Rhys Darby a stand-out stand-up
He's a man who really needs no introduction. Thanks to his role as bumbling band manager Murray Hewitt in the hit TV series Flight of the Conchords, Rhys Darby is a household name.
But his roots lie in stand-up and the 36-year-old comedian is currently wrapping up his latest comedy tour, It's Rhys Darby Night.
Darby has performed the show in New Zealand, America, the UK and Australia over the past two years and he is bringing it home again.
The final performance at The Civic in Auckland will be filmed for his second live stand-up DVD.
"I guess a lot of people have seen my first DVD, they've seen my stand-up, so it's the same sort of thing – but new," says Darby.
"What I've tried to do is create a show that encompasses all the things I love to do... so there's stand-up, character acting and a bit of song and dance.
"You know – not over the top, I mean there's no canes and top hats but my style of dancing as well as some improvisation."
Darby's first DVD, Imagine That!, came out amid the success of Flight of the Conchords and went platinum here. "I never thought I'd do a second one. I just wanted to do one and get it out there," says Darby.
"The best thing about having a DVD is it feels like 'saved game', so even if I suddenly never worked again I could show my grandkids that I was a stand-up.
"I guess in the last two years I did a lot of things and even though I did a lot of acting and not much stand-up, I'm constantly thinking of ideas and I always have a notebook with me, so I will always be a stand-up."
Born in Otahuhu, Darby first found success with friend Grant Lobban in comedy duo Rhysently Granted. He moved to the UK in 2002 to pursue his comedy career and a pairing with Flight of the Conchords' comedians Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement ensued. The rest is history and Darby continued his life abroad in the US before coming back to Auckland where he now lives with his wife and manager, Rosie Carnahan, and their two young sons.
Since Imagine That! Darby has had Hollywood film roles in Yes Man and The Boat That Rocked. While he is perhaps instantly recognisable for his role as Murray, his film work and advertising and radio stints have seem him shake off any typecasting.
"I think it's because I got that stand-up DVD that came out quite soon after [Flight of the Conchords]. So then various people who were really good to Murray saw I had another facet, other strings to my bow, and they said, 'Oh my God, he's a stand-up', so that helped. If I hadn't have had [Imagine That!] come out it would be harder.
"I don't think I'll ever shake Murray fully, but you know, I've only been doing this for three or four years so let's wait and see. And I've got more things hopefully coming up and if I don't then, yeah, I will be Murray which is not such a bad thing to be," Darby says laughing.
A major drawcard is his innate talent for creating sound effects. "The noises just come naturally to me. If I'm thinking about an object or there's something happening in a story that involves machinery or whatever, I'll just do the noise. I just have this uncanny ability I guess.
"My latest noise, a draining plughole, just came out of nowhere. That was one where I just made the noise and someone said, 'That sounds like a draining plughole'."
From his years of experience, Darby has a distinct opinion of the New Zealand comedy scene.
"It's a draining plughole," he says jokingly. "I think it's in the best condition it's ever been in. We have to be careful what we do with the comedy industry now though because we can't just get too excited about it. We tend to put too many galas or stand-up on TV."
Darby has such a vested interest in New Zealand comedy he and Carnahan have created Awesomeness International to foster home-grown talent.
Since they have both been involved with comedy internationally, notably working at the Edinburgh Festival, the couple say they are using those experiences to promote comedians here.
"It's about making sure that we develop the stand-up comics in this country the right way," says Darby.
Darby's own accomplishments have helped promote NZ comedy.
"The comedy scene [has] really shot to the next level since we got The Flight of the Conchords TV show as an international hit. It's like anything, you have to go overseas and achieve something before New Zealand goes, `Oh yeah, we didn't know you were that good. Come back, we've got comedians now!' It's been certified.
"I'm very proud that that show put us on the comedy map and I just hope that it continues. I hope that some more comics will come through and will get their own shows and the international success of New Zealand comedy will continue. Rhys Darby speaking."