Short Poppies - not as bad as Rhys Darby's stand-up

Last updated 11:30 09/04/2014

There's nothing that winds me up more than being presumed to be something I'm not. It makes me dig in my heels and fight.

And after being virtually accused in one of this company's fine Sunday newspapers of being a bit of a tall poppy hater because of my preview of Rhys Darby's new show Small Poppies I wanted another.

It's easy to say that people on the internet are haters, but valid criticism doesn't make you a hater - and I consider my criticism valid. But it does make you easy to target.

Let's put this on the record - I don't dislike Rhys Darby because he's successful. I dislike him because, in my opinion, he's not very funny, especially compared to our other talent.

However a new sensation quickly came over me and my desire to fight evaporated. It was a desire to prove someone wrong. Not content to simply fight my corner I was going to watch Short Poppies and damn well like it.

So I did. Watch, that is. I tried to like it.

I tried.

I watched more than half of the season so I felt I really gave it a shot, but if this is the best comedy that we have in New Zealand then we're in trouble.

Actually, scratch that. I KNOW it's not the best comedy we have in New Zealand.

Head down to the Classic at the weekend and I guarantee more laughs in half an hour than in this entire series.

Or turn on TV3 on a Friday night for 7 Days and Jono and Ben at Ten for value for money comedy that has a real Kiwi sense of humour.

The truth is, Darby's show could have been set anywhere in the world. There was nothing quintessentially Kiwi about it.

And the characters? I was supposed to like them and empathise with him, according to Darby himself in the interview with my colleague Steve Kilgallon:

"Of the eight main characters, Darby says, only one is an arsehole: "I like playing empathetic, nice people who have a crack at life, and never quite get it right, but don't mean any harm.""

Whether it was my dislike of Darby's previous work or the one-dimensional note to the characters I just couldn't. And it's quite clear his definition of 'arsehole' widely differs from mine.

Most showed an ego that it would be fair to presume is a by-product of Darby himself - he doesn't really come across as particularly modest in the interview at the weekend.

To be fair to him, there was an occasional laugh - but in the end I felt that when I did I was laughing more at the outrageousness of the character than at any original humour.

If it was supposed to be grounded in reality then I think it failed because I didn't recognise the New Zealand I've come to love and call home in there.

Characters were absurd to the point where, if this was a real documentary, putting them on air would lead to accusations you were taking advantage of them and exposing them to ridicule.

The best moments of the shows were undoubtedly the guest stars. Steven Merchant, in particular, brings a credibility to a comedy scene that few others can. Dave Fane always makes me laugh. And even Bear Grylls' cameo raised a chuckle.

After all that the best I can manage is I didn't hate the series. I wouldn't recommend others to watch and I have no desire to see it succeed or represent New Zealand overseas - but at least it's not as bad as his stand-up.

I'm sure Darby doesn't give a toss what some random dude on the internet has to say.

He's got enough people around him to slap him on the back and tell him he's hilarious to more than shelter him from the fact that a large number of his own folk don't find him funny.

Me? I can only hope the $700,000 that New Zealand on Air forked out for the show can be channelled into something that better represents New Zealand comedy next year.

It's there. Sometimes you've just got to look beyond the big name.

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