Seasoned stand-up comedian Rhys Darby played an inept band manager on cult hit Flight of the Conchords. It proved a springboard to wider fame. After feature acting roles on both sides of the Atlantic, Darby took the lead role in Kiwi romantic comedy Love Birds. 2014 saw the debut of comedy show Short Poppies, with Darby playing a different person in each episode. He continues to act and perform live.
I've had quite a few emails from people asking me where I'm really from, and complimenting us on inventing such a funny accent. They say it's great that you've made up this paradise place. Perhaps we should refuse to believe in California as payback. Rhys Darby, talking Flight of the Conchords with writer Grant Smithies, The Sunday Star-Times, 1 January 2009
Funny As traces the history of New Zealand comedy through archive footage, and extensive interviews with local comedy talent. Debuting on TVNZ 1 in July 2019, the five-part series explores how Kiwis "have used comedy to navigate decades of profound cultural change". Funny As touches on everything from live and musical comedy, to pioneers of Kiwi screen humour (e.g. Fred Dagg, Lynn of Tawa) and the hit exports of later years (Flight of the Conchords, Rose Matafeo). The series was made by production/creative agency Augusto, and produced by comedy veteran Paul Horan.
As this promotional clip makes clear, Funny As features an impressive roll call of Kiwi comedy legends. The five-part series traces the history of New Zealand comedy through interviews and archive footage. In coming weeks NZ On Screen will be publishing extended interviews with the comedy talent captured on camera for the series. Funny As ranges all the way from the early days of live comedy to screen pioneers (Fred Dagg, the Week of It team), the legendary Billy T, and the Kiwi comedians who've made their mark internationally (Flight of the Conchords, Rhys Darby).
Featuring the voice talents of Lucy Lawless, Temuera Morrison and Rhys Darby, this animated feature follows a fictional creature on the run from a life of servitude on the farm. After learning that his fellow thoriphants used to stand upright, Mosley sets out to discover the secrets of his species. In the accompanying making of clip, American writer/director Kirby Atkins explains how he used recordings of his then seven-year-old daughter in the film. Made by Kiwi animation company Huhu Studios, Mosley marks the first official co-production between China and New Zealand.
Taika Waititi's fourth feature is the tale of a city kid and a grumpy uncle on the run. Raised on hip hop and state care, Ricky (Shopping's Julian Dennison) goes bush with his foster uncle (Sam Neill). The authorities are on their tail. In this excerpt, the pair get caught, and s**t gets real. Wilderpeople is based on Barry Crump book Wild Pork and Watercress. Keen to recapture the style of classic screen yarns like Came a Hot Friday, Waititi's aim was a funny, accessible adventure. The result won acclaim almost everywhere it went, and became New Zealand's biggest ever local hit.
Actor/director Taika Waititi teamed up with his Eagle vs Shark star Jemaine Clement for this mockumentary about life for a flat of vampires. Cameras follow the vamps as they struggle to get into Wellington pubs, squabble over chores and face off against werewolves. A roster of Kiwi comedic talent (including Jackie van Beek and lazy vampire Jonathan Brugh) feature. After winning fangtastic reviews at America's Sundance and SXSW festivals, Shadows won a run of global sales and four Moa awards, including Best Self-Funded Feature. It also spawned two TV series, and a live show.
Director Paul Murphy follows Second Hand Wedding with a romance featuring comedian Rhys Darby, songs by Queen and ... a duck. Darby plays heartbroken nice guy Doug: after a close encounter with a native duck (a paradise shelduck) with emotional problems, he enlists expert help from a sassy animal specialist (played by Brit Sally Hawkins, a Golden Globe-winner for feature Happy-Go-Lucky). True to rom-com form, love ensues ... eventually. NZ Herald reviewer Russell Baillie called Love Birds “an endearingly funny, if sugar-coated local romantic comedy”.
An all-star team of Kiwi talent contributed to this sketch comedy — including Taika Waititi, Rhys Darby, the bro'Town team, and 'special guest stars' Jemaine Clement and John Clarke. In-between one-off and ongoing sketches, there were regular appearances by Taika Waititi as an oddball alien character with plans for planet Earth. There were also animated inserts like laconic sheep tale The Pen, FOT (Funny Orange Thing) and the Kiwi accents of Beached Az. Eight episodes screened on TV3. Bro'Town creator Elizabeth Mitchell was producer and lead director.
Eclectic comedy show Radiradirah featured Taika Waititi, Rhys Darby, Madeleine Sami and the talent behind animated hit bro'Town. The fast-paced sketch show included Monty Python-style animated inserts, the laconic talking sheep of The Pen, and bro'Town-ers Oscar Kightley and Dave Fane as elderly women who've done it all. This first episode introduces a number of ongoing characters, including an oddball alien with a beard, and crusading space captain Hemi T Cook (both played by Waititi). Radiradirah was created by bro'Town's Elizabeth Mitchell and Oscar Kightley.
