Best of 2016: Why Anika threatened to castrate meSave
By Karl Puschmann
Anika Moa narrows her eyes and says, "I'll cut your balls off."
As if that wasn't menacing enough she then intensifies the threat.
"Then I'll eat them! Like Hannibal Lecter."
With that she makes those famously creepy slurping noises - thip-thip-thip-thip - before roaring with laughter.
"I won't! I won't!" she says, patting my knee reassuringly and wiping fake laugh tears from her eyes. Suddenly, she drops silent, that stone cold stare returning as she growls, "I'll bite them off instead."
Sitting beside Moa is Paul Casserly. His name may not be familiar but his work certainly will be. He's responsible for some of the most twisted television ever produced here, including the award winning, gonzo satire of Eating Media Lunch and the darkly accurate The Unauthorised History of New Zealand.
Now he's working with Moa on her new chat show All Talk with Anika Moa, which starts at 9.30pm this Thursday on Maori Television and runs for 10 weeks. It's a powerful pairing that promises to produce an outrageously bizarre, unfiltered, half hour of chat based, WTF, hilarity.
Casserly has a quiet and thoughtful demeanour, is as dry as unbuttered toast and mostly wears an impassive expression. He also does not help a brother out.
Instead, he quietly and thoughtfully asks me an entirely unreasonable question.
"Is this the first interview," he inquires, "where someone's threatened to cut your balls off and eat them?"
It is. But how did we end up at such a terribly violent place? What could I possibly have said to offend Moa so greatly that she would threaten to castrate and cannibalise me? And is there any chance of getting out of this, nads intact?
Well, hold tight, don't go flipping, and we'll be right back after these messages.
Anika Moa: "Karl Pooooshhman? Puuuushman?
Moa: "What nationality? Polish?
Me: It's German.
Moa: Germans, eh? Are we still with the German thing?
Paul Casserly: No, we can let that go now.
Moa: Can we? I don't think I can.
Casserly: My mother hasn't let the English go over the potato famine.
Moa: Potato famine?!? Maori people like potatoes more than white people.
Me: Kumara, right? The sweet potato.
Moa: No! Yuck. I'm not that Maori...
Me: We've veered off topic.
Talking with Casserly and Moa it's quickly apparent that veering off topic is just what's going to happen. The pair has known each other for decades and it shows. They share the easy chemistry of old friends. Casserly is slightly authoritative while Moa acts up at every opportunity.
When I later ask Casserly a production related question she closes her eyes, slumps into her seat and starts snoring.
"Oh, it's just I get tired when I'm nervous," she fibs, a mischievously cheeky smile spreading across her face.
It's the glint in the eyes, the dimples that punctuate her grin and her disarmingly naughty smile that allow Moa to get away with... well, pretty much anything. On Face To Face, the New Zealand Herald web series she hosted that acted as a precursor to All Talk, she asked her guests brazenly out there questions.
I mean, who else would ask Art Green, aka the first bachelor, if he got a stiffy when kissing any of the bachelorettes?
Moa has a fearless attitude to celebrity, a filthy mind, drops c-bombs like a muthaflipper and has an approachable charisma that makes her instantly likeable.
I'm here today to talk about her new show. Only thing is I haven't seen it yet because they're still making it. So with nothing to go on I ask Moa to tell me about it.
"All Talk with Anika Moa is...," she pauses, turns to Casserly and asks, "Didn't someone want me to drop my last name?"
"Yeah," Casserly nods. "There was talk of it just being Anika."
"No, that doesn't sound right" she says scrunching her face in disapproval. "It's going to be like... it's in between Graham Norton Show and Ellen. Except for I ain't dancing like her and I'm not as gay as Graham."
"There was a show on TV in New Zealand in the 70s called The Club Show, Ernie Leonard and Glyn Tucker were the hosts of it," Casserly says. "It was a New Zealand version of a chat variety show. So in between that and Ellen this will exist."
Casserly frequently references dusty old shows and long forgotten TV highlights. He appears to possess an encyclopedic knowledge of every television show ever produced in this country.
"It'll be a mish-mash of all that has come before," he says, then, with a sly grin adds, "because we're very aware of the whakapapa."
"Kia ora, kia ora," Moa acknowledges. "But um... oh, I don't know what it will be like! It will be funny but we don't want it to be a funny show.
Moa: Do you remember that Australian show... what was it called? They used to bring on people to do acts and they had a big dong... uh.. who cares? No, don't worry about it.
Casserly: We should get a donger tho.
