Sex toys, Joyce, Little and the media

17 February 2016

This week’s saga about Steven Joyce’s coverage on John Oliver’s show in the US raises an important point about public figures using humour in the media.

It can be risky for politicians to use humour purely because what’s funny to one person can be highly offensive to someone else. Who can forget John Key’s comment last year when he was asked if he would mention to the Chilean President that prison escaper Phillip Smith was in town.

He said he would tell her there was someone in her country she wouldn’t want to invite around for lunch. Some people were highly amused, while others were seriously offended.

Fast-forward to this issue and Steven Joyce’s tweet about the incident at Waitangi. It said: “Someone send the gif over to John Oliver. Let’s get it over with.”

We all know what that led to.

So how well did the politicians deal with it?

This is another one of those polarising issues but I would bet more people thought it was funny than offensive. While some people are always offended by such things, its also good politics to show that you have a sense of humour and can laugh at yourself. This is what Joyce did.

However, Andrew Little’s response was less than humorous. To his credit he said there was nothing wrong with a bit of a ribbing. But then he said: "I thought it was a bit of a slap in the face for New Zealand; once again we've been ridiculed by an international comedian.”

This was the perfect opportunity for Little to show some personality. The issue wasn’t exactly a vote winner whatever stance he took, but it was a chance to give a glimpse of the man behind the official title. He needs to do that if he wants to grow in popularity.

Any politician needs to think very carefully before using humor in a public setting. It can be a bit of a catch 22. But in this case, I believe Joyce came out on top.

For more on my media training, contact or 029 200 8555.

Filed under Media Training

Written by

Pete is a leading New Zealand media trainer and regular blogger for his company, Media Training NZ . He has helped leaders from all sectors of society communicate with the media and other stakeholders. Pete is a former daily newspaper reporter and press secretary in the New Zealand government. From these roles, he understands the media process from both sides of the camera.

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