Darby's flying high
He's achieved international success, but all Rhys Darby wants is a good old Kiwi summer
TRACEY COOPER Last updated 15:09 15/12/2011
Craig Simcox FEELING HOMESICK: Rhys Darby is looking forward to being on home soil.
All Rhys Darby wants for Christmas is to get back to New Zealand.
It's not that he's unhappy with life in the United States, where he's been based this time around since about June. But, as he says down the line from Los Angeles, "it's all very well being over here, but, you know, it's not there, it's not New Zealand".
"I just miss home. I`m looking forward to a New Zealand summer," he says.
He and his family – wife Rosie and children, Finn, 6, and Theo, nearly 2 – will get their Christmas wish, flying back to New Zealand next week for a well-earned break.
"I can't wait to get home. We're just going to have a good old Kiwi Christmas in the sun."
Adapting to family life in the US has been an interesting experience, he says, especially with Finn attending school.
"It's a bit weird, to be fair.
"But the kids are taking it in their stride. Finn, we've been dragging him around the world since he was born so he's used to it."
And Christmas in the US has been something for the kids especially to enjoy.
"It's a bit over the top, I tell ya," he says.
"There's houses around here that must have spent millions of dollars on their Christmas lighting and there's a lot of fancy sort of Santa workshops and things like that in the shopping malls. There's been no expense spared on massive reindeer decorations and what have you."
Darby, who first came to fame as the bumbling Murray in Flight of the Conchords, has released a DVD of his last standup comedy tour of New Zealand in time for Christmas, and says live comedy remains his passion, despite his career also turning to movies, television shows and writing.
"I do love standup. No matter what I do with acting and filming various things, it's still the heart of what comedy is to me. Either making things up off the cuff or telling people personal stories of crazy situations I've been in, just getting that instant feedback of live performance ..."
And while the DVD was filmed on the last night of his 2010 tour in Auckland's impressive Civic Theatre, Darby says he recalls performing in Hamilton and says – as most other visiting comedians do – he always gets a good reception in the city.
"It was one of my best shows. It's where you are located there, you've got to have a good sense of humour and you like to have a good laugh, you can laugh at yourself."
Darby has made a successful career out of getting people to laugh at him and it's got to the stage where – in shades of British comic Rowan Atkinson – "I kind of can just pull some weird shapes and people tend to laugh at the way I look".
Darby, 37, grew up on a diet of British comedy and still claims Michael Crawford's performances as the bumbling and hapless Frank Spencer in Some Mothers Do Have 'Em as an inspiration.
"He was one of my heroes and, of course Rowan Atkinson's stuff, Monty Python, I was a big Monty Python fan."
In recent years, he says there's been an influx of British comics to the US, led by the likes of The Office star Ricky Gervais, and that's helped make that style of comedy more popular.
"I have been lucky to get myself established at quite a good level here, people know what I do so it's been quite popular, that kind of style, so we've sort of fitted in there."
Which means he'll be in the US for a while yet, although he spends a fair bit of time in the air flying around the world for his varied roles.
"I'll be actually heading over to the UK as soon as I get back to the US. I'm doing a TV show over there. Talk about jumping about. I definitely make use of the elite lounges, I tell you that much. They all know me by my name."
Along with films, television and comedy shows, Darby has also found time to write a book, due out in about April, but says his ultimate dream is to be able to live and work back in New Zealand.
"It's kind of a double-edged sword, being as successful as I can be in my chosen field but not earning enough money to be in New Zealand, because there are not really the jobs there.
"But what I want to try and do ultimately is to create a television show where I can get the US or UK to fund it and make it but actually shoot it at home, that's the dream."
No reason to doubt he'll get there, but until then he'll have to settle for a decent break back at a Kiwi beach for the summer and there are also plans for another tour of New Zealand too.
"I'll be back next year, I'm working on a new show now which I'm going to take to the UK and do a tour, I haven't done a UK tour yet. I'm going to come to New Zealand and sort of get it worked on before I take it over there so it'll be nice and fresh, around about April or May next year."
Until then, fans of Darby will have to be satisfied with his latest DVD.
The DVD It's Rhys Darby Night was released on Monday.
- Waikato Times
Very exciting that Rhys is going to tour the UK and he's doing a British TV show. I wonder if it's a new pilot or one of the pilots has been commissioned into a full series?
Rhys Darby has got the gift of the gab
By Lydia Jenkin
7:00 AM Saturday Dec 17, 2011
Comedian Rhys Darby is capping off his very big year with a live DVD. He talks to Lydia Jenkin
Among the many jobs comedian Rhys Darby has had of late is being one of Santa's little helpers. He voiced an elf in Aardman Animation's Arthur Christmas. It was just an afternoon session in a vocal booth.
