Celebrity News

Matchmaker James Mustapic on helping his mum out: ‘she was single and lonely!’

Can the Celebrity Treasure Island winner find a man for his mum?
Pictures: Kellie Blizard

James Mustapic was launched into the public eye when he won Celebrity Treasure Island last year, but the beloved comedian has actually starred in YouTube videos with his mother Janet since he was 14 years old.

“Well, it was usually me forcing Mum to be in them,” James laughs.

The mother-son duo are clearly very close and it shows in the hilarious reality TV show James Must-A-Pic His Mum A Man, which James has now roped Janet into.

“I’d always thought about doing a TV show with Mum, and then she was single and lonely, and here we are,” James, 28, says as he munches on a biscuit over Zoom.

“Lonely!” Janet, 61, scoffs. “As a woman, I’m juggling so much and as soon as a relationship ends, you think, ‘I’ve got all this time to see my friends and join clubs!’ I loved it!”

When the Billy T Award-nominated comedian first approached Janet about the show, where he tries to find her a date, she immediately said no.

“But silly me, I wasn’t assertive enough,” she chuckles. “I’ve enjoyed it, though.”

It’s been James, his sister Jenny and Janet for most of their lives as James’ father left the family when James was three.

“He took me to family court for seven-and-a-half years and it was really quite hard on everybody,” psychologist Janet admits.

“I was paying huge legal bills and James once said to me when I gave him two dollars for school lunch at primary, ‘No, Mummy, you keep it for the lawyers.’ You do try to hide that stuff from the kids.”

Janet says her sensitive son has always had comedic flair.

“He’s as mad as a hatter!” Janet exclaims. “Ever since he was a little kid, he’d be piping up at things, making adults laugh. We were looking at the stars at the observatory when he was four and the lovely old volunteers were doing a demonstration with a lightbulb and a pretend Earth, saying, ‘The Earth goes around the Sun, children.’ James piped up, ‘Don’t be ridiculous! That is not the Sun. That’s a lightbulb!’”

James confesses, “We’ve only ever had one really big fight, I think. You forcing me to go on school camp.”

Janet recalls, “He had a phone with him and the texts he sent were hilarious. I used to read them out at dinner parties until he got hold of my phone and deleted them all.”

Given how much he hated camp, Janet was surprised he wanted to go on Celebrity Treasure Island.

“I said he’d die if he went on that,” she says, cracking up. “He always said as a kid, ‘I’m never leaving you, Mummy. I’m going to live at home forever.’”

The comedian is now based in Auckland with his mother still living in their hometown of Dunedin. It doesn’t stop Janet from trying to find James a man to settle down with, though.

“Last year, she had a newspaper clipping of two guys doing something for the uni and Mum had written HGOTW on it, which stood for Hot Guy of the Week. She’d sent it to me to tell me she thought they’d be good for me. I don’t think either of them were gay,” James declares in his trademark deadpan tone.

“I’ve always tried to matchmake both my children,” Janet continues. “When I had that date on the show with broadcaster Matt Gibb, I thought he was lovely, so I texted Jenny. But he’s got a partner now.

Tight trio: James with mum Janet and sister Jenny.

“As a parent, you’d love your child to meet somebody they could share their life with. From the age of 15, I nearly always had someone in my life. But in my later years, I don’t really mind if I never meet another man. It took me to 61 to get to that place.”

James is slightly cynical when asked about his current relationship status.

“I am single,” he admits. “In the show, Mum tries to find me someone… Well, it was not successful. I’m not really on dating apps. I find it stressful.”

But was the show a success – did James find his mum a man?

“I had zero expectations,” says Janet. “James kept on saying, ‘We have to get you married off by the end.’ I suspected it was just going to be a bunch of jokes at my expense.” But she suddenly turns coy. “It sort of worked out quite well in the end.”

So it appears there may not be a second season of James Must-A-Pic His Mum A Man, but the Abandonment Issues star isn’t saying no to a different twist on the subject. His sister Jenny could be in the firing line.

Janet quips, “I’m certainly not doing another James must pick me a man, but I’d be happy to do a Janet Must-A-Pic James A Man!”

The full season of James Must-A-Pic His Mum A Man is streaming now on TVNZ+.

Related stories