AMONG THE flock of fab comics winging their way to Galway for next month’s Vodafone Comedy Carnival is New Zealander Rhys Darby, best known as Murray from HBO’s Flight Of The Conchords and Steve in Wrecked.
Since moving to the US seven years ago, Darby has featured in a plethora of TV shows and films, from The X-Files and Voltron: Legendary Defender to A Series of Unfortunate Events and Jumanji. For all of his onscreen success, Rhys is never far from his stand-up roots. His live show is a sensational blend of sound effects, wacky characterizations, and askew observations.
At the Comedy Carnival, Darby presents his latest show, Mystic Time Bird, which will also be recorded live at the Town Hall Theatre for future DVD release. In the show, he turns to the world of ancient mysticism to find answers to life’s problems. In doing so, Rhys learns he may have been a bird in a past life, and this information takes him - and the audience - on a unique, unforgettable, and hilarious journey of discovery and zaniness.
Ahead of his Galway visit, Darby chatted with me about his stage and screen career and I began by asking if being an in-demand actor in Hollywood makes it hard to make time for his comedy shows. “Yeh, I guess,” he replies. “I did stand-up for so many years; that was my main occupation while I lived in the UK and for me it was always a means to get to television acting. It just so happened that I broke through to the American scene; I hadn’t envisaged that happening but it did. So then we upped sticks and moved to LA and I got swept up in the acting world for quite some time but I always thought of returning to stand up and decided to do a show every two years. It was a big juggling act; I had children and a burgeoning TV career then trying to do the stand up as well. Going back to stand up is always a real joy now.”
'Mystic Time Bird is a really important piece for me because it came from my mother passing away two years ago. That made me take stock of who I was and where I was going'
How has Darby found life in Hollywood? Is it really full of folk running to their analysts and AA meetings in between stabbing each other in the back? “All that is definitely happening here, I’ve seen those things,” he laughs. “For the first two years I was here I was uncomfortable, I didn’t know the place and it was hard to find my niche. Once we got the children into school we made friends with other parents and that base level of friendship grounded my position and made it easier for me to do the endless meetings; and those first two years entailed a lot of meeting with various agents and doing auditions and trying to get projects off the ground.
"Had I been single and doing the party scene I might have fallen into that neurotic world of following fad diets, getting a tiny dog and all of that. Coming as a slightly older guy with some grounding helped. The weather gets to you in a good way and you can see why lots of people in the entertainment world do end up here. I count myself lucky because I never thought I’d get into America, particularly with being a New Zealander and being able to keep my accent and work as an actor; the comedy side of things probably allows me to do that. So I’m happy to be here.”
Darby moves on to talk about Mystic Time Bird. “It’s a really important piece for me because the basis of it came from my mother passing away two years ago. That really affected my life and made me take stock of who I was and where I was going. As regards the mysticism side, I’ve always been into alternative ideas on life. I was in Hawaii and I decided to go see a shaman – not as a joke but with an open mind."
“I’ve recorded previous shows in LA and New Zealand, so I thought why not film this one in Galway? I think it will be memorable for me and the show and the fans that see it'
"I do wonder about an afterlife, we all get to a point where we wonder what happens when we die. This shaman told me I may have been a bird in a previous life. It sounds ridiculous but it made sense to me. I am very good at sound effects, I can mimic things and so that became the basis of the show; where am I going, what have I been in past lives – I could see a lot of comedy in that, so that’s how I created the show. It was also a way of me getting through the grief of my mother’s passing and having an optimistic idea of maybe seeing her again sometime.
“This show has more depth to it because of that situation. In the past I have danced around with abstract ideas and observations and I do the same thing here. I also talk about life experiences and share a few stories that are based in fact but spin off into weird tangents. So it is the same kind of stuff that I normally do but there is more depth to it because there is a meaning to what I am talking about with these things and where I am going with it. I think that when you leave at the end of the show there is an uplifting idea that I hopefully manage to transform the whole show into. I’ve been told that Mystic Time Bird is my best show yet.”
I enquire what prompted him to choose Galway as the location to film the show. “I’ve had the show on the road for a while now and it’s at its optimum level but I also I like filming my shows in interesting locations,” he replies. “I’ve recorded my previous shows in LA and New Zealand and I think the setting, with different types of audience, gives you a different type of show and often a better one. So I thought why not film this one in Galway, I think it will be memorable for me and the show and the fans that see it.”
Rhys Darby presents Mystic Time Bird at the Town Hall on Thursday October 25 at 8pm. The performance is suitable for ages 16 and over. He will also perform on Wednesday 24, as part of the opening gala show, with Joel Dommett, Andy Askins, Damian Clark, Lisa Casey, and Barry Murphy. Tickets for each show costs €25 and are available via www.vodafonecomedycarnival.com