"The funniest thing was," says Darby on the phone from Los Angeles, "at the end of it they said, 'you might be one of the few elves that we don't actually have to adjust the voice tone'. I don't know whether to take that as an insult or a compliment, but I guess I was high-pitched enough."
It seems all three Kiwi stars of the Flight of the Conchords TV show are in demand for family movies these days.
Well, Jemaine Clement did voice one of the indecipherable minions in the animated Despicable Me. And Bret McKenzie has written songs for The Muppets film (helmed by FOTC director James Bobin), and McKenzie has also hinted at a FOTC feature in interviews.
"Yeah, every couple of years those rumours seem to spark up," says Darby. "It's when one of us gets interviewed, generally, and it only takes a couple of words and all of a sudden it's big news. But all three of us have spoken and we're trying to connect at the moment. Jemaine's just called me actually, and I think next year we will try to start writing. I think making the Muppets movie has sort of inspired Bret to see that it is possible."
Darby has been busy enough without worrying about further FOTC projects. He's had roles in Yes Man and The Boat That Rocked, visited Rwanda for Intrepid Journeys, and attempted being a leading man in local romantic comedy Love Birds.
So he's striking while the iron is hot ... .
"You can't be this talented and lose heat," he laughs. "No, I've been lucky, I guess, in that once I got in with the American entertainment system and got myself a good agent, that's what it's all about over here. You've got to have the right people representing you."
Indeed, earlier this year he got a part in new CBS sitcom - a comedy of manners, How To Be a Gentleman - and moved his family to LA only for it to be cancelled after three episodes.
"We filmed nine episodes, and then halfway through filming the ninth one, they took us upstairs and said, 'right the show's being cancelled'. We weren't sure whether the show was hitting the right marks or not. I had no idea myself how it all worked with the numbers over here, but it is a big numbers game. I think we were pulling in, would you believe it, only eight million viewers per episode. Shocking isn't it?"
Darby was praised for his role, and he wasn't ultimately disappointed to be freed up for new work.
"For me it was kind of bittersweet, because I didn't really feel that I was working up to my potential being in that show. It was a multi-camera, laugh track sitcom which is a classic idea, but it's kind of weird.
"The humour of the show wasn't right up my alley, I prefer something with a bit more realism to it rather than set-up punchlines. It felt a bit like a modern day Happy Days. So I was quite happy to get out of there and get ready for the next opportunity."
There were also rumours late last year that he would be replacing Steve Carell in the American version of The Office, and though he was in the running, this didn't pan out either, though in hindsight Darby isn't too disappointed.
"I had a big two-hour interview with them, and went on set and met the writers and whatnot, and it was quite exciting for a while there. And then I heard nothing. In the end they decided to go down another route. But once again I almost think it was a blessing. I mean, I've no idea whether I would've been great in the role. I don't know whether the show would have taken off in a different direction, I don't know if it would have been more or less popular than it is right now, but at the moment it feels a bit like people have given up watching it. So it's a bullet dodged in some ways."
Darby says despite those ups and downs he feels blessed that his voice and persona has become his calling card. "The roles I am getting, they always essentially want me to be myself. I take it as a compliment that people love laughing at me."
And when Hollywood - or ad agencies on both sides of the Pacific - haven't filled his diary, he's also had time to pursue his stand-up work here and aboard. Darby toured New Zealand with a new show late last year, with his penultimate performance at Auckland's Civic Theatre filmed for the DVD It's Rhys Darby Night!.
One of his first and most brilliant jokes, involves a kazoo, a fly, and an ambulance, and his 55-minute performance includes tales of filming computer ads with Dr Dre, childhood recollections, musings on Transformers and a whole lot of funny walks, along with a set designed to echo Darby's askew world.
The extras section is a treasure trove too, with Rhys doing segments as two of his favourite characters - park ranger Bill Napier, and adventure tourism entrepreneur Ron Taylor, at a park ranger station and on the edge of a lake respectively, in full costume - much as you would in a TV show really.
"The Bill Napier character is inspired by Fred Dagg, and also just a whole lot of people I've met on the road in New Zealand, and mixed them up."
"And of course I was in the army for a while so I've met a lot of men's men, and southern types. And the other thing, is that when I was a kid I always wanted to be a ranger. So I'm essentially playing the part of another dream, or another track that I could've ended up taking.
"The advantage of being a comic and an actor is that I can still be any of these other things I ever wanted to be, I just pretend."
What: Live comedy DVD It's Rhys Darby Night! out now.
Good to know Jemaine has been in contact with Rhys.