The problems with Paul


How Television New Zealand must be laughing – Breakfast host Paul Henry’s most recent judgement hasn’t just galvanised the country’s national papers, it’s gone global.

From the United States to Western Europe, to the Far East and Africa, all the news outlets seem to be touching on TVNZ’s man. Talk about fantastic advertising. Tourism NZ would kill for this sort of exposure.

And to think, all it took was a suggestion that Britain’s Got Talent star Susan Boyle “looked like a retard because, in fact, she was a retard”.

Who’d have thought? Henry tried the lady-with-a-moustache gag with the Greenpeace spokeswoman earlier in the year and only gained moderate traction.

Similarly, his idea of taking obese kids off their parents caused only a storm in a teacup.

Now, though, he’s made it big – landing a massive publicity blow for his channel and, by definition, for all New Zealanders.

How proud we should all feel. To think, when we next head over to Britain or the United States or Japan, people might recognise us as Kiwis solely because they’ve heard of Paul Henry.

There’s nothing like having doors opened for you, after all. Nothing like a bit of reflected glory.

Even better, TVNZ must now have a pretty good idea of how to keep making such a splash. The recipe?

It seems to be: take one self-worshipping braggart, add an indefensible and universally distasteful suggestion, have a pretty-but-vacant girl sitting nearby to feign horror – and hey presto, you have a dish attracting international attention.

Leave to fester and serve with relish.

The only question remaining now is what Henry might come up with to keep the ball rolling.

He certainly wouldn’t want to lose momentum.

Maybe a crack at the unnecessary costs of hospices?

A jibe at terminally-ill children, perhaps?

One thing you can be sure of, he won’t go near infidelity or, for that matter, family values.

Having said that, he did once lampoon compulsive obsessives.

Central to any further success, however, is the role of his suitably attractive sidekick Pippa Wetzell, who was able to provide balance to Henry’s remark about Boyle the other day by cooing in a concerned manner and saying not once but twice, “Oooh, you are shocking”.

Readers should not be alarmed though, she continued to giggle away in the background so as to not completely undermine the main star.

Above all, the one pointer Henry will take out of all this is that there’s much more mileage to be gained from an international target.

He should keep thinking about that.

Gags about Madeleine McCann promise far more exposure than jokes about Sophie Elliott. General disabilities trump personal defects.

Minorities can be good value but only if a global support network is prepared to complain on their behalf.

I know, I know, it all sounds a bit heartless. But for a man who’s never regretted a word he’s said, why would Henry start now?