52 / Billy T. James

(1948–1991)

Born William James Taitoko, in Cambridge, Billy T. James became New Zealand’s best-loved comedian. He left this country in 1973 as a member of the Maori Volcanics, to play the club circuit in Britain, Europe, the United States and Australia. He returned four years later, and quickly established his own distinctive comedy routine, which led to his popular television series, The Billy T. James Show, in 1981. He was named Entertainer of the Year in that same year and later, Entertainer of the Decade, 1975–84. He also won acclaim for his performance as the Tainui Kid in the 1985 movie Came a Hot Friday. He is best remembered for his distinctive infectious giggle, black singlet and yellow towel, and his ability to make New Zealanders – Māori and Pākehā alike – laugh at ourselves.


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