Transtas­man com­edy is a hi­lar­i­ous win­ner, writes Alex Casey.

Herald on Sunday - - ENTERTAINMENT -

Ev­ery now and again, a TV show sneaks up you that is so funny that you find your­self dou­bled over at your desk, the air crushed out of your lungs, feel­ing alive and dead at the same time from the sheer vol­ume and in­ten­sity of laughs. It’s a jar­ring scene in a quiet of­fice en­vi­ron­ment, but was the vis­ceral re­ac­tion I had dur­ing

No Ex­pe­ri­ence Nec­es­sary, a NZ/Aust co-pro­duc­tion for Com­edy Cen­tral (and avail­able to watch for free on­line).

The premise of the ridicu­lous faux­doc­u­men­tary is very sim­ple: Aus­tralian comedian Ray Bad­ran trav­els to Auck­land to make the great­est sit­com of all time about his life, with no real TV ex­pe­ri­ence and what feels like close to no bud­get. Ev­ery episode follows the cast­ing of a dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter, build­ing to the record­ing of the sit­com it­self. Joined by lo­cal comedian Guy Mont­gomery as his co-pro­ducer (the only per­son Ray al­leges to know in the coun­try), the se­ries be­gins in the Sky­tower’s re­volv­ing restau­rant, un­doubt­edly New Zealand’s fun­ni­est lo­ca­tion for a pro­duc­tion meet­ing.

Guy plays the ex­as­per­ated straight man to Ray’s slack-jawed id­iot, in a Larry David-style over-the-top ver­sion of them­selves. As their re­la­tion­ship strains through au­di­tions and re­hearsals, a pile of other co­me­di­ans pop up along the way. The wide-eyed An­gella Dravid floats around as their as­sis­tant, steal­ing ev­ery scene. Rose Matafeo de­liv­ers a stu­pen­dous mono­logue as a gruff Out­back bloke, and even in­ter­na­tional comics Lou San­ders, Rhys Ni­chol­son and Aunty Donna drop by for a bit.

Al­though the cameos are wellde­ployed, they’ve got nothing on the in­cred­i­ble, 100 per cent true blue Ki­wis that show up to au­di­tion for the ter­ri­ble roles in Ray’s fake sit­com. Work­ing un­der the as­sump­tion that “real peo­ple are bet­ter, that’s why am­a­teur porn is so pop­u­lar”, cast­ing calls are sent out on Trademe with the bold head­line, you guessed it, “No ex­pe­ri­ence nec­es­sary”. One by one, ex­cep­tion­ally di­verse hope­fuls pro­vide stun­ning per­for­mances, in­clud­ing but not lim­ited to a gentle­man named Pablo smok­ing a gi­ant ke­bab and quot­ing Bruce Willis.

There’s no sense of lam­poon­ing as we watch each wannabe give it a crack, closer evok­ing the af­fec­tion­ate spirit of Nathan For You, an­other Com­edy Cen­tral cult favourite that blends pro­fes­sional co­me­di­ans with salt-of-the-Earth types who are just keen to be on telly. All the while, di­rec­tor and Aus­tralian comedian Henry Stone smacks his gums and bran­dishes a knife in the back­ground, his out­landish char­ac­ter at times jar­ring with the or­ganic tone. But the chaos feels like the point. Paired with the crash zooms and silent-era in­ter­ti­tles, it all adds up to a beau­ti­ful, hi­lar­i­ous shambles.

With each episode a max­i­mum of 10 min­utes, it’s an easy ride all the way to the glo­ri­ous fi­nale — the ac­tual sit­com pre­miere it­self. Bring­ing to­gether all the won­der­ful real-life char­ac­ters with tor­rents of canned laugh­ter and stu­dio ap­plause, the re­sult lands some­where be­tween Melody Rules and The Room, which feels like a great place to be. It’s worth a hat tip to mu­si­cians Paul Wil­liams and Randa as well for their killer con­tri­bu­tions to both theme songs, em­blem­atic of a new breed of young lo­cal tal­ent get­ting the ex­po­sure they de­serve. And that’s why No Ex­pe­ri­ence Nec­es­sary is so ex­cit­ing, even if New Zealand can’t take all the credit for it. Yes, we do TV com­edy well — 7 Days isn’t go­ing any­where, Funny Girls is cur­rently in pro­duc­tion on it’s third sea­son and Find

Me a Maori Bride was ex­cel­lent. But here’s an ex­am­ple of what hap­pens when you give the weirdos the keys to the palace for a while.

Sure, they’ll prob­a­bly smoke a ke­bab and pre­tend to defe­cate on the kitchen bench, but they may also just make the fun­ni­est TV lo­cal(ish) show in ages.

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