A Glimpse Into
Māori Humour

Māori humour is very... different. Local slang interlaced with cynicism, satire and self-deprecation is quite often joined by exaggerated facial expressions. Get a bunch of māori people together at any type of gathering and nothing is off limits. 

If you're at all familiar with the Canadian comedian, Russell Peters, that would be along the lines of our type of humour.

Māori Humour In Action

Something as simple as the raising of eyebrows - a māori wave - can be a great source of hilarity. It's a common way to  greet each other too. I don't know if other countries have this or not, you'll have to let me know.

You can see what I mean by this excerpt from 'Tama Tu', a short film by Taika Waititi. Young soldiers, serving with the Māori Battalion in Italy, are keeping themselves amused without making a sound.  This is classic behaviour from young māori guys... and I have to say I've done this with friends myself, just to be silly. 

Did you enjoy that? I hope so, because people - both in and outside of New Zealand - don't get our humour a lot of the time. Some members of my own family spring to mind here. 

Down Memory Lane

Māori humour really came to the fore in New Zealand with two people that I can think of off-hand. They were Billy T James and Prince Tui Teka (stage name). These two multi-talented guys are iconic in New Zealand. Not scared to laugh at themselves, they both had an easy-going cheeky way that enabled them to span class and culture. 

Tui Teka was a huge favourite with audiences. It's well known that he was born and raised in Ruatoria, a tiny place way out in the boondocks. He had a beautiful singing voice and also wrote his own material, some of which is world-famous in New Zealand.  

Billy T on the other hand, although a great all round entertainer, was an even better comedian. Most of his comedy centred around māori people, but using various accents to great effect in his routines, he also made fun of all nationalities.

Billy T was often accused, especially in the early days of his career, of stereotyping māori. He didn't see it that way though. His work was based on real life observations of his family, friends and anyone else he happened across.

In the following video clip, Billy T (in the blonde wig) and Tui Teka perform together as part of the Māori Volcanics show band, a successful group that began its life in Australia in the 60s.


Following on from their days in the Māori Volcanics, Billy T and Tui Teka built solo careers and steadily gained in popularity as time went by. Sadly, they both died relatively young.

Metro Māori Humour

Now we've got a new breed of young guys delivering māori humour in a totally different way. As sometimes happens, it doesn't necessarily sit well with traditionalists.

JGeeks, a māori comedy music group, describe their genre as being metro-māori electro-pop.

Using super high energy kapa haka infused with classic māori humour, pop songs, contemporary ta moko (tattoo) makeup and comedy, they recently took the nation by storm performing at the 2012 New Zealand's Got Talent contest.

See if you can pick up the māori wave in this performance. :)


Initially I didn't know what the reaction would be to JGeeks. They are so left-field  to what everyone expects to see in a māori performance. I needn't have worried though, people recognise true talent when they see it. JGeeks got through to the finals and received enough votes to place second… should have been first in my view. :(

It's A Way Of Being

Māori humour won the day at Toastmasters Selwyn Bennett competition.

On a personal note, it's funny how easy it is for us to slip into this humourous way of being.

It's kind of like you behave in a certain way normally, or how you think you should behave, and then all of a sudden you can up and pull out this whole other persona. 

I didn't realise this until I entered a local Toastmasters speech competition for the Selwyn Bennett trophy.

The theme was Fairytales Revisited. My speech was based on Cinderella - a māori version complete with a slight change of accent and references to well-known māori situations.

Winning the club competition led to competing at the next level and I won this too.

It totally blew me away that I had this crowd of people practically crying and peeing themselves with laughter when I was doing something that felt so natural. Scary huh? Guess I'm a real māori after all. ;)



With any luck this page will have given you an insight into māori humour. I hope you've enjoyed both the page and the videos. Let me know with a comment below if the video links are not working.

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