Since debuting in 2009, award-winning panel series 7 Days has introduced a range of Kiwi comedy talents to television audiences. Three's show takes an irreverent look at the past week in the news, with regular segments like “my kid could draw that” and “what’s the taxi driver talking about”. Jeremy Corbett hosts; the two teams of regular and guest comedians have included Paul Ego, Dai Henwood, Ben Hurley and Urzila Carlson. The show echoes the format of Britain's long-running Mock the Week. Corbett has described 7 Days as the comedy show he's always wanted to make.
Featuring a rare star turn by stand-up comedian Raybon Kan (who also co-wrote the script), Diagnosis: Death is a genre-stretching tale of oddball nurses, haunted hospitals and bedside romance. Kan plays a cynical teacher sharing a hospital ward with a young student (Jessica Grace Smith), after both are diagnosed with cancer. Trapped in the ward during an experimental drug trial, the duo investigate a strange case of haunting. Shot specifically for DVD, Jason Stutter's second feature also features cameos by Conchords Jemaine Clement, Bret McKenzie, and Rhys Darby.
Well-received comedy panel series 7 Days debuted on TV3 in 2009. The show takes an irreverent look at the past week in the news with such regular segments as “my kid could draw that” and “what’s the taxi driver talking about”. Jeremy Corbett hosts, and there are two teams of regular and guest comedians including Ben Hurley, Jeremy Elwood, Dai Henwood and Paul Ego. This episode’s special guests are Rhys Darby and Australian comedian Lindsay Webb, while Labour MP Darren Hughes features in “politician in the hot seat”.
This Intrepid Journey sees comedian Rhys Darby taking a Rwandan OE. In the excerpts Darby makes lots of friends in the markets of capital city Kigali, then heads on a jungle adventure. Far from the New York office of his Flight of the Conchords character Murray, he searches for critically endangered mountain gorillas. Darby is guided by François — a personable and entertaining park ranger, fluent in primate dialect — whose aping gives Darby a run for his money in gorilla impersonation. Darby is quietened by a sombre genocide memorial, and a 200 kilogram silverback.
Rocked the Nation launched in 2008 with six one hour-long shows. Production company Satellite Media ransacked the archives and interviewed protagonists, to survey 100 key moments in Kiwi music history: including smash hits, riots, TV talent shows, and sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. Hosted by Karyn Hay, the series screened on C4 during NZ Music Month, and was the channel’s highest-rating series to that date. Follow-up series counted down 100 New Zealand Pop Culture Stories (2009, hosted by Rhys Darby) and 100 New Zealand Sporting Moments (2011, hosted by Dai Henwood).
TV personality Jaquie Brown plays (and plays up) herself for delightful comic effect in this hit TV3 satire. Former Campbell Live reporter Brown plays an egomaniacal journalist looking to climb the media ladder any which way she can. Auckland's aspirational set: a cast of Metro social page alumni and wannabes, are skewered with self-referential glee. The second series was retitled for DVD release as The Jaquie Brown Odyssey; both series won acclaim and Best Comedy gongs at the Qantas Film and TV Awards. The Listener gushed: "A local sitcom that doesn't suck."
In this early, Edinburgh-centric episode of arts show Frontseat, Flight of the Conchords return to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for a sellout third season — although they argue the new show is “a shambles”. Also present at the fest are an array of Kiwi technicians, performers, and arts programmers. Meanwhile in his Marlborough vineyard, globetrotting cinematographer Michael Seresin critiques Kiwi society and its ugly towns, and calls New Zealand a “lonely, soulless sort of nation”. Also on offer: Artist Phil Dadson in Antarctica, and award-winning dancer Ross McCormack.
In this episode from stand-up comedy TV series Pulp Comedy, Rhys Darby arguably steals the show: a very limber tyrannosaurus rex impression animates a surreal tale about taking his grandfather to the movies, which results in dinosaurs running amok in Auckland's Queen Street. Elsewhere, Mike Loder's conclusion that no disgrace could lead to Tiger Woods losing his sponsorship deals, and Justine Smith's opinion that her hometown of Christchurch is rather lacking in excitement may not have quite stood the test of time.
Pulp Comedy succeeded the talent quest A Bit After Ten as a TV outlet for stand-up comics. Its origins lay in Auckland's Comedyfest which was established to capitalise on the city's burgeoning early 90s stand-up scene. Showcases at the Powerstation led to a request from TV3 for a television series. Produced by Mandy Toogood and Simon Sinclair, it ran for eight years and provided national exposure for novices as well as leading lights like Mike King, Ewen Gilmour, Flight of the Conchords, Michele A'Court, Brendhan Lovegrove, Philip Patston and Cal Wilson.