Joseph Musaphia was born in London in 1935. His family emigrated to Melbourne in 1938 and in 1946 they moved to Christchurch. He was educated at Elwood Central School Melbourne and at Christchurch Boys' High. He left school on his fifteenth birthday and worked for three years as an apprentice motor mechanic, following this for ten years as a commercial artist in New Zealand and London, including three years as a weekly cartoonist on the NZ Listener.
Joe's first play Free was produced by the New Zealand Players in 1960 and he immediately put away his drawing materials and concentrated on freelance writing and acting for the stage, TV and radio. He has written over a hundred radio programmes, from plays to a comedy series. For two years he wrote, compered and acted in a children's television programme, Joe's World. This was followed by two years as actor and co-writer with Roger Hall for New Zealand's first television comedy revue, In View of the Circumstances.
In 1970 after returning from six weeks performance at the New Zealand Pavilion programme at Expo '70 in Osaka, he and his wife bought a takeaway food business in Wellington. During his three and a half years in this business Joe also found time to write stage plays and co-script material with Roger Hall for the Australian Broadcasting Commission's television revue Australia A - Z which won a Logie Award in 1971 for the best TV comedy.
The stage plays he completed during that period, all of which have been produced in New Zealand and Australia, include The Guerrilla (1971), Victims (1973), Obstacles (1974) and his most successful play Mothers and Fathers was the first New Zealand play to progress from a sellout season at Wellington's Downstage Theatre to the State Opera House. It has since been produced in Vancouver, Toronto and throughout Australia, including a sellout two week season as an introduction to the 1980 International Adelaide Festival. Sydney's Currency Press has since published The Guerilla and Mothers and Fathers.
Other plays written and produced include The Hangman(1978), Hunting (1979), Shotgun Wedding (1980), and The New Zealander (1985). While operating his takeaway business Joe Musaphia also wrote three satirical pieces for the New Zealand Listener. This led the editor, Ian Cross, to suggest to the editor of The Dominion, Jack Kelleher, that he give Joe a trial as a daily columnist. He remained with The Dominion in this capacity for five years, also writing columns for The Sunday Times.
In 1979 he was awarded Victoria University of Wellington's first Writer's Fellowship. Following this he worked for the next twelve years with the Consumers' Institute as writer, investigator and in public relations. For five years, during this period, he also wrote a column on customer and public relations for Wellington's Evening Post entitled Your Moneys Worth. A collection of these columns entitled At Your Service has been published by GP Publications. Quoin Press published his first novel Let Us Be Naked in 1997 and he continues to write for radio and the stage, notably Ugly Customers (2003).