TVNZ comedy show pulls episode after MP criticises treatment of her name

Harete Hipango is not amused.
Harete Hipango is not amused. Photo credit: Parliament / TVNZ.

An episode of TVNZ's Have You Been Paying Attention? has been pulled from the state broadcaster's streaming service after an MP criticised the show's mockery of her last name.

In the May 20 episode of the game show, comedian Urzilla Carlson was asked whether "Hipango" was the last name of a National MP or if it referred to a dairy and gluten-free yoghurt. She chose the yoghurt, mispronouncing the name as she tried to say it out loud multiple times. 

It prompted criticism from the National MP in question, Harete Hipango, who wrote on Facebook that she and her three adult children who carry her name were "not amused at the poor taste humour of a Sth African/NZ Kiwi so-called 'comedienne' bastardising our family/whanau name on national television in order to generate a few half-hearted laughs".

"As a state-owned entity that should be guided by Treaty principles, TVNZ needs to reevaluate its approach Te Ao Maori, and its understanding of how an insult to one's name is, by extension, an insult to one's whakapapa," she wrote.

"This kind of sophomoric humour is a tone deaf reflection of how Māori culture and values have been consistently overlooked, particularly during this crisis time. What's in a name? Whakapapa."

The episode of the television show isn't currently available on TVNZ On Demand.

TVNZ spokesperson Rachel Howard told Newshub that while Have You Been Paying Attention? was a comedy show that "pokes fun of our leaders", humour shouldn't disrespect anyone's whakapapa. She said TVNZ apologised for the offence caused to the MP's family and the broadcaster wanted to speak to Hipango.

"We'll take these learnings into our production."

Howard said the episode had been taken off TVNZ On Demand. 

The Whanganui MP, ranked 39th within National and the party's spokesperson for Crown/Māori relations, told NZME she enjoyed a laugh, but "you have to be very careful of what it is you're making fun of".

Carlson's management has also been contacted.