Paul Verhoeven is one part writer, two parts comedian and all-round nerd as illustrated in his Nerdy by Nature segment on Triple J.
This happy amalgam made him a shoe-in as host and co-writer of Steam Punks!, a new ABC3 kids game show.
Four contestants aged between 12 and 15 find themselves trapped in a subterranean world with a malevolent machine and her minion The Inquisitor (Verhoeven). To escape, they must prove themselves worthy by competing in five rounds of science- based, sometimes gooey, tasks.
“They basically said ‘We need someone who’s really animated and very nerdy and who wouldn’t mind getting up into period costume and bounding around like an idiot all day’. That was pretty much everything I always wanted in a job so I said yes,” Verhoeven says.
His many talents came in handy on the set of Steam Punks!, jam packing 40 episodes into three weeks of filming.
For those not in the know, Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery.
“Steampunk is an actual movement which is set in a parallel universe where technology never really evolved past what it was like in ye olde England so you’ve got zeppelins and lots of pipes and everything is steam powered,” Verhoeven says.
“Anthony Watt, the producer of Steam Punks! and the guy who came up with the idea was like ‘Why don’t we have a show set in that kind of world. But what happens is kids are wandering around and they fall down these pipes and get pulled out of the fireplace into this underground labyrinth which never really moves past that period’.
“So it’s all big steam pipes and huge cogs and period dress and the kids get quizzed on science and stuff.”
It may seem like a pretty out-there concept for a kids game show but Verhoeven says an integral part of the program was avoiding dumbing things down because of the average viewer age.
“A lot of kids shows tend to speak to kids like they’re stupid and if I’ve learned one thing from this experience it is that kids are way smarter than me especially. They’re quick and funny and really, really on it.”
However, Verhoeven’s sketch show, Lords of Luxury, which he is currently performing in with long-time friends Perth comedians Dan Debuf, Luke Ryan and Matt Saraceni at Fringe World, is not something for kids.
He warns parents to find a babysitter if they want to catch the show which ends tomorrow before they travel to Adelaide and Melbourne.
Steam Punks! airs on Sunday at 5.25pm on ABC3.