New show Radiradirah has assembled a comedy dream team in a cast where Boy goes bro'Town and it's Fred Dagg v Flight of the Conchords. But is putting them all in a sketch show a good idea?
Rewind to this time last week. Producer Elizabeth Mitchell pores over notes and images for Radiradirah and casually lets slip that her workday is 10am until 4am. Coffee helps, but it's mostly passion that keeps her charging.
Between the exposed-brick walls of production company Firehorse Films, where bro'Town came to life in 2003, the show's editor is cutting together animated segments as they are fed through by the designers - a duck, a piece of cheese and Da Vinci's Renaissance Man.
Tucked behind the black polyurethane curtains are the plasticine stars of the stop-motion sheep cartoon The Pen, created by Jemaine Clement and Guy Capper.
Clement is acting abroad, but Capper is meticulously honing the final product, which sees Sheepy and Robert roaming the Bay of Islands at sunset and talking about bleating.
A few seconds of footage equates to several days' work. Capper likens his patience to that of the Italians who think nothing about taking days to prepare a meal, because the finished product makes it all worth it.
His comment sums up the buzz at Firehorse last Friday when Mitchell and her team showed friends a rough cut of Radiradirah's first episode which goes to air tomorrow night: 39 comedy sketches, 22 minutes of air-time. Twelve months in the making.
This time last year Mitchell and bro'Town co-creator Oscar Kightley bid the kids of Morningside "laterz", wiped their brows, and asked each other, "what next?"
Kightley was keen to get his sketch comedy group the Naked Samoans back on television. Mitchell was a bit hesitant. Sketch is just one of those genres that screams "risky".
"I was like 'hmm ... sketch show'. I don't know, there was something about the phrase, and we kept trying to think of a new word for sketch but couldn't really find one. But then you look at things like Little Britain and Monty Python and you don't really think of them as sketch shows," she says.
One meeting with TV3 later she was convinced to go ahead with the format, which quickly evolved from being a solely Naked Samoans show into a collage of what she calls sub-shows.
It was named Radiradirah because bro'Town's Mack (the gay character) was particularly fond of the phrase and, as Mitchell says, it's kind of silly and open to anything.
She and Kightley began writing, commissioning (and sometimes shelving) concepts for serials, and managed to get some of the biggest names in local comedy involved - Rhys Darby, Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi and - the godfather of them all - John Clarke.
"It was one hell of a wish-list - we were lucky that they were available," Kightley says.
But for Waititi it was more a case of being willing to juggle than having a free schedule. He flew from Wellington to Auckland in the morning to film Radiradirah, and returned to Wellington at night to edit the soundtrack to Boy, every day for five days. He stole sleep on the plane and in the makeup chair.
Waititi plays Captain Hemi T. Cook in the segment Space Waltz, a serial that will run across the eight episodes.
It's set in the year 3010 and Captain Cook and his team are searching for a new galaxy to house the 10 million New Zealanders who have been evacuated to the South Island as the country sinks into the Pacific Ocean. The sketch also stars Darby who is in love with Teuila Blakely's character, and John Clarke (his bits were filmed in Melbourne, where he now lives) who plays the Prime Minister, Hone.
"I like doing that sort of thing, it's having fun with a bunch of guys you like," Waititi says from New York while on a break from filming in New Orleans.
He met Kightley 15 years ago when he was working on Skitz and Telly Laughs, and the pair have bounced about ideas for films, sketches and shows ever since.
Kightley thought it was about time Waititi brought back the alien character that was part of his stand-up routines six years ago. The bushy-browed creature with an under-bite now acts as the putty between segments on Radiradirah.
"He's an immature alien. It's like, what if the earth was being taken over by aliens but the aliens were just teenagers just doing it for fun," Waititi explains.
"He does some weird commentaries. I'm surprised it's even been allowed to come back, he's so weird."
The alien is odd, yes, but not the most offbeat aspect of the show.
This week's episode sees male-love among the roadworkers in the Naked Samoans' Roadeez, a centaur-gone-wrong on Gavin Hoode (a sketch about New Zealand's first gang of merry men, starring Darby), and a round of Brie cheese in bed with a wedge of blue cheese in Cheese in the City, which is an animation about four cheese pals living in New York featuring the voice of Madeleine Sami.
Radiradirah, according to Kightley, is a cobbling together of some talented people just doing their own thing.
It may also serve as a platform for animations like Darby's FOT (Funny Orange Thing) and Australian creation Beached Whale (better known as Beached Az, a sketch mocking Kiwi accents that went viral in 2008) to reach a wider prime-time audience - much like the Tracey Ullman show was to The Simpsons when it was introduced in segments in the late 1980s.
For Kightley, Radiradirah presented the challenge of getting back in shape - he's not only back in front of the camera but he's in stubbie shorts and singlets.
"We had to, for the first time, care about how fat we were, or what we looked like, because when you turn up to the studio to do your voice it doesn't matter what you wear or what you look like. It meant losing weight, exercising," he says.
In Radiradirah the Roadeez are joined by up-and-coming performers including 23-year-old Jordaan Tuitama, who caught Kightley's eye during the comedy festival three years ago.
Tuitama and his mates have a sketch comedy group called the ElectroKokoZoids, and it's pretty much modelled on the Naked Samoans. Tuitama has idolised Kightley and the boys since he was a kid growing up in Tuakau - he would tape episodes from the TV and watch them every day until he could recite the lines.
When Kightley approached him and handed over his business card, Tuitama told everyone he knew. They didn't believe him. And they really didn't believe him when he was asked to join the Naked Samoans for Radiradirah. Tuitama also performs alongside Darby and Waititi in Space Waltz and Gavin Hoode.
So Firehorse are, once again, widening the scope of comedy, giving new talent a chance to shine, anchoring well-known faces to episodes and packaging it all in format that, judge it as you will, has been successful in the past.
"People are quick to diss [New Zealand's] past comedy as saying it didn't work, but at the time it did and people liked it. I think we very easily believe that we are not funny and that our comedy is stink but actually if you look back at the last 20 years and all the stuff that people have enjoyed, I think we need to ease off on that a little," Kightley says, referencing the Gibson Group's sketch shows of the 1990s.
He puts the arrival of Radiradirah down to serendipity.
Mitchell? She describes it as a happy mistake.
Starring: Taika Waititi, Rhys Darby, John Clarke and the Naked Samoans star in a sketch show by bro'Town creators Elizabeth Mitchell and Oscar Kightley
When and where: Friday, 9.30pm on TV3