Interview with Rhys Darby : Murray from FOTC
Interview by: Caroline Foran
OK. Band meeting. Let's just do a little roll call first, shall we? Caroline - Present. Rhys Darby - Present. Item 1: Chat about Rhys - AKA - Murray from Flight of the Conchord's much anticipated forthcoming Dublin gig.
Disclaimer: If you aren't as fanatical about FOTC as I am, then that band meeting reference will have made very little sense to you. My suggestion? Stop reading, get your hands on the box set, watch it and come back to me after; a comic delight awaits you.
Those of you who are familiar will no doubt appreciate my ardent excitement when given the chance to catch up with thee Murray - Bret and Jermaine's well meaning, if a little naive and inexperienced manager who serves not only to book their gigs but also to increase their fanbase which at the outset consists of just one person - the unhinged Mel - to, well, more than one. Amidst a hectic touring schedule Darby - one of New Zealand's hottest actors and comedians right now - took time out to fill me in on his former life as an army soldier - trained in morse code, believe it or not - his personal journey from a chicken-dancing geek to the coolest guy at the party and what we can expect from his award winning show, This Way to Spaceship.
A little recommendation: Try to read this with Murray's Kiwi accent in your head; it makes it even more enjoyable.
How excited are you to come to this side of the world with your show and how do you find our audience?
You've got a very similar audience to what I'm used to here. I've done a lot of work in the UK and of course America and I find as long as audiences can understand my accent, they usually like what I'm saying. I tend to do sort of universal subject matter, something we can all follow and get into. I talk about myself a lot. The Irish crowds are very jovial, up for a good time. We're quite similar nations actually when you think about it; there's a good kinship between us with our green pastures, our sport and our drinking. We don't drink quite at your level but we do enjoy a beer.
Tell me about the show - This Way to Spaceship - that's a very intriguing title.
Well basically the show starts off with me in space. It's 2012 and the world has ended; the Mayans were right. The world has exploded. It's all over and the VIPs are being taken up in a ship and I wake up and the spaceship talks to me and I'm confused as to how I got on to the ship and then I sort of end up looking back on my life and that then turns into stand up where I reveal some stories from my youth and how I progressed in life. It turns into sort of a handbook manual to life and I offer my advice on how I got there. There's stories of fashion and fashion advice - you better believe it - there's conversation starters, advice on how to converse with unknown quantities at parties. It's not always been a success, following my advice. The hilarity comes from a lot of my failures. It's very much true to my own life. All the stories are true and it shows how I met my wife and how I found my way to Hollywood and at the end of the show it's revealed how I actually got on the ship which is a completely different ball game altogether.
You've just released a book of the same name, filled with tips on how to go from being a bit of a dork to the coolest guy at the party. What's the one thing you've learned on that journey?
Just be yourself really. The journey for me has always been about the nice guy finishing first. It's always been a struggle but by being that nice guy and being true to yourself and persisting with it and being original, not changing yourself for any mode or mantra then you'll meet the right people and you'll blend in with the right situations and things will happen for you. There's a lot of fake people out there.
You must have met a few people in Hollywood?
(He Laughs) Yea that's where a lot of it came from. I think coming from New Zealand and having a real big view of the world because we come from such a small place next to Antartica, we can't help but have this naive optimism. We can't help but go out and explore. And bigger countries like America or Britain don't have so much of that because they have a powerful position to begin with. They look amongst themselves whereas we look out and ask 'do we deserve to be here?', 'am I relevant?'. I kind of look at the world as we're all humans and without being too preachy it's kind of 'if I can make it, anyone can'. How have I made it, like, I've done nothing. I've just been a goon. I've been a dick. But at the end of the day I've enjoyed myself and I've been a nice person.
Tell me about your time as a soldier. I can't believe you're trained in morse code!
I joined the army when I was 17 and I'd love to say I'd lost a bet but I really did want to join the army and I just was still finding myself and I was in there for three and a half years. I did enjoy my time but looking back because I was quite late to mature I think really what I was doing there was joining the scouts except I joined the real army instead. So here I was running around in the bush tying knots and cooking and digging holes. I was just very lucky that we weren't suddenly deployed to a war situation because I'd have been a bit shit I think.
How do you go from army soldier to one of the most successful stand ups in the country?
