Local Folk - Mady Jessup

Depending on your perspective, Mady Jessup is known for entertaining or terrorising residents of Mangawhai with his daily jokes on the town’s Facebook pages. Jonathan Killick spoke with Mady to find out where his black sense of humour came from …

I play havoc on the news sites. I have been banned on all major Facebook pages including The New Zealand Herald, TVNZ, Newshub and Stuff. That’s partly because what I do could be classed as spam and partly because the jokes push the limit. I tackle the serious issues using jokes and puns.

What got me banned from Stuff was when the crazy lady at Albany shopping mall was caught on camera bumping over a toddler with a trolley. I wrote, “How could a person do that to a child? The answer: “Long reach and superior footwork.” My phone was going off with notifications of people reacting and replying and then suddenly I was banned. I have kids and I don’t think hitting them is funny, but I believe you have to find humour in life’s absurdities.

Another time, there was a news story about the Len Lye needle in Wellington having been broken, and the headline asked if the vandal would pay for repairs. I wrote that the real scandal was that Wellington paid $300,000 for a needle when they could have found one in a punnet of strawberries. That joke got 80 comments and 1400 reactions – more than the actual news story.

A family member said I should bring the humour to the Mangawhai pages because they needed lightening up. I decided to take on the challenge and made it a daily habit. It became very time consuming. I never meant for it to be dividing, I just wanted to lighten everyone’s day. There was a comment on the Mangawhai page the other day asking if anyone was missing the daily posts of Mady Jessup, and the admin left me a message asking me to keep going. I get private messages from people telling me not to worry about the grumps and that keeps me going.

My parents, Patrice and Peter Jessup, were both prolific journalists, working for about 20 publications between them. Dad was either loved or loathed, especially as sports editor of The New Zealand Herald. He had opinions that were sometimes unfavourable and I’ve taken on a bit of that. When Dad passed away last year, the funeral was filled with media heavyweights like the founders of Hauraki radio. It was common knowledge that I hadn’t spoken to him in a while, and a lot of people told me encouraging things that my Dad had said about me. I learned a lot about him and myself that day.

My family is the source of my black humour and the reason why I can separate life’s gnarly events from the lighter side. When I was 23 and my little brother was 14, he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour and he died nine months later. He went to the optometrist because his eye was drifting and within a week he knew he was going to die. That was the saddest, hardest, most torturous, but funniest time in my life. We got away with murder because we had to use everything to distract him from the pain and keep him in high spirits. No topics were off the table and everyone close to us got exposed to it – whether they were religious or just straight stiffs. Even my super Christian aunty watched Team America with my brother.

We blew up our letterbox with pipe bombs twice. Mum and Dad knew we were going to do it, so they went on the only date night they had while my brother was crook. The whole letter box blew and it even smashed the downstairs window. We screwed it back together and decided to try again, but this time something went wrong with the fuses and they were delayed. Cars started coming from different directions on the road. We had to run and stop them, saying we were blowing up the letterbox because my brother was dying, all while he waved from the window. One day, racing driver Greg Murphy came to present my little brother with a computer and some memorabilia. We egged him on to do a massive burnout on the road in Oratia, and he indulged us. We ran rampant and we got away with everything. It pulled together a lot of people. My brother passed away, but the humour didn’t.

I married into the Mackay family of Waipu. I met my wife, Fiona, during the 2011 Rugby World Cup. I picked up an All Blacks face paint pen and walked across to her group, interrupting their conversation.  I said she could either have her face painted or give me a kiss, and everyone screamed. The next morning she booted me out of her apartment, but we were hooked.

I proposed to her at One Tree Hill where we lived. I went to the shop and got flowers and champagne and grabbed some ice, blankets and a couple of jerseys and hid them on the mountain under a wheelbarrow. I went into the crater and moved all the rocks around to spell ‘will you marry me’. I lied to my partner and said there was an aurora borealis in Auckland that night. “Haven’t you heard?” I said. “I was thinking about taking a look on the hill after work”, and of course she wanted to come. I told her I would pick her up if the traffic wasn’t too bad. Just as she gazed down the crater, I sprinted up behind her. I got down on one knee and proposed to her with Burger Rings chips. Two of them snapped on her finger which she loved because she got to eat them. Then she went down and spelled ‘yes’ in the rocks, which made me feel like a million bucks.

I had my first daughter Anjelique when I was 22, which was the result of a short relationship. Today, we high-five each other and congratulate ourselves for both being mistakes. It was a shock to the system for me at that age, but I would never change a thing. She does everything with me. We are going to Elton John later in the year, and her first concert, at age nine, was Foo Fighters.

Anjelique is turning into a very open-minded and emotionally aware girl. The day my dad died, it was the night of her school social and we wanted her to enjoy the evening. We managed to keep it a secret until the end of the night, but eventually she questioned why so many people were at the house. I asked her upstairs to help me with something and then I sat her down and told her grandad had passed away. She initially bawled her eyes out, but then within two minutes she was joking that she wouldn’t be able to tell the old man how terrible his cakes were. I’ve never hidden tragedy from her, and I think that does kids a world of good.

Anjelique stayed in Auckland when I moved to Waipu, and I got worried at the idea of her getting bullied with me 2.5 hours away. I went looking for something that could build her confidence and found Krav Maga, an Israeli martial art. Her confidence started booming and I ended up getting hooked too. I was training five or six times a week, and I was approached last year to enter the instructor programme. The goal is to start a private class up here in Mangawhai or Waipu, and I have been teaching kids a class at Dembones Fitness & Boxing every Tuesday. For our training sessions, I play AC/DC’s Thunder Strike and every time the song says ‘thunder strike’ the kids have to do a burpee in between punching a bag. I just wanted to be involved with coaching and be engaged with the community. Part of me wants to grow up, and part of me wants to stay a young smart ass.

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