Catching up with Rhys Darby and Jarred ChristmasPublished: 11:37AM Friday April 16, 2010
The International Comedy Festival is once again rolling into New Zealand. With a multitude of shows on the way, it's a veritable plethora of laughs for fans.
But as well as the New Zealand acts, some of the finest international artists head to these shores - and in some cases, there are reunions.
This year, one pair who are being reunited are Rhys Darby and fellow Kiwi comic Jarred Christmas, both of whom have gained fame from Flight Of The Conchords. But what's less known about the pair is they both headed off from New Zealand at the same time to try their luck. Jarred's only returned to New Zealand once - until now.
We chatted to Rhys and Jarred about their careers as expat standups and actors. Rhys, you are obviously know as Murray from FOTC. Jarred, if we were in the UK, what would we know you for?
BBC2 sitcom "The Persuasionists", Big Brothers Big Mouth, Argumental panel show for UK TV and of course the hugely popular Pot noodle commercials and the Virgin Atlantic advert. Sure they are both adverts but have gained cult status over here thanks to the Internet and UK students love of a dried noodle snack. Also I have actually had people recognize my voice from the FOTC radio show and also a few kiwis have noticed that I am the voice of NZ Lamb adverts shown on Sky TV over here. I have also performed all over the country and won Best debut Show at the Leicester Comedy Festival which is the largest comedy only festival in the UK. Rhys has often said standup is a means to an end for you, that you always knew you wanted to be a comic actor. And Jarred you have moved in to this with your work on BBC's The Persuasionists. Do you think you will slowly give up the standup like Rhys has? Or continue to do both?
I hope to continue to do both for as long as I can. Stand up is what got me here and nothing really beats the thrill of standing in front of an audience and knowing it is up to you to get these people laughing. The thing I love the most about stand up is that it is immediate. You know within seconds if what you have said is funny. With TV comedy, you film it then have to wait months until its shown to know wether you nailed it or not. Jarred, there are many paralells with Rhys' standup in your standup; you are both energetic performers with a skew towards the surreal. Is this coincidence? Or because you are both Kiwis? And how did that type of humour go down in the rough clubs of the UK?
I think our energy comes from our enthusiasm. Kiwis are laid back but we have a special kind of enthusiasm that when it comes out is infectious. Thats why people respect us as Rugby fans. How many times have you seen a spontaneous Haka break out at an All Blacks game? We love it and it kinda spooks the drunk England fan who has an St George cross sunburnt onto his face. The surreal is a place I like to visit, I have a season pass. But Rhys bloody lives there! Its a great place and Rhys holds an audiences hand as he takes them there. Not to get too deep about it but I think growing up in a country where you have access to all types of environments from cities to forests unleashes your imagination, and so does drugs. Lots of drugs. How would you describe each other?
I first met Rhys in Christchurch at a venue called the Green Room. It was an open mic night and he sung a song about jandals whilst playing the kazoo. I can remember laughing like an idiot and then the voices he came out with almost killed me. I also remember getting drunk with him at the 99 NZ comedy festival and he said "One day, I would love to be in a film with Jim Carrey" He won the dance competition that night too. (I took it off him in 2000 by performing a back flip off a chair. I almost died, but I won the title) So I would describe Rhys as a Kazoo playing, dream living, dancing machine who knows whats funny and loves having a giggle. Rhys:
Jarred is an energetic optimistic and all round nice guy loved by everyone in the comedy world. He has balls of steel and is the only man to have ever beaten me in a dance contest. He did this by doing a somersault. I mean fair enough, but come on... who does a somersault on the dance floor? Well he did. Mind you that was years ago. He was about twenty then. What do you think the UK circuit has done for your careers as standups? Could you have achieved the same success by staying in NZ?
What the UK circuit provides in stage time and exposure. Unfortunately because of NZ population and remoteness in the world you just can't match what the UK has. You can do 5 gigs on a Friday night, you can gig every night of the week. You can drive from London to Manchester to do one gig and back again. You can gig around Europe and into the States very easily from the UK. The UK circuit also attracts the best live comedians from around the world, so you have to up your game to survive. I think it honed us, got us so gig fit we could play anywhere. It also provides an opportunity for one of the best things in comedy - Collaboration. FOTC is all about that. FOTC collaborated with a good comedy producer in the UK to get their comedy onto the BBC, in turn that helped them into the states. These things can only happen when you are in a melting pot of international talent. Could we have had the same success in NZ? It would of been tougher to reach a global community, but I think Talent wins out in the end no matter if you are world famous in NZ or not. Rhys:
No certainly not. For one the UK has tested our skills like NZ never could. The audiences in the UK have been watching live comedy for so long and they have seen the best the world can offer on a regular basis. Having jumped on the stages over there. We both had to pull our socks up and perform at a certain level otherwise we would have been boo'd off the stage. The sheer intensity and volume of gigs available in the UK meant that we could perform every night until we were good enough to get invited to perform at the big clubs. Comedy Store, the best club of all now has us not only headlining but for Jarred - hosting the show. So that's a massive honour. A kiwi MCing the best live comedy nights available in the world. You've both retained your Kiwi accents in sitcoms overseas, was this important to your identity as standups do do this?
Yes, although I play an Aussie in the sitcom I keep my kiwi accent. The producers wanted me for the part and were not concerned about the accent. Its a larger than life comedy character. If it was for a drama, something serious, then I think it could matter. I take the Sean Connery approach to acting. No matter my nationality, I will always have the same accent. My dream is to play a Lithuanian nuclear submarine commander and say, "Hey this periscope is choice. I can see the American sub on the surface so I think we betta dive mate, BLOODY DIVE!" Rhys:
Funny is funny. And to maintain the essence of the comedy we hold inside ourselves then our voices must remain intact. Our accents are part of this and we are proud that our NZ voices are heard while we are being funny. Yes our accents do help to make us sound funnier too to the international audiences in the same way that the Irish all sound funny to us! For more information on where and when you can see Jarred Christmas and Rhys Darby during the International Comedy Festival, click here!