I was at university next and that's when I really found myself. I actually was quite good at English. I liked writing so I thought there may be something there and I thought I'd love to meet great people and see the world and it was while I was in university that I picked up the performance side of things. I joined the comedy club which was like a university sketch troupe. Then I found myself getting laughed at a lot on stage and then it became a natural progression so I knew then that's what I should be doing. I've been laughed at all my life and now finally I could get paid for it so it made sense.
Of course you're most well known for your role as Murray in FOTC. How similar are you to the character?
There certainly are similarities. And my wife wrote a page in the book actually which gives the similarities between me and Murray. That roll call thing is mine. I made that up. I used to do that as a kid. That's a throw back from being in the army cadets. I don't think I'm not as naive as Murray. We have a similar wit but he doesn't realise he's being funny whereas I do. So I have all the smarts and the parameters that he has but I put it on on purpose and he doesn't. We have a similar optimism on life which is quite healthy if you want to succeed. You don't think you're going to fail because it doesn't sort of come into your parameters.
I don't think Murray would get invited to as many parties as you would?
Parties? Laughs well of course these days I'm turning down party invites left right and centre but back in the day which you'll see from this show, I certainly didn't get invited to many growing up but I made my way along to them anyway and then I made myself known at the parties. That sort of advice will come up in the show. I show people how to dance. At house parties, instead of other men who would just tap a left foot now and again, I would choreograph proper routines and rehearse them. One of them was called 'feed the chickens' and then another one was called 'paper delivery boy' and I'd be on a bike and I'd be throwing imaginary papers around. I do all those on stage. It's kind of making dorkiness cool though nowadays. If you're confident enough to do it and if you do it with a bit of style then that is cool!
You must have had the time of your life making FOTC. How did that come about?
Best fun ever. We were in the Edinburgh Fringe together. We had separate shows but we helped each other out because we were the only Kiwis there. Then the BBC approached them to do a radio pilot and Jermaine asked me to play the part of manager. He had a mockumentary style idea like Spinal Tap and I said OK let's do it. And then that turned into a show and they got a TV show and brought me on board there too.
Were you surprised the show did so well?
We were surprised because we knew we made each other laugh but we didn't know other people would be in on it as well. It was a nice surprise. It's quite Kiwi humour but it also has a British feel to it too and the music obviously spoke for itself and it was in an American setting so it had a few good worlds colliding.
Any chance of a reunion? A Christmas special maybe?
We do see each other often. We're having lunch in Wellington on Friday. Hopefully we'll work together again soon. Christmas special? I'd love to do that and I'd love to say yes but we've barely been together enough in the last couple of years to come up with an idea for that sort of thing.
So between the FOTC success and your movie work and everything else, what is it that keeps bringing you back to stand up comedy?
I think when I first began it was all about me and a notebook. Writing down ideas and then trying them out and to this day I still do that and you gotta keep your comic muscles working and I've also started having a go at writing scripts which is a new skill. But when it comes to stand up I'm still writing everything down. The chance to perform and try it out and actually have a lot of people come - which I get these days - is a real pleasure so nothing can beat that. Nothing can beat the live performance aspect. I won't do one every year but when I've got enough stuff compiled it's a fantastic feeling to tour and have a room full of people really pleased to see you and I always come out at the end and meet everyone and get photos and sign things. I love that.
You're obviously used to giving advice - from the show and book - what's the one piece of advice you'd give to a budding comedian?
Keep performing as often as you can. Let me think of something more inspiring than 'keep trying'. I've learned to believe in myself and to have confidence. A lot of comedians lack the confidence to get the thing across. 90 percent of it is in the performance and if you've got charisma and draw people in with what you say then then other 10 percent which is the material will be appealing. There's a lot of comedians doing mediocre middle of the road material but they do it so well they draw in these huge crowds.
What can we look forward to next?
After this tour I'm off to Edinburgh and then I'm working on my feature length script based around one of the characters you'll get to see in the show when I come to Ireland. You'll have to come and see!
Rhys Darby brings his show ‘This Way To Spaceship’ to Dublin’s Vicar Street on 28 June 2012. Tickets on sale from Ticketmaster now, priced €28.
Story by EI Team | 09:00 | Saturday 9th June 2012 | Comedy
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