Rhys Darby Live – Imagine That! DVD review

Flight of the Conchords' Rhys Darby hits the stage in his new stand-up DVD...

Rhys Darby Live

Rhys Darby is best known as Murray, the manager in the successful HBO series, Flight Of The Conchords. However, long before Darby became a sitcom star, he was a jobbing stand-up comedian, and if you’ve only ever seen him in Flight Of The Conchords, his act will no doubt come as something of a surprise. Gone is the uptight convention of the fictional band manager and embassy clerk; instead you get a crazy, high-energy Kiwi with an uncanny knack for doing sound effects.

Filmed at the El Rey theatre, Los Angeles, the show opens with a short introduction by Bill Napier, a fictional park ranger played by Darby. Napier is understated and likeable, but ultimately not very funny, which isn’t such a bad thing, as it leaves you wanting the main act even more.

In stark contrast to his famous alter-ego, Darby exudes a childlike contentment from the moment he steps on the stage. Within minutes his facial expressions have gone from calmly bemused to awkward and shy and back again. He’s clearly well-practiced at this, but with his face beginning to show signs of age, it’s not quite as effective as it would otherwise be.

It’s not long since he launches into his party piece – a disturbingly impressive impression of a robot, complete with whooshing noises, and the clunking of rivets. Like Michael Winslow before him, this skill is interesting, but isn’t inherently funny. It’s unfortunate, then, that Darby relies so heavily on it in his stand-up routine. You get dinosaurs, mermaids, ejector seats and more. What you don’t get enough of is the man himself.

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Indeed, as impressive as this ability is, it often gets in the way of his real ability as a comedian, and he’s at his best here when he’s just talking. The physical aspects of his routine are okay, such as when he recounts his ‘funky’ attempts at marching during a brief stint in the army. However, the highlight of this one-hour set is an anecdote about a comedy set he was asked to do on an aeroplane, shortly after 9/11. The passengers, unaware of the planned comedy, were not amused by his impression of a robot, thinking he was nothing more than a lunatic. In Darby’s own words, it was “The worst gig ever.”

The other highlight of the DVD is the ‘interview’, a deliberately contrived affair, in which Darby makes the interviewer ask him his own pre-prepared questions, including the deep-probing “What’s your favourite colour?”

The ‘outtakes’ section is a funny idea, but the execution of it isn’t quite as effective. The other extras include a commentary, a selection of sound effects, and the chance to watch the Bill Napier segment in isolation.

Rhys Darby is likeable and engaging. If only there was more of him and fewer robots.

2 stars


2 out of 5