Rhys Darby interview
Rhys Darby, who starred as Murray Hewitt in hit HBO comedy series Flight of the Conchords, speaks to Mark Rees about his upcoming shows in South Wales.
"John Cleese will always be known as Basil Fawlty," says stand-up comedian Rhys Darby, of performers being typecast as their most popular characters. "That's what happens to you if you have that kind of impact." Which is why, for the time being at least, Rhys will himself be typecast as Murray Hewitt, the manager from the hit HBO TV series Flight of the Conchords. "It's now up to me to find the next big thing to be remembered for instead!"
In July, Rhys will head to South Wales, where he'll be performing his latest show, This Way to Spaceship, in the Swansea Grand Theatre and St David's Hall, Cardiff. "I've done a lot of stand-up in the UK," he says. "And I've played Swansea before. It was a fairly brief visit, I was in and out, as is the will of the stand-up, but I had a look at the town and got some food there. Besides the accents, which are different, every city has its own soul, and the more time you spend there the more you can appreciate it."
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Born and raised in New Zealand, Rhys's career took off while performing on these shores. "It all started for me in the UK," he explains. "That's where I did stand-up, and that's where Bret [McKenzie] and Jemaine [Clement, of Flight of the Conchords] got together. Will Saunders from the BBC saw them in Edinburgh, put it on the radio, and it exploded from there."
Besides launching his career, he may also have some family connections to this part of the world, too. "I believe I may have some ancestors from Wales, and from Ireland. I'm a bit of a mixed bag, really, I'd be perfect to appear on that TV show, Who Do You Think You Are?" he laughs.
But if he does have any Welsh ancestry, it hasn't made him a fan of our national sport. "I'm not a big rugby fan, but being a New Zealander, you can't really avoid it all together. I watch the internationals with my Kiwi friends when they come over, but we win so often, when we do lose it's terrible – the whole country gets upset."
Rhys's new show, This Way to Spaceship, combines a sci-fi theme with a comedy stand-up show. It tells the tale of how, following the end of the world in 2012, Rhys, as a VIP member of society, is spared, and wakes up in a spaceship. "The spaceship talks to me throughout the show," Rhys explains. "And I give advice to it, which builds up to a flashback of my life. The voice of the spaceship is played by Jemaine [Clement], who does a fantastic robot voice."
Also performing will be Jamie Bowen, a fellow New Zealander who combines comedy with a ukulele. Rhys feels that now is the perfect time for their zanier, off-the-wall style of comedy. "The world's getting darker," he says. "So I think the lighter comedy, the nonsense stuff, is coming back. There's some very delightful, whimsical, optimistic, surreal stuff going on right now, and I'm really looking forward to coming to Swansea."
Rhys Darby: This Way to Spaceship, Swansea Grand Theatre Mon 2 July & St David's Hall Cardiff Tue 3 July.