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Rhys Darby - Comedy Festival Review

By's Darren Bevan

Published: 11:10AM Thursday May 10, 2012

Rhys Darby - This Way To Spaceship

To say Rhys' return to the NZ International Comedy Festival is much anticipated would be an understatement.

With a packed Sky City theatre and extra dates added, you can tell there's still a lot of love for this self professed dick.

The show kicks off with ranger Bill Napier heading to the stage to get us all warmed up for the main attraction - and the crowd is onside from the very start. With pauses and then punchlines, this character's still a winner for all concerned.

Also, a big winner is support Steve Hughes. He impressed at the Comedy Gala and is starring in his own show at the festival - and based on tonight's performance, it's one you really do have to see. This Aussie comic looks like a chilled out hippy death metal enthusiast but his vibe is seriously good fun. With dry and droll delivery, whimsical and intelligent material, he's got the crowd eating out of his hand as he espouses views on Australia, the "vortex of silence" when playing to Dutch crowds and a very funny sequence over health and safety. Hughes is a commanding performer and a towering talent - when you're still laughing at his gags after an hour of Rhys, you know that's pretty damn good going for a support act.

As for Rhys, well, what can I say that hasn't already been said?

A warm self effacing presence with a clear joy for what he's doing, he basks in the glow of being on stage as he weaves smart gags with physical japery throughout his stand up.

The setting this year is some material from his new book This Way To Spaceship about the worries over the world ending in December 2012 - and it begins with Rhys standing on stage looking a little akin to the Stig from Top Gear as he wakes to find himself in a spaceship. A Conchordian voiceover from a shipboard computer gives a thrill to the audience but it doesn't detract from Rhys' comic prowess.

There's a nice autobiographical feel to his show as well - I think we're all pretty familiar from how he went from lonely geek to well, popular geek but Rhys makes this adventure inclusive via his storytelling; by his lampoonery and lunacy, he makes you feel like it's ok to be slightly different and how ultimately, you do win the day.

Sure, there are his patented sound effects - including some very funny horses at dressage - but this material reduces the audience to fits of laughter as it's presented with a warm deftness that is both endearing and highly amusing.

Granted, a sequence about being an outsider at school may ring truer to some than others (I'm looking at me here) but the Stand By Me style adventure he has with his small (but hella cool) gang of mates is the stuff of pure comic geekery. It's given warmth and such feeling that you can't help but be swept up by Rhys' performance; sure, he's throwing a show on here but he's enjoying every minute of it - and as the audience laps up every second, it's clear he can do no wrong. 

Rhys' defining moment comes when he tells the crowd "Keep rocking your own styles - eventually someone will dig it". Yes, Mr Darby, we will - because with you as our extremely affable role model, our chief mirthmeister and much loved Kiwi icon, we know that charisma, charm and comic perfection are something to really aspire to.

Do yourself a favour; beg, borrow or steal the chance to board this spaceship - and Steve Hughes - because the journey is one hell of a great feel good comic ride.