Moa: A dong or a donger? If I get bored of my guests I could be like... 'DOOOONG! Get off!'
Me: You mean a gong?
Casserly: A gong! That's it. Yeah. What was that show Oliver Driver used to do? People would do performances and if they weren't good they'd get gonged off. The Gong Show. That was it.
Moa: I don't think there's ever been a talk show in New Zealand like ours.
Casserly: Yeah, there has.
There will not be a desk. Instead, the set will resemble a lounge with couches and chairs and probably a lamp. Casserly isn't sure because it's not built yet.
All Talk will follow the chat template. Moa will interview two guests and host a musical act. Pre-recorded segments will also play a part. The pair are not planning to reinvent the wheel here. They are, however, scheming to subvert it.
"I love nothing more than putting something on TV that makes people go 'huh?'" Casserly says. "That slight moment of confusion followed by, hopefully, a laugh. That's the thing I really want to achieve and I'm looking for opportunities to do that within this format."
"I want the show to be really eccentric. To catch people off guard and to make people think," Moa says, in a fleeting moment of seriousness. "There'll be things like... we'll talk about the Real Housewives of Auckland but we'll also talk about John Key and the Government and homelessness."
"Boring," Casserly says, shaking his head.
"I know," Moa says. "I'm already boring myself."
Moa: We'll talk about serious stuff but in a real funny way. Like saying, 'John Key's a c**********t'. Nah, jokes. He's not a c**t. I don't care. Helen Clark's got my back. She's cool.
Casserly: What about her and the foreshore and seabed though? Didn't she cross you? Remember she talked to Shrek the sheep and not you.
Moa: I don't care. I'm not that Maori.
Casserly: The hikoi? Remember that?
Moa: I don't remember that.
Casserly: She spoke to Shrek the sheep and the hikoi was just round the corner!
Moa: Yeah, but come on. Give her a break. She had to run a country.
Casserly: So did Hitler!
Moa: Yeah. Wait... wait. Hitler. Helen. There's no comparison! Look, she was probably just tired.
Casserly: We'll be talking about a range of things
The one thing all chat shows have in common is guests. So who's going to be on the show?
"We've got heaps of awesome guests," Moa enthuses. "Guests that I love, admire and respect but also, guests that I hate."
"I'm not saying who I've got on the show."
Casserly quickly takes over explaining that's half because they want to keep some surprises and half because not every guest has confirmed.
"But it will be a range of people," Casserly says. "From TV stars to... um, perhaps poets. Maybe some uh... what are some other things? We'd like to get some activists."
"Yeah," Moa agrees. "Some floppy titted activists!"
Moa: What's that TV One show? Good Living or Kiwi Living? Oh, do you like it?
Casserly: I don't mind it. I'm old. I like that sort of stuff.
Moa: I've watched it once.
Casserly: There was a good scene last night when Michael Van Food Truck cooked with the Hare Krishnas. It was great. Because he's not a Hare Krishna he wasn't allowed to touch the food.
Moa: Because it's tapu? Oh for f**k's sake. Chill out Hare Krishnas.
Me: Isn't their whole vibe being chilled out?
Moa: Who knows?
Casserly: Yeah. But they're control freaks as well.
Moa: Are they?
Casserly: Of course they are! Look at the way they dress.
Moa: Maybe we should get a Hare Krishna on the show? I don't know anything about it.
Casserly: I know way too much about it.
Bridging the gap between Rich Housewives lite and homelessness serious as well as inserting satirical topical absurdity appears to be the goal. If they pull it off it's going to be brilliant, unmissable telly.
If they don't...
"That's what wakes me up in the night," Casserly says, "I'm thinking, 'is this gonna work out? What are we doing?'"
"That's what I think too," Moa nods, getting serious. "I'm scared. But fear's good man. You've got to take that massive giant leap. I'm nervous. Really, really nervous.
"It's weird. I feel... not sad, but low. Like I'm saving up my personality for when we start filming. I'm really scared. But I love that feeling of being scared because it means that I'm living and I'm alive."
"That's so empowering," Casserly says, deadpan.
"It is empowering, you c**t."
Casserly smirks and says, "But it's a no brainer. Anika in front of a camera? You can't really go wrong. We'd have to really try to completely f**k it up.
"But we are essentially making it up as we go along. It might be perfect from the off. I don't know. But the fear of someone like you writing a scathing column about it..."
"Oh, I don't' care!" Moa interrupts. Her eyes narrow and then she says, "I'll cut your balls off."
What: All Talk with Anika Moa
When: Thursday's, 9:30pm
Where: Maori Television