Rhys Darby is probably best known to us Brits as Murray Hewitt, deputy cultural attache at the New Zealand consulate and occasional band manager in the seminal comedy music series Flight Of The Conchords. But Kiwi comedian Rhys is also now a movie world player, having appeared in films such as The Boat That Rocked, and a novelist. His semi-autobiographical book, This Way To Spaceship, wonders how much you have to do to get on one of the spaceships supposedly reserved for the great and good come the Apocalypse. It also forms the basis for his forthcoming stand-up show at the Corn Exchange this month. Explorer found out more from the man himself!
So it’s set to be quite a year, what with the Olympics and the End Of The World -- do you think enough people are aware that Armageddon is approaching fast?
“Yes I think most people are aware of it. That film 2012 came out a couple of years ago and did quite well. Everybody loves a disaster film. Some people of course will choose to ignore it. Just another fad… I’m sure a lot will say. Well they said that about the Olympics back in the day of nude discuss throwers and now look, it’s still going. Mind you, no one’s nude anymore. I think that’s why viewing numbers are down.”
Do you think you’ve done enough to warrant a place on one of the spaceships out of here?
“Absolutely. I’m one of the best known New Zealanders and that should do it really. Everyone likes New Zealanders because we work well behind the bar. That being said I’m sure I’ve thrown a few spanners in the works by releasing this book, revealing how the ordinary folk can find their way onto the ships. There might be extra security up now at all the secret spaceship bases.”
New Zealand, the UK and the USA -- what are the pros and cons of each?
“My home is beautiful and the food is gorgeous. The UK has an amazing history and is full of exciting talent and the US is the land of opportunity. If it wasn’t for America I wouldn’t be the star that I am today. Of course the cons are that New Zealand is so small you hit a ceiling pretty quick (especially now with all the Hobbit dwellings), the UK has awful weather and the US has a terrible health system. So I don’t really know where to live?”
What’s your most ‘Hollywood’ experience so far since moving to the US?
“Partying on a roof in downtown LA with lots of models and then catching a ride in a Corvette Stingray down to a shooting gallery where I let off some rounds with a Magnum 44. After this we hit a few silly strip bars where the ladies don’t actually take any clothes off. The next day, hungover I ran into Arnold Schwarzenegger at the local shopping mall. He’s shorter than I imagined.”
Any other countries you’d particularly like to live in?
“Germany sounds pretty cool. I’ve performed in East Berlin and they took quite a liking to my dinosaur impressions. At the end of the day though it’s hard to imagine living any where else when you come from a paradise like New Zealand.”
What do you like most -- and least -- about the touring lifestyle?
“I love the excitement of a new town and a new theatre. I love the characters you meet along the way. I hate having to repack my bags every other day. It can also be a strain on family life. I hate being away from my kids. This time thankfully they’re with me. And my wife of course, who is my best friend.”
Have you performed in Cambridge before? (Cambridge UK or Cambridge New Zealand…?)
“Yes. Both places. Cambridge in the UK, a lovely university town of course and Cambridge in New Zealand, the original Cambridge -- town of the mighty band The Datsuns.”
In the parallel Flight Of The Conchords universe, what is Murray Hewitt is currently up to?
“I caught up with Murray recently actually. He’s still working on the farm with the boys. All the crops have been harvested now. The Conchords are on tour in rural NZ and Murray is busy setting up a miniature golf course on his back lawn. He’s back in touch with his ex wife Shelley. They share company on Sunday afternoons with a glass of sherry and a bowl of crisps. Sometimes Murray dances for her but only after she’s had a few drinks.”
Here’s Rhys as Murray Hewitt in a scene from Flight Of The Conchords…
Rhys Darby, Friday 13 July, 20:00. Cost: £20. Corn Exchange, Wheeler Street, T: 01223 357851 www.cornex.co.uk