ED2012 INTERVIEW: New Zealander Rhys Darby, award winning comedian and sometime star of that ‘Flight Of The Conchords’ show off the telly, returns to the Fringe with a show all about escaping the planet in a spaceship. Well, you know, when Armageddon happens. Not tomorrow or anything (but maybe this year, if you choose to read the Mayan calendar that way).
Being big fans of Rhys, ‘Flight Of The Conchords’ and, even, Armageddon, we stole some quality time with the man himself to ask some questions. Well, you’ve got to get these things done now, haven’t you, if the world’s about to end?
TW: So, if we come to your show, you’re going to help us survive the end of the world?
RD: Metaphorically yes… and physically, yes. Mentally… no.
TW: Where did the idea for the new show come from?
RD: I had just written my autobiography, which by design had turned into a science fictional pre-apocalyptic handbook. I was initially going to take it to the stage for readings, but in the end I chose to fully adapt it to a physical stand-up play.
TW: So the ‘This Way To The Spaceship’ book came first?
RD: Yes, the book came first but it took a lot longer… like the turtle.
TW: The show went down very well at the New Zealand International Comedy Festival earlier this year. Has it changed at all since then?
RD: Yes. It has improved. It’s tighter and faster but it also has more gags. It’s classed as a comedy thoroughbred now. When I improvise a new bit of gold I’ll add it to the repertoire, but then I have to drop another bit out due to time. In Edinburgh time limit becomes the discipline.
TW: What persuades you to keep coming back to the Fringe?
RD: My management. Oh, and the overall awesomeness of Edinburgh and the Fringe. I just love the centre of the art world for August. So I think, if I have a show, then I should probably be there.
TW: How does Edinburgh compare to he other comedy festivals?
RD: There’s no other festival that comes close. Edinburgh is the biggest and it’s the best. The history is cemented and the city is astonishing.
TW: You’ve done a lot of TV, film and ad work now – how does filmed work compare with live performance?
RD: I love TV and film work. Most of it is caught on camera so I get to also enjoy it myself. I like all aspects of comedy performance, so basically if I’m having a laugh being funny then I’m happy. You can’t beat the instant hit from lighting a room up with laughter though. After a year or two working in front of cameras I found I began to miss it.
TW: You now produce comedy shows too via Awesomeness International. Why did you set that up?
RD: Because my wife Rosie and I love promoting the art of comedy. We wanted to produce our favourite international acts in the New Zealand Comedy Festival. We thought if we raised the game it would help local acts flourish, and it has.
TW: Will you be talent scouting while you are in Edinburgh?
RD: We’re always on the lookout for shows and acts that make us fall off our seats, but it’s not why we’re here. If we see something we really really like though… you never know.
TW: It’s been a few years now since you worked on ‘Flight Of The Conchords’, yet the show remains as popular as ever with its fan base. Why do you think that is?
RD: Maybe it’s a classic already. I hope it’s one of those ‘go-to’ shows for comedy for many generations to come. We made a unique show that gained a huge following. I’m so proud of that.
TW: Will the group ever reform for another series or a film?
RD: Like James Bond… we will return. But I don’t know when… or how… or if we actually will.
TW: And finally, what other projects have you got planned beyond the Festival?
RD: I have television development happening, but it’s all very hush hush. Mum’s the word. Even I know nothing about it. What I can say is this – I’ll be at the helm. I’m going to do the writing… and of course the improvising. BOOM!!
Rhys Darby performed ‘This Way To The Spaceship’ at Pleasance Courtyard at Fringe 2012.
Photo: Kat Gollock