Live Review: Rhys Darby at the Improv
When Rhys Darby recently lost the chance to replace Steve Carell on The Office, I was much more disappointed than when Chicago lost the Olympics. Sure, a Will Arnett or Danny McBride could channel the accidental prickishness of Dunder Mifflin’s boss (a role that ultimately went to James Spader), but as chirpy band manager Murray Hewitt on Flight of the Concords, Darby aced the art of upping expectations and under-delivering (a la Carell's Michael Scott). Turns out Darby will return to TV this fall in the new CBS laugh-track sitcom How to Be A Gentleman, a Felix-and-Oscar-style fop/schmo rehash (Darby plays the fop’s brother-in-law).
This weekend, the 37-year-old New Zealander headlined five shows at the Improv in Schaumburg. “That’s always been in the dream, to get here and play in a shopping mall,” he quipped. To non-fans, Darby is part Steve Irwin, part sober Danny Bonaduce (on FOTC, Murray’s best nickname was “Ginger Balls”). At the Improv, high-energy physical comedy and sound effects prevailed. Horses, bouncing balls and robots were mimicked, and Darby even played a pink kazoo to simulate a conversation between a wounded fly and a fly paramedic. Some of the subjects he broached (his thick accent, getting recognized in public) were predictable and tame, but I barely minded. His most compelling bits came from his one-of-a-kind experiences. Not a lot of people co-star in Hewlett Packard commercials with Dr. Dre, for instance. “He had a Gap sweater on, and just the two shoes,” said Darby. For such an upbeat guy, Darby is unexpectedly self-aware, “I popped open a banana…not the correct term,” he said. Later in his set he said “but” and tapped his butt. Basically, Darby is a good comedian to go see with your mom. I did.