Like director Peter Jackson, Rhys Darby's future career was partly defined by formative viewings of Monty Python. For Darby the show was "the ultimate".
After leaving school in Auckland, Darby spent three years in the NZ Army, then left to study art at Canterbury University and perform comedy with friend Grant Lobban.
Darby returned to Auckland and began developing his own stand-up routine, which involved heavy use of slapstick and self-generated sound effects. Later he performed on a number of episodes of TV's Pulp Comedy, including this one.
He first bonded with comedians Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie while performing at the 2002 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. They were the only Kiwi acts performing, and Darby helped hand out fliers for The Flight of the Conchords show, while McKenzie handled lighting duties during Darby's. When Clement and McKenzie's music-based act won their own BBC Radio series, Darby was asked to play a semi-improvised role as the band's manager.
By 2004 the fictional musical duo were attracting overtures from American TV networks. When cable channel HBO signed them to make a series, thoughts that the role of band's manager would be more realistically played on-screen by an older actor were swiftly cast aside. Said Darby: "... we found right from the radio series that we connected and improvised really well as a threesome. So it was a sort of no-brainer for me to come in and play the same part on the television side of things."
Darby has described band manager/deputy NZ cultural attache Murray Hewitt as: "highly strung and incompetent, but he's got a big heart". The success of the Flight of the Conchords series — and Darby's performance — had unexpected after effects. Some Americans began turning up at Halloween parties dressed as Murray, while others complimented the cast on their supposedly fictional accents and nationality.
Next, Darby was asked to act alongside his idol Jim Carrey. He played a nerdish variation on his Conchords character in Carrey's 2008 comedy Yes Man.
Travel was in the air. In the same period Darby released a DVD documenting a stand-up gig in Los Angeles, encountered a silverback gorilla while visiting Rwanda for this episode of Intrepid Journeys, and headed to England to play one of a group of 60s radio DJs on The Boat that Rocked (or Pirate Radio, as it was later retitled in America).
Back in New Zealand, he hosted pop culture compilation show Rocked the Nation 2, and cameoed as star Terence Ben'et in an episode of The Jaquie Brown Diaries (series two, episode three). Darby joined his Conchords cohorts with a small role in feature-length ghost story Diagnosis: Death. He also co-wrote and added his voice talents to animated short Fot: The Next Big Thing.
The second series of Flight of the Conchords allowed Darby's character to venture from behind the desk of the New Zealand Embassy and out into the Big Apple: the occasional running scene, plus a song or two of his own.
In March 2010 filming began for Darby's first starring role. Released the following February, feature romance Love Birds saw Darby headlining as Doug, a down on his luck nice guy who finds new hope thanks to an injured paradise shelduck, and a lovable animal specialist (Brit actor Sally Hawkins, from Happy-Go-Lucky). The film reunited the creative team behind break-out local hit Second-Hand Wedding: director Paul Murphy and co-writer Nick Ward.
Darby went on to create and star in comedy series Short Poppies. The faux-reality show saw real-life reporter David Farrier (Tickled) encountering eight 'ordinary' New Zealanders, from a UFologist to a solo mother. All were played by Darby. The show's guests include Sam Neill, adventurer Bear Grylls and Office co-creator Stephen Merchant.
In 2016 Darby cameoed as Psycho Sam in Taika Waititi record-breaker Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and won praise after guest starring on the reboot of The X-Files, as a cellphone salesman with a monstrous secret. He also got to play a New Zealander on American comedy series Wrecked, as one of a group of survivors who crash on a remote island.
Rhys Darby website. Accessed 8 February 2017
Mark Seman, 'Let's get "Wrecked" with new TBS comedy' The Laugh Button website. Loaded 29 April 2016. Accessed 8 February 2017
Grant Smithies, 'Flight of the Conchords' Rhys Darby' (Interview) - The Sunday Star-Times, 1 January 2009
'Short Poppies' TVNZ website. Accessed 8 February 2017
Unknown writer, ''Brilliant' Rhys Darby gets rave X-Files reviews'. Spy NZ Herald website. Loaded 3 February 2016. Accessed 8 February 2017