NEW ZEALANDERS are officially easy-going - it was confirmed in an academic study last year - but I was pushing the laid back nature of a nation, when owing a series of “hilarious” phone-related issues, I was half an hour late in ringing Kiwi comedian Rhys Darby in his Los Angeles hotel room to chat to him about his forthcoming UK tour.
Fortunately, Darby did his country proud, and did not emit a single grump about my tardiness (oh, and apologies to the lady in Newbury whom I unintentionally phoned four times in my attempts to call California. I did wonder why a swanky LA hotel had a receptionist with a West Berkshire accent).
I’’ve always been a sucker for a Kiwi accent (blame Neil Finn from Crowded House. No, really. In his younger days, he was hot. Trust me.), and as Darby didn’t seem to mind me calling him “Rhysybabes”, as befits anyone with the first name “Rhys”, my fluster soon passed, and much relaxed chat ensued. Well, 15 minutes’ worth of relaxed chat, anyway. I was ringing from my in-laws’ landline, so I had to watch the clock.
And so, with the time ticking away at premium international rate, I got on with the questions...
CATRIONA REEVES: The show you’re about to tour in the UK is called This Way To The Spaceship - and you’ve written a book with the same title as well. What’s all that about, then?
RHYS DARBY: The idea is that when Armageddon arrives, which it’s going to at the end of 2012, the superpowers have got spaceships ready with an invite list of those who will be allowed on board. Naturally, as I’m currently making waves in Hollywood, I’ll be on the list.
But I don’t want it to just be me, I want others to make it on board as well, so This Way To The Spaceship is basically my advice on how to open a few doors at parties, finding the right doors in the first place, fashion tips, conversation advice; how to work your way in with the right people and achieve your dreams.
The book is on the same theme, so the live show is basically the book interpreted through the mediums of physical stand-up, storytelling and dance.
The book has been published in Australia and New Zealand, but at the moment there’s no UK distributor. I’ll be bringing some copies with me though, for people to buy at the show. It kinds of puts a bit of mystique around the book - you’ve got to see the show to buy the book.
CR: Maybe you should give a free copy of the book to each audience member, as part of the ticket price.
CR: You mentioned that there’s some dancing in the show...
RD: ... Yes. I have been compared to a sea serpent trying to mate. Off-season...
CR: ... but also, I understand that you include some dinosaur impressions.
RD: Oh yes, I’ve fed a couple of dinosaurs into the show. Not literally. I do a good t-rex, pterodactyl, velociraptor...
CR: Ooh. That could be a problem. We’ve already got a British comedian called Hugh Dennis who does a magnificent velociraptor.
RD: Maybe we should have a dinosaur impression showdown. He can be a velociraptor, and I’ll be a pterodactyl and swoop down on him.
CR: Right. Anyway, you’re best known as Murray, the band manager in the sitcom Flight of the Conchords (shown in the UK on BBC4). There’s been rumours of a film based on the series flying around for ages - any truth in them?
RD: We had a ‘secret band meeting’ a couple of weeks ago, but nothing’s really progressed yet. We want to do something, but it’s down to them [fellow Kiwis Brett McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, the musical/comedy duo who go by the name Flight of the Conchords and write/star in the series], and they’re pretty busy touring at the moment.
CR: So what are you up to in LA at the moment? Schmoozing and swinging your way into the film industry, or would you prefer to do more television?
RD: Whatever tickles my fancy. I like doing TV, because it’s more like a normal job - it lasts longer, and you get to know everyone working on it, so it becomes more like a family. Saying that, I did have a big US sitcom, and moved over here last year to work on it - and it got cancelled after just a few episodes. It was good that it was in a way; it was tightly scripted, with set up punchlines and American fake laughter. It didn’t stretch me. I like things looser and more improvised.
CR: You played one of the pirate radio DJs in Richard Curtis’ film The Boat That Rocked - that had the feel that you were all working as a family and improvising a lot of the time.
RD: We had a lot of fun on that film. We were all on the boat down in Southampton a lot of the time, and when we did our bits on the radio mic, we were really allowed to let lose and do what we wanted.
The most interesting day was when I was thrown in the ocean and nearly drowned. I was meant to be struggling to swim, but the wet suit I was wearing under my costume was making me too buoyant, so they put diving weights around my waist. I really started to struggle - so it may look like really good acting, but actually I was genuinely thinking I was going to drown.
CR: Your UK tour is going to be a far cry from LA - are you looking forward to it?
RD: Definitely. I’m also looking forward to seeing my wife and children who are going to be coming over to the UK for July and August. My two boys are six and two, and they don’t usually travel with me, so it’s going to be great to have them with me. We’re going to see all the sights. Are there any sights to see in Basingstoke?
CR: Yes. There’s Milestones, Hampshire’s Living History Museum. You can dress up in Victorian costumes, and walk around cobbled streets.
RD: Excellent. They’ll love that. We’ll have a ball in Basingstoke. Hopefully the show will be pretty good too.
* Rhys Darby brings his show, This Way To The Spaceship, to The Anvil in Basingstoke on Tuesday, July 10.
- First published in the Newbury Weekly News on Thursday, June 28, 2012