The Life & Times of DON MURCHISON

Creative Director & leading performer of Comedy Specialists
Orator, Artist, Entertainer, Comedian, Writer, Author, Musician, Producer

They say a cat has 9 lives. How many cross roads has Don passed through? So who is Don Murchison?

Don's professional adult life has revolved around creativity, constantly evolving with new, unique and fascinating projects, with a passion for innovative creative ideas, humour, the visual and performing arts.

After leaving school he attended Canterbury University studying law, destined to follow in the family footsteps as a solicitor. However he became creatively side tracked and has barely looked back ever since. While at university he tied trout flies and lures which he sold to a sports shop, and was a part time troubador - singing and playing the guitar in pubs. He also was involved in the local contemporary folk scene. Not ready to hit the road as an entertainer he was lured to teaching and studied for 3 years to become a qualified teacher. Unlike today, the temptation was that student teachers were paid a small salary. At Teachers College, a particularly enlightened lecturer, Bob Perks, was quick to recognise and encourage his musical and creative arts talents.

Don developed a One Man Band after leaving school. Of course it had to be unique. It became an Electronic, Stereophonic One Man Band - bass drum at his left foot, a walking electronic bass at his right foot, cymbals between the knees, electric guitar, castanets, maracas in his right hand [while playing guitar], kazoo, harmonica and vocals. A second 'Singer' was the sewing machine, that played drum rolls on a snare drum! He was lucky to attract friends with an interest in his musical innovations. This lead to a customised PA which incorporated the bass switches scale that Don played with his left foot, while balancing at the heal of his right foot to play the bass drum.

Clip from New Zealand Herald newspaper, 1979

Don was a prolific writer of poetry and song writer after he left school. He had a favourite kauri stump in the Waikakere Ranges, West Auckland, where he would sit and derive inspiration from the expansive views. This led him to becoming an established animated performance poet in the late 1970's and 1980's. This particular style was a blend of romanticism and expressive satire. He wrote 3 books, which were self published and sold to book shops and audiences as he toured New Zealand.

After leaving University and graduating at Teachers College Don taught for 3 years, at the Years 6 and then 8 levels, before leaving this profession and embarking upon the unpredictable and challenging life of a touring entertainer. This saw him performing at festivals in New Zealand as a solo variety artist, as a poet (reciting his own poems in his distinct performance style) and and also with a full band backing, playing his own original compositions. He spend hours arranging parts to augment his rock band backing with a variety of classical musos joining him on stage playing flute, violin, viola, cello, trumpet and keyboards, while he played electric guitar and vocals. Unfortunatly, just as he was becoming recognised for his band talents, he encountered a shattering experience at a rock festival when the stage monitors malfunctioned. This had a profound affect on him, as he was first up in the morning and followed by Split Enz, by which time the monitors were back in action.

He strayed from large venue performing to focused on his poetry, satire and further diversity developing two childrens characters: Rudi Trudy Rooster and Spunky Monkey (Cookery Show). These became part of a two hour Family Variety Show which he toured and performed in town halls throughout NZ.

He constructed a massive surreal mobile sculpture, Cheepy Cheeky Chook. Made out of out of chicken mesh and wire netting, with coffee jars as port hole / windows, this became his promotional caravan, which he lived in while touring at this time. The eyes of the Chook were speakers he used to promote the show upon arriving in towns and cities he was performing in. The Chook-caravan also had a small stage which he used for performances at company Christmas picnics in Auckland. Here it is, featured in the New Zealand Herald in 1979:

Don instigated skifield entertainment with the colourful Rudi Trudy Rooster becoming a popular attraction. He also developed a back pack speaker and PA system and became the skiing DJ with Pied Piper Runs to Music. People would follow him down the intermediate ski runs. In 1979 he performed at Turoa Skifield and has fond memories of appearances on Radio B, the local Ohakune Auckland University Radio Station. The following year he took his school holiday program to Coronet Peak in Queenstown. Then in 1981 he was on home turf at Mt Hutt Skifield, where he was offered to join the cast of Warren Miller skiing movies, as they toured the World's ski resorts. A full performance calendar at that time prevented him taking up this offer. In 1982 he was snapped up by Guthega Ski Resort in NSW, when he crossed the Tasman to tour in Australia.


a favourite on skis, photographed at Coronet Peak, NZ

Pied Piper, disco-skiing at Turoa, NZ
the backpack-speaker box was Don's alternative to a Walkman!

Spunky Monkey races at Mt Hutt, NZ

As Ovilteenie, he opens a race at Guthega, Australia

Don decided he needed a smaller vehicle for his campus performances, so he sculptured the Phantam Bantam around a VW. He hatched this as a media stunt out of a massive paper mache egg. The following morning this appeared on the front page of the New Zealand Herald (newspaper). The Phantom Bantam had its own stage for Australian performances of his Phantom Bantam Antics gigs. Wherever he went, he took a carton of his first book, RECITALS FROM THE PHANTOM BANTAM, an anthology of his poetry, which were snapped up after gigs.

Don's satirical show - Phantom Bantam Antics - became a major attraction attraction at university & teachers college campuses in N.Z. It was a pot-pourri of satire, wit, theatrics, humour, poetry, quips, one man band, guitar instrumentals, the musical saw and his musical electrified kitchen sink. He published his second book, PHANTOM BANTAM ANTICS, to coincide with his touring. This included quips and short stories along with poetry, theatrics, songs and orchestrations.

