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FRINGE '04 REVIEW: Off the Wire

“Off the Wire” is an entertaining new comedy news quiz series on National Radio that aims to expand the broadcaster’s appeal beyond the belt of tired public servants on the Terrace. Recently recorded live as part of the Fringe Festival 2004, the show is a small step in a positive direction and may have set tea trolleys rattling all over town.

Off The Wire

Reviewed by Nicola Hill
When: Wednesday 3rd March
Where: Radio New Zealand House
Rating: Three stars

“Off the Wire” is an entertaining new comedy news quiz on National Radio that aims to expand the broadcaster’s appeal beyond the belt of tired public servants on the Terrace. Recorded live as part of the Fringe Festival 2004, the show is a small step in a positive direction. The tremors will likely rattle tea-trolleys throughout town.

Veteran radio host John O’Leary convenes a panel of New Zealand’s “top comedians and social commentators” and tests them on their knowledge of the week’s news. For the Fringe show, the Honourable Judith Tizard, True Bliss celebrity Joe Cotton, comedian Jemaine Clement and professional media watcher Russell Brown competed to provide their take on news stories that ranged from the banning of beards in Turkmenistan to the release of film ‘The Passion of Christ’ (dubbed “Mel Gibson’s latest splatter movie” by Brown). The production team, with ages ranging from 22-24, are being touted as “representing a new era in National Radio programming”.

Though hardly the “explosive” content pitched by the producers in the context of other offerings on at the Fringe Festival, “Off the Wire” is good entertainment. Comments to the effect that “it is always the cars with GE stickers that don’t indicate” clearly had the group of over-forties in the room feeling naughty. Cleary set a cracking pace, matched by his equally quick repartee. The always-impressive Brown waxed lyrical at only the slightest provocation, Tizard showed the determination that made her a Minister and Cotton generously shared family anecdotes, but it was often the bashful Jemaine Clement’s one-liners that stole the show. It remains to be seen whether Clement’s proposed new flavour of Whittakers peanut slab will make it through to the on-air version.

‘Off the Wire’ is being aired every Saturday on National Radio at 1.30pm. The show is recommended for New Zealanders coming to grips with continuously bad weather every weekend and curious about the new FM frequency.


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