The lovable Kiwi comic and ‘third Conchord’ brings his storied life and versatile vocal cords to the Forum
In Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows, Rhys Darby plays the alpha male in a pack of Wellington werewolves, who is – despite the lycanthropy – a close relative of the inept Murray Hewitt character he played in Flight of the Conchords. “We are the nerdiest bunch of werewolves you could ever find,” Darby says.
The part was written for him by Clement and Waititi. “We’re all basically comic actors that have grown up improvising together, and they contacted me and said ‘hey, do you want to come down and play this werewolf?’ So I said, ‘yeah, of course. I haven’t done a lot of werewolf work up to this point.’”
Since the Conchords HBO sitcom ended in 2009 Darby, 40, who hails from Auckland, has appeared in movies (Yes Man, The Boat that Rocked), guested on US sitcoms (How I Met Your Mother, Modern Family) and created his own NZ mockumentary series (Short Poppies). He has also toured several stand-up shows, but hasn’t brought one to Australia since 2010. His October performance at the Forum will combine the best bits of the Mr Adventure and This Way to Spaceship shows. “I can’t wait,” he tells Time Out on the phone from the UK. “It’s definitely an all-killer, no filler situation.”
While This Way to Spaceship is Darby’s guide to surviving the apocalypse, Mr Adventure recounts the unlikely exploits in his life. A former army signaller, he’s never been nervous to get out and experience the world. “I joined when I was 17 and I thought the military would take me to some places. Unfortunately the New Zealand Army didn’t. We rescued some sheep. It still gave me the confidence to get out there with a pack and a compass.”
Darby recounts the time he experimented with magic mushrooms on his honeymoon in Thailand (“which was very much by accident: I ordered a mushroom shake and started to lose my mind”). He met mountain gorillas in Rwanda, visited Loch Ness and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro (“that nearly killed me”). “When I signed up to tell jokes for a living,” he says, “I never would have thought I would get these opportunities.”
His shows don’t just involve jokes, however. Darby’s limber lips produce sound effects too: guns, jetpacks, robots, water skiers and more. “I did a show in San Francisco with Michael Winslow from Police Academy who is the master of sound effects, kind of a sound effects summit because he is so good and my stuff is a little bit lame. I still think I can do a better helicopter than him. My electronic garage doors are a cut above his ones too.”