Despite performance diversity it was hard to earn a living in New Zealand and there were only so many university campuses without the risk of over exposure. So Don migrated his Phantam Bantam Antics Show across the Tasman, to perform at Universities, Colleges of Advanced Education and TAFEs in Australia. The first tour was titled: The OZ'n'KIWI MIGRATION. He shipped the Phantam Bantam (car) to Australia for the whirl wind tour from Sydney to Adelaide to Brisbane. He remarked how he had friends in high places, with a 'Hawke' as Prime Minister and a 'Peacock' a leader of the Opposition. The Phantom Bantam then returned to NZ.

The following year he produced a more extensive tour, NO PALTRY NATTER, which incorporated a memorable journey across the Nullabor Plains to Perth. With a surgical precision, he reduced the height of the Phantam Bantam (car) so it could be flown to Australia as cargo. Once in Australia he fibreglassed the head and tail back into position and the Phantom Bantam hit the road. It was on this tour that he appeared, complete with Phantom Bantam, on The Don Lane Show.

Don was then offered sponsorship by Subaru to construct his third kinetic sculpture, and the SubaRooster was born. He called it the CockaEmuRuiwi, incorporating an emu, kangaroo and kiwi into the overall sculpture of the rooster and symbolising Closer Entertainment Relations between Australia and New Zealand. Tougue-in-cheek, he promoted Closer Entertainment Relations, under the just ratified C.E.R agreement between the Australian and New Zealand Governments, which was for Closer Economic Relations. So 'satirically speaking' the CockaEmuRuiwi represented a sculptural depcition of C.E.R. The Phantom Bantam returned to NZ and the SubaRooster was finished in the nick of time to perform his PHANTAM BANTAM ANTICS show at the Sydney Festival before driving to Geelong for performances with Rudi Trudy Rooster & the Spunky Monkey Cookery Show. The C.E.R. CONSUMMATION PILGRIMAGE then became the theme and title of his next campus tour.

Concurrently Don became a major holiday attraction in shopping centres throughout Australia, with holiday performance weeks with the Rudi Trudy Rooster Show and the Spunky Monkey Cookery Show. He also developed the Healthy Cooking and Variety Show, for shopping centre venues, with appliances sponsored by Sunbeam. This coincided with the release of his third book: 'The Don Murchison HEALTHY COOKERY BOOK with accompanying Poetry.' TV appearances included Wonderworld.

In the late 1980s Don hit his next cross roads when he settled in Sydney to set up his comedy business, COMEDY SPECIALISTS. His focus then became entertaining for corporate functions, birthday parties and hens nights. The SubaRooster, which had affectionately been nick-named the CHOOKMOBILE by the Australian public, transformed to become the staging for the CHOOKMOBILE-LIMO ACT which was a hit with hens nights and for corporate pranks. Don instigated COMEDYGRAMS, with short, customised witty speeches for all special occasions. He constructed a gigantic cake for adults birthdays. The CAKE ACT featured a customised script / speech, followed by a dancer jumping out of the Cake. COMICAL CATERING became a hit for openings and Corporate Christmas Parties, with crazy costumed waiters and waiters, serving the food. RUDI TRUDY ROOSTER and the SPUNKY MONKEY became popular attractions for Childrens Birthday Parties and also Company Christmas Party Picnics, along with the arrival of SANTA (again Don), making his grand entry riding on top of the CHOOKMOBILE. To top it off, Don had great fun at Corporate functions, as an AFTER-DINNER SPEAKER portraying fictional characters and ending the act with one-liners. Not to forget adult Christmas parties with the very popular ANOREXIC SANTA COMEDY AND DANCE ACT. The COMEDY WEDDING ANNIVERSARY SHOW and COMEDY HARBOUR CRUISES, along with the FOOLTY TOWERS IMPOSTORS became significant attractions in his line up. Since Covid, Don has significantly reduced the number of shows and characters he will perform as. It was with great sadness to learn of the passing of 'Yuri the story-teller', George Hoffsteppers who was part of the hilarious cast of 'Comical Catering.' You can follow these links to read more about these acts, pst and present:.

Don's Leadlight window panel.

Since 2001 Don had been hosting annual Art Events at his home, the Jungle Chalet. These began as an Art and Craft Exhibition, featuring his NATURE-INSPIRED LEADLIGHT DESIGNS, along with other exhibiting artists. He designed and constructed sculptural installations to replicate streams, ponds and waterfalls, creating his WATERGARDEN. Don penned the name 'hygromorphomatics', to describe the artistic harvesting of rainwater, to create and replicate artificial streams, ponds and waterfalls, with real sound dynamics of moving water. The annual event became the JUNGLE CHALET ART, CRAFT AND WATERGARDEN EXHIBITION, then with the birth of his children, this was scaled back to become THE ENCHANTED NIGHT GARDEN, which was about to turn 20, when Covid hit.

The upper Watergarden Installation.

In 2010 life abruptly changed for Don. He became a father to an adorable daughter and three years later an energetic son. His focus switched from performing to becoming a Dad. People had said life would never be the same again, but he didn't at first believe them. Juggling script writing, performing, prop and costume design, promotion, internet design, and receptionist duties did not squeeze into a 24 hour day, as a virtual one man band in business. So he had to scale back his work commitments.

Then with Covid everything ground to an immediate halt. It was unimaginable and devastating. Now Don realises that this is yet another cross road in his life, a chance to focus on fulfilling unfinished creative endeavours. He is looking to write his autobiography, a book of quips, and a book with short stories he wrote for his children. He is also looking for sponsorship for a skiing documentary / movie on his namesake, the Murchison Glacier in New Zealand, which will highlight how climate change is affecting this pristine natural environment. Keep in touch for the next chapter in the life of Don Murchison.

Sydney Artist Ping Li, painted Don Murchison for an an Archibald entry in 2002.