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Serious side to a funny man

Serious side to a funny man

By Malcolm Aitken

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New Zealand comic Dai Henwood

Kiwi stand-up comedian and actor Dai Henwood is at home on the stage and the crowds love him. Last year he MC-ed the New Zealand Music Awards and he is a past winner of the popular Billy T comedy award. This talented young man is going places.

Dai is perhaps best known for presenting the amusing Insert Video Here on C4, the TV music station. His on-stage comedy sets are often delivered from his two-wheeled segue, on which he rolls onto the stage – grinning like a Cheshire cat– and are typically followed by enthusiastic applause.

Dai Henwood has a growing following and a promising future. One of the lesser known things about this funny man is the way that asthma has affected his life.

‘I had it as a baby. My breathing was probably badly affected and laboured when the first cold of the season came around,’ Dai says.

Dai’s parents faced a few worrying challenges with Dai in the bad old days, 20-plus years ago, when he had to go onto a nebuliser quite often and was hospitalised a number of times (a nebuliser is a machine that vapourises medicine so that a person in bad respiratory health can inhale it much more easily) . His nebuliser use diminished as he got older but he only came off it when he was nine. (Studies have since shown that using a spacer and inhaler is at least as effective as a nebuliser and health professionals recommend doing this).

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Dai’s experience of the nebuliser was how ‘weird’ it was.

‘It was like not quite boring. But you were very aware of it, this machine with steam pouring out of it that you tried to breathe in….’

Dai doesn’t remember his serious asthma attacks but his mother has told him about a couple of times when she and his father were worried. He also developed mild eczema in his mid teens but it was ‘never really serious.’ (Asthma, eczema and hay fever are often found together, they are an unholy trinity of sorts).

‘I had a few bouts of hayfever too, but not too bad.’

The illness doesn’t cause him as much grief nowadays. Dai just uses the preventative Seretide daily. His relatively good state of health is testament to the virtues of managing your asthma well.

‘I was really lucky ‘cos the asthma was diagnosed early and it never affected my ability to play rugby at school and do a lot of surfing when I was younger for example….I also had a very good doctor, so we were very conscious of my asthma.’

‘Managing [asthma] well is the key. I also found sports helpful. Although it left me breathless at first, it helped my lungs by strengthening them [this would have been as he became fitter].

‘Looking back, one of the major things about asthma is the stress, when you haven’t got your inhaler with you. Going to a friend’s party only to find you’ve forgotten your inhaler. ‘

Dai’s well aware of New Zealand’s terrible asthma statistics – about 600 000 New Zealanders have asthma including about 1 in 4 children. In a humourous reference to the sci-fi blockbuster, Dai says he finds the numbers bizarre and a definite ‘glitch in the Matrix’.


Malcolm Aitken is the Communications Manager at the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation.

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