Sketch comedy never dies, it seems – it just gets reinvented as soon as we’ve all forgotten about it.
A good thing, too, or we might have missed out on the enjoyment provided by Radiradirah (TV3, Fridays, 9.30pm).
Brainchild of the old Naked Samoans crew who brought us bro’Town, the new comedy bucks recent trends by not only employing, but succeeding with, a retro format possibly last seen at the end of the 1990s.
A generation on from Kiwi comedy Skitz, also written by Oscar Kightley and David Fane and starring one half of the Conchords, Jemaine Clement, Radiradirah is faster-paced, slicker and downright funnier than its predecessor and the use of animation gives it an up-to-date cutting edge.
From Taika Waititi’s brilliant portrayal of a drippy but ordinary alien to the Nakeds’ hilarious spoof of a layabout group of road workers called the Roadeez, there’s some quality writing throughout, made even more special by welcome cameos from Kiwi comic genius John Clarke.
Clarke provides the voice for Kevin the Kiwi in an animated sketch called Mangrovia, and also plays the Prime Minister in another yarn called Space Waltz, in which New Zealand’s first space crew searches the galaxies for a new planet.
There’s also Rhys Darby’s laugh-out-loud earnestness as Gavin Hoode in a Robin Hood sketch, as first officer Rangi in Space Waltz, and as the voice for animated teenaged party boy Fot in a skit that contains vague strands of Ren and Stimpy.
Darby is riding a wave of popularity at the moment and it’s little wonder.
Not only does he deliver a funny line, he’s probably the best straight-up actor in the show, as was the case in Flight of the Conchords.
Importantly too, Radiradirah – which takes its name from a saying made popular by bro’Town character Mack – has enough irreverence to make it feel as though it’s worth watching.
The Parables of Young Jesus have been side-splitting, especially in the opening episode when the teenage prophet was told by his mother Mary that Joseph wasn’t his real father.
Jesus: “Does that mean you lay with another man?”
Mary: “No. It’s a really long story. I used to be a virgin … we were introduced by a mutual friend, uncle Gabriel …”
Not to mention the two cherubs at the bottom of a biblical painting, complaining about the special treatment handed out to the baby Jesus, shown cradled in Mary’s arms.
Cherub 1: “I get really jealous when she holds him like that. Look at him. Oooh, I’m a gigantic medieval baby …”
Cherub 2: “Yeah, what a wanker. He doesn’t even have wings”.
Then there’s the animated sketch of Young Adolf, a 14-year-old Hitler in a teenaged emo band, plus a Pythonesque stream of talking animals, statues and works of art, such as “The Scream”, and Clement’s voice as Mr Sparkles, a teddy bear who detests his new owner and was much happier with his life in the toyshop.
Bottom line? Sketch comedy is still funny. Who’d have thought?