Ben Boyce, Jono Pryor and Guy Williams are big kids at heart – so working with children on their hit show, Jono and Ben At Ten, only fuels their boyish sense of humour.
All three admit the boys who play the kid versions of themselves in the popular late-night TV3 comedy show upstage them every week.
The young stars are Nathan Bevan (13), who plays Little Ben, Frankie O’Halloran (10), who is Little Jono, and Jamie Christmas (8), as Little Guy,
“I am embarrassed to say they are the most popular part of the show. Little Guy is much more loved than me,” says Guy (26), who, like Jono and Ben, reckons the kids get away with more on the show than they can.
“Little Ben and Little Jono have been outshining us for a long time,” adds former Radio Sport presenter Ben (35), who began his TV career at his kitchen table, where he created Pulp Sport on a borrowed computer.
“Ellen DeGeneres has the cute little girls that come on her show [Sophia Grace and Rosie], so we thought we’d copy that, but our kids are much more cheeky,” says Jono (31).
“We just write the questions for the boys, then watch from the safety of our office, and it gets surprising and funny things out of the guests,” adds Ben.
“We had one of them interview Chris Rene from The X Factor USA and they asked all these off-limits questions about his drug addictions, and at the end of it he was like, ‘What just happened?’” adds Ben.
The hit show, written by Jono, Ben and Guy and filmed 24 hours before it goes to air, is in its third season and is a no-holds-barred comedy take on the week’s news.
But while it’s a tough job putting together a show so quickly, the team clearly don’t let it get them down. In fact, put Jono, Ben and Guy in the same room as the three boys (known on the show as the “man-childs”), and it’s hard to determine who are the biggest troublemakers. On the Weekly photoshoot, both adults and kids can’t resist play-fighting.
The three boys, who go to different Auckland schools, are allowed time out of class each week for filming, as long as they keep up with the curriculum.
The boys auditioned for their roles – Frankie even shaved his hair to play little Jono – and although they bare a striking resemblance to the comedians, both the boys and the adults say that’s where the similarities end.
“I’m not like Guy, he’s got glasses, and I don't in real life. I’ve got a girlfriend and he doesn’t any more. He doesn't have a wife, and I’m bound to have one when I grow up,” says Jamie, the youngest and most energetic of the “man-childs”.
“Thanks for bringing that up Jamie,” quips Guy, who recently split from comic Rose Matafeo.
“I think Jamie probably reminds me of myself because he has too much confidence. But I was kind of opposite to him when I was eight years old. I was a sporty kid and played basketball, because that’s what you do with tall kids,” says Guy.
“A lot of people say to me, ‘You must have been the class clown.’ But humour was always suppressed when I was at school, because often it was associated with being naughty.
“One of my earliest memories was making a funny noise when we had to go sit on the mat and I got huge laughs for it, but it was the first time I got told off.”
Growing up in the Wairarapa, Ben’s father was the principal of Hadlow School, while Jono grew up on Whenuapai airbase where his father was in the air force, and spent most of his childhood playing outdoors.
“I just remember leaving the house and not coming back until nighttime,” says Jono. I would play all day on the flying fox and the air force men would give me raisins sometimes.”
Working with the kids came naturally for both Jono and Ben, who are parents themselves – Ben is dad to Indie (1) and Sienna (4), and Jono is father to Oscar (3) and Poppy (1).
Their children are leading different childhoods to their own. Jono laments that Oscar prefers playing Angry Birds to running around outside, and Ben says Sienna is a city kid who wants to order fluffies in cafés.
Sienna has played a stand-in child on the show a couple of times but, while she looks up to her dad now, Ben knows that as a parent, one day his childish on-screen antics are going to come back to haunt him.
“The horrible thing about having kids is that when they get to an age where they want to do something bad, if I say to them, ‘Don’t do that’, I’ve got no leg to stand on. All my stupid antics, all the skits and the costumes, are well documented,” says Ben.
Although he’s not a dad, Guy says he’s enjoyed spending time with Jamie on the show.
“The man-childs inspire me to want kids,” says Guy.
“I always have so much fun with Jamie, but I have a rose-tinted view on how fun it is to be a dad, because I work with him for two hours at a time.”
The kids all agree although they love working on the show, they don’t want to grow up to be like Jono, Ben or Guy.
“Sometimes they are a bad influence, but I’ve met cool famous people through the show and this is a great experience,” says Nathan.
“When I grow up, I want to be smarter than them,” jokes Frankie.