In a potentially career-stalling move, satirist Robbie Nicol - aka White Man Behind a Desk - is biting the hand that feeds. He’s crowdfunded for a video to mock the major media companies' leaders and how public funding’s paid out to media. What's the method in this madness?
New Zealand television isn’t exactly overloaded with local comedy talent at the moment.
It’ll be a while until the next round of New Zealand On Air-funded funny shows make it back on Three and there’s no local comedy on TVNZ’s channels right now.
There are some comedy projects made for the web on TVNZ Ondemand though, but they take a bit of finding.
And when you find the section for the short, sharp takes on contemporary issues by White Man Behind a Desk - aka young satirist Robbie Nicol - there’s only this disappointing message:
“Unfortunately White Man Behind A Desk isn't available to watch right now. Add it to your favourites and we'll let you know when it becomes available,” says his page on TVNZ on Demand.
You can still fInd them on is YouTube channel and his Facebook page, but a project he’s working on now could make it harder for him to make it onto the small screen.
Recently he popped up on crowdfunding site Boosted asking for $2,000 for a not very career-enhancing project called “Fund us to mock the funders.”
“The WMBAD team is creating a new video to mock the funding models of New Zealand's private media companies, as well as the strange Staliny way in which our government funds content project by project,” says his plea on Boosted.
This week he surpassed the two-grand target easily. With the money in the bag, the ball is now in his court.
In his campaign video he named media company CEOs he has in his sights: TVNZ’s Kevin Kenrick, MediaWorks’ Michael Anderson and NZME’s Michael Boggs.
The bureaucrats at government's broadcasting funding agencies are clearly on his radar too.
But why does he want to bite the hand that feeds comedians like him - by mocking the people that could fund and screen his work?
“It’s not a great idea,” he told Mediawatch.
“We are aware we’ve got the attention of some of those we mocked in the campaign video,” he said.
Two of them are listed by Boosted as donors.
He told Mediawatch that MediaWorks Michael Anderson through in $20 and wrote a letter politely asking him to change the focus of his proposed video to his TV execs are underpaid.
“Michael Anderson will escape our mockery totally. He’s a great guy. And if he wants to send another $20, that’d be fantastic,” Robbie Nicol said.
It’s not the first time White Man Behind a Desk has looked at this. In 2015, when Mark Weldon was scorching the earth where MediaWorks current affairs show, he examined Money and the Media:
It’s rare for those who benefit from - or even depend upon - public funding to criticise the way it’s handed out. These days cash-strapped publishers are also applying for public money for digital media projects in addition to the broadcasters.
Is he going to suggest a better system as well as criticising the current one?
“Fundamentally we are going to look at what the government can do to make things better. We’ve only just started . . . but we are going to smack our heads against the table and try to suggest something better ... which will then be ignored,” he said.