TVNZ’s Jack Tame: ‘It’s been my best year!’

After getting married, roadtripping around South Africa and hosting a political broadcast, 2023 has been a standout time for the Q&A presenter.
Robert Trathen

For any political junkie, election year is like having Christmas twice.

So throw in an adventurous South African road trip, followed by getting married and 2023 looks to be a standout time for Jack Tame.

“It’s been really huge and absolutely rates up there as one of my best years,” muses the affable TVNZ presenter. “I get energised by the election campaign and I was able to marry an incredible person. I feel really grateful.”

The Q+A host tied the knot with TV’s Sunday programme journalist Mava Moayyed in a low-key ceremony at home in late May, with the pair planning to hold a bigger wedding celebration over summer.

“Our wedding day was kind of surreal, to be honest,” reflects Jack, 36. “It was really lovely. Both of our families are spread around the world, so it’ll be really nice to have them all in the same room for our celebration, as well as get our friends together at a time of year when we don’t have an election campaign.

“I hope we’ll go on a honeymoon next year. I’ll have to get on to that at some point.”

Usually one who is very eloquent with his words, Jack does get a little tongue-tied, however, when asked how he knew 33-year-old Mava was “the one”.

“I just think um, we have, you know, we just had a real connection. We knew each other as friends for a few years and had mutual friends in common. Then once we started dating, I couldn’t really see my life being with another person.

“She’s just incredible. And then to all be under one roof [Mava is mum to school-age son Rumi] and at the stage where we’re thinking about decades together, it’s really special.

“It’s quite remarkable and unlike anything I’ve experienced before. So I feel really privileged to have her in my life and for us to be together as a team.”

Jack and Mava in New York last year.

The only compromise Jack’s had to make so far is relegating some of his former bachelor pad furnishings to the spare room.

“Let’s just say my ‘off Broadway’ cushions are not on the main couch in the lounge. And my one rapper picture – it’s Kanye West, yeah controversial I know, but I maintain that musically he’s a true genius – has also been put downstairs away from the main living area.

“But they say good relationships take compromise. She’s got much better taste than me though, so I’m quite happy to defer to her decisions when it comes to interior design. Friends at my old apartment would comment that it felt like a hotel room crossed with a hospital ward!”

For the last few weeks, Jack’s been busy dissecting party policies and moderating leaders’ debates to guide voters through the maze of politics to the election on October 14.

When television panellists recently lamented to him how “boring” this election campaign was, he reckons the “general grumpiness” voters feel is probably reflected by our politicians.

“It’s been noticeable that it’s been a more negative kind of campaign than it has in recent elections,” says Jack, who has covered this country’s elections since 2008.

“When I was interviewing [Auckland mayor] Wayne Brown for Q+A, he had an amazing analogy in which he compared the election campaign to arriving late in Taumarunui looking for food and having very few options.

“He said, ‘So you’re forced to decide between having nothing or choosing something horrible and greasy that isn’t very good for you.’

I thought it was so good! Some of the politicians are very funny communicators.”

Jack quips that if you had said to him 20 years ago that he’d be in a job where he was relying on his high school debating skills, he’d be very worried.

“I was actually texting an old friend of mine who did debating at Christchurch’s Cashmere High School with me the other day,” shares the broadcaster. “She’s a very successful lawyer and we were saying how funny it was we’ve both ended up leaning on debating skills as part of our job.

“In our Year 13 interschool debating competition, one of the moots we had was whether there should be a tax on sugar. Funny how the political leaders are debating sugar taxes now too.”

It’s also not lost on Jack that some of our most successful politicians duck and deflect to avoid answering his critical and often laser-like questions.

“The thing I’m always trying to do is be present, which I know sounds very ‘Oprah’,” he laughs. “But the truth is when you have the pressure of live television, the studio lights and interviewing a super-intelligent person, it’s really easy not to listen and instead be looking at your next question.

“I always feel a huge sense of responsibility in my job to dig in to some of those policies and the politician’s performance in government or opposition. It can help people decide how they’re going to vote.”

Jack Tame, alongside John Campbell and Jessica Mutch McKay, will be hosting 1News Your Vote 2023: Election Night Special on Saturday, October 14, 7pm on TVNZ1 and TVNZ+.

Jack, Jessica and John are gearing up for election night.

Quick fire

Tell us your Sunday morning routine before presenting Q+A?

I get up at 5.30am – I never sleep very well on a Saturday night with data points zooming through my head – and then get to the studio at 6.30am.

I have a couple of coffees, check everything as I’m a control freak and I like to be over every little detail. I often go for a run after the show to get rid of the nervous energy.

Your work on Q+A was recently described as being a “masterclass in interviewing” by NZ Herald’s Media Insider column. How does that make you feel?

Well, that was very kind. I’ll have to send some chocolates! My job’s one of those ones where the vast majority of the time, someone’s unhappy with you.

What are your thoughts after the televised Leaders’ Debates?

The live debates are such a high pressure, intense environment. There’s so much energy in the studio and there’s nothing that comes remotely close to it. Looking at the ratings, there are very few events that will bring more than a million New Zealanders to live television in this day and age. So even though it’s been a “grumpy” campaign and people feel like they’re fed up with politics, when it comes down to leader versus leader on live television, there’s so much on the line.

Related stories