David McPhail funeral: Hundreds farewell legendary funnyman in Christchurch

Tears, hugs and raucous laughter marked today’s emotional farewell of pioneering Kiwi comedian and actor David McPhail who passed away suddenly last week.

McPhail – one half of the famed McPhail and Gadsby satirical comedy show which dominated New Zealand television in the 80s – died of a heart attack in the early hours of Friday morning, aged 76.

Former colleagues, fellow actors and TV personalities, along with a wide group of friends and tight-knit family, including wife of 54 years’ Anne, turned out for the “celebration of David’s life” this afternoon at Christchurch’s Westpark Chapel in Burnside – where McPhail helped farewell Jon Gadsby who passed away six years ago.

They paid tribute to not just a trailblazing satirist, but more importantly, a devoted father-of-two and beloved grandfather-of-four.

Former comedy partner Chris McVeigh QC remembered his old uni mate and driving force behind “some of this country’s greatest comedic art”.

“Above all his towering talents, he was a good man – good, in every sense of the word,” said McVeigh, who further described McPhail as kind, loyal, compassionate, “judiciously sceptical”, and generous.

McVeigh also highlighted his friend’s “unique and profound” acting talent, recalling a performance in Edward Albee’s great play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

“His performance was not just impressive – it was indelible,” McVeigh told the large gathering, which spilled into overflow rooms.

Only once in 50 years of friendship, does McVeigh recall McPhail losing his temper – and that was with their other great mate and collaborator, Peter Rowley.

Rowley described McPhail as “one of the most important people in my life”, saying he was humble and forgiving, “especially with me”.

His “magnetic” personality attracted a talented team which created a “fast-paced bullet train of satirical force”.

A Week of It, launched in 1977, was made before the phrase “political correctness” became part of the vernacular, which was a good thing according to friend and former sound engineer Graham Johnson.

“Thank goodness, otherwise it would never have got off the ground,” he said.

The show created such a cult following, Johnson said, that “even the haters kept on watching”.

His family, including his wife Anne, children and grandchildren, gave emotional tributes to McPhail.

“Poppa was my hero,” his grandson Milo said.


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