YOU may know him as the ineffective but lovable “Murray the manager” from the television comedy series Flight of the Conchords, or for his role in Jim Carrey’s film, Yes Man, or maybe you remember him for his legendary knee-lifting skip as the face of 2degrees’ advertising campaign a few years back – wherever it is you’ve seen or heard him, surely he’s made you laugh, and if you don’t know who he is you have the chance to see this self-described “physical comedian” on stage at Invercargill’s Civic Theatre on August 5 as he hits town with his latest tour, Mystic Time Bird. Southland Express reporter SAELYN GUYTON was lucky enough to secure a 15-minute (he’s got to save his voice) question and answer, telephone session with Rhys Darby.
SG: You may or may not have heard that Invercargill sometimes gets a bit of a bad rap, whether it’s about our weather or the infamous Rolling Stones’ ‘arsehole of the world’ comment. You’ve been here before, are there any ‘Invercargill fact vs legend’ you’d like to share?
RD: I’ve been to Invercargill a few times, both with comedy and without. My recent touring memories – I’ve always had a great time. One of my good friends, Terry Frisby, is from Invercargill and he’s a comedian, well at least he was but he’s had a proper job for a long time now. I did a tour with my comedy buddies, The Brat Pack, there were four of us, when we were in our mid-20s to 30s. I always have the best times when I go down south. It’s very rough, real… raw – you can feel rural New Zealand. That’s the magic that makes us who we are. We don’t get that ‘well-known species’ from the Auckland vibes. That’s the spirit that manifests as true Kiwi. It’s fun to do tours down there – you see it in the audience. It’s a different part of New Zealand. I travel the world and I come home and remind people how special we are as Kiwis. In Auckland they might laugh, or they won’t, or they’re rude – they don’t appreciate it as much because they get the big shows, the international artists. The music industry has changed, it’s down to live work and I don’t imagine the big acts are coming to places like Invercargill. That’s where comedy has its input. We speak to the people, well there maybe some music, one song in my show – that’s my secret giveaway, we are part of the people and we vibe off it.
Our Honourable Mayor Tim Shadbolt is known for being a bit of a comedian himself. What do you reckon about you and him teaming up for a comedy show?
I met him once. I hope he comes to the show, he’s certainly a legend. That’s the great thing, New Zealand has great characters and he’s right up there. He signifies the idea that it’s okay to be different, to stand out in a crowd. You know as Kiwis we tend to have that tall poppy syndrome. It’s people like him and me that say being different is okay. You know as long as you’re being positive, have a nice warmth, you don’t have to have your head down watching the ground.
Your show’s called Mystic Time Bird, you’re obviously into birds. Have you ever tried our southern delicacy, the titi, also known as muttonbirds?
Mmmm. The titi. I think I have tried that before – have I? (He calls out to his wife and manager Rosie Carnahan-Darby). Rosie’s nodding up and down, oh no, she’s shaking it left to right. Yes is up and down? Oh no it’s not. No, the titi, I don’t think I have.
Titi are a seabird, they’re really salty and have lots of fat so if you’re into that…
Oh it does sound like a real delicacy. I’d be keen to try it.
We’ll have to see if we can arrange some for you.
Yes please. That’d be great.
Can you reveal what bird you were in your past life?
Well I’ve been a few birds. I’ve been a pterodactyl and a pigeon. A messenger pigeon in World War 2. I’ll embody these birds in the show and people will be like… wow.
What is it about being a bird that’s so great?
Freedom. They are the continuation of dinosaurs. They keep going on and on through centuries, they’ll probably be the last ones left. Humans might become extinct. Through the lines of birds are the mysteries of the planet. You know, why do they get to fly?
If you were to choose what you could be in your next life, what would it be?
Well let’s see. I’ve already been birds, I think I’m done with birds. I’d be a sea creature. Maybe a whale or a dolphin. You know dolphins are intelligent and whales – well I could be a giant blue whale so there’s less possibility of being hunted. It’s like the freedom of a bird but you have the entire ocean. I mean there’s 97% of the ocean that’s unexplored. Imagine that? And dolphins and whales move in packs, they’ve got herds so they’re similar to humans, they have a social system and they hang out. I like the ‘socialness’, the interaction – like humans.
You’re into aliens, too. If you were to meet an alien, how do you think that conversation would go?
Well English is my language, but I’m a physical comedian so I’d use my physicality to show them I mean, well, I come in peace. I’d use some hand movements and show I’m friendly with a few hip shuffles. But hopefully the alien would communicate with me, believing they are more advanced, I’m assuming they could connect to my mind. You know – they’re supposed to be able to control your mind, but hopefully there’d be less of the mind control.
So we can expect some UFO talk in the show?
Yes, definitely. From birds to the future. I’ve got it all covered.
Living in the United States are there any Kiwi traditions you miss?
Anzac Day. You can get together over here but I’ve been working the last few so I’ve missed out on that. Oh, and Round the Bays run in Auckland. The city comes together and goes for a run, you could probably still do that in [Los Angeles], but those events are important to me cos I did them as a kid and you know I was in the army, in the Anzac parades. And definitely flat whites and really good breakfasts. We do the best eggs and the best bread and flat whites. They don’t do good coffee in America. As soon as I get home I order a flat white, ‘eggs benny’ and I open the newspaper and then I shut it cos it’s mainly full of ads.
And just like that our time is up
Thank you for taking the time to chat Rhys. I hope the rest of the tour goes great. We’ll see what we can do about the muttonbirds.
Oh, thank you and yes that’d be great. If you can pull some out of your side drawer, I’ll have a taste.
Mystic Time Bird, Civic Theatre, Saturday, August 5, 8pm. Tickets available from the Invercargill City Council booking office and TicketDirect.