In a rare television interview, Te Ao Māori Television with Moana meets one of New Zealand’s funniest and most creative people, Jemaine Clement. They talk about their early memories of growing up in Wairarapa, the differences between Kiwis and overseas audiences and more in the exclusive video above.
Of all the viewers in the world, Jemaine Clement considers Kiwi to be the toughest.
“They don’t expect anything good. People in the early days would say, ‘oh I really wanted to laugh, but nobody else started, so I decided not to’.”
A lot has happened in Clement’s life since those early days – Grammy awards; several Emmy nominations; acting credits to major Hollywood productions, including Men In Black III and the upcoming sequel to Avatar.
He also recently wrapped up the second season of the American mockumentary series, What We Do in the Shadows, which was named one of the best shows of 2020 by the New York Times.
But Clement remains down to earth and less ego-like as ever, despite being named one of the 100 sexiest men by Australian Who magazine in 2008, and sometimes being mistaken for Benicio Del Toro.
Clement admits that he and his Flight of the Conchords bandmate, Bret McKenzie, were completely shocked when they became a hit with overseas audiences.
“When New Zealanders hear a New Zealand accent, they’re like, ‘Oh, I’m not going to hear this.’ But they don’t care [overseas]. So we were surprised… And when we played, our show got bigger and bigger. That was a big surprise. “
Clement spent his childhood growing up in Wairarapa, raised by Māori and kuia mothers.
She has fond memories of going on marae trips and meeting her Māori relatives at family reunions. But sadly, te reo wasn’t a big part of his upbringing.
“My grandmother doesn’t speak Māori. She’s from the generation who would be punished in school if she … that’s her first language, but, uh, you know, they’ll get hit if they talk,” he said, through tears.
Her kuia greatly influenced her in other ways, such as through her sense of humor.
“She’s a funny woman … sometimes on purpose, like she’s going to make a good joke, and sometimes downright unintentionally … I mean the basic idea of humor is to surprise, and she’s always surprising what to expect. he thought. “
Clement is still close to his mother – one year, he brought her to the Emmy as her guest, which he found very pleasant.
“He watches all these shows. I don’t watch them, I don’t know who the people are at the Emmy. But he knows all the shows.”
Over the past year, Covid has forced Clement to take stock and adopt a slower lifestyle, which is something he is grateful for.
“I think last year I realized I was pushing myself too much and doing too many things … So when everyone has to stop traveling, I appreciate it and take a step back and think, I don’t have to go too hard all the time,” he said. .
You can hear more about Clement’s thoughts on making fun of racism, when he meets the Prince in person, his writing process and more by watching the full interview with Moana Maniapoto in “Te Ao with Moana” at the top of this story.