be kind of a collection of everything I’ve been doing.

“I’ve been trying to move tickets but now that it’s closer to the date and I can see that people are coming along, it’s quite a lot of fun. And friends are going to be there as well.

“So nervous excited, you know.”

Tickets for Hoani Hotene’s Hoh’ Mamma Jamma show at the New Zealand International Comedy Festival are available here.