us two

Co­me­di­ans Rhys Darby (right), 43, and Jamie Bowen, 35, first en­coun­tered each other at The Clas­sic com­edy club in Auck­land at the turn of the Mil­len­nium. Bowen has opened for Darby on his tours in the years since, and joins him on his Aus­tralasian tour of

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - NEWS - In­ter­view/ Britt Mann Photograph/ Be­van Read

RHYS/ I first saw Jamie when he was per­form­ing with his sketch troupe, GARY. They were at The Clas­sic – it was him, Brett O’Gor­man and Mick An­drews. They were so funny, the three of them on stage. They were do­ing wacky, loopy, sur­real sketches. Of course, it was right up my al­ley.

I was in a com­edy duo back in the day called Rhysently Granted, with Grant Lob­ban who’s now Damo on Short­land Street. I re­mem­ber in­stantly lov­ing their act. Back then, Jamie didn’t have the beard. He was so young look­ing! He kinda looked like Char­lie Brown.

We tried to get stuff go­ing here in New Zealand ac­tu­ally – the GARY boys and me and Grant. We did a stage show called Earth­lings. We put on a sketch show in the lit­tle carpark be­neath the com­edy club. Our friend­ship blos­somed from there.

The GARY group split and me and Grant went solo. As did Jamie. But all through that time we sup­ported each other and en­joyed watch­ing each other in com­edy fes­ti­vals and things.

He does these big ver­bal di­a­tribes which, when he nails it, are quite some­thing. There was quite a fa­mous one he did about boxes. Life, when you think about it, is all about boxes – we pop out of a box, if you’ll for­give my rude­ness, when we’re born. Then you spend your life pur­chas­ing dif­fer­ent sizes of boxes – houses and what­not – and then at the end of your life, you end up in a box.

It’s a re­ally cool piece of com­edy, that kind of well­crafted thought process is some­thing he’s well-known for. He’s got quite the in­tel­lect, that boy.

To this day, I’ll al­ways work with Jamie when I do my na­tional tours. Ev­ery time we go to a new town, Jamie likes to find the nicest restau­rant. He’s the world’s slow­est eater.

I come from an old army back­ground where it’s get your food down your gob ’cos you’ve got to get out on pa­rade – you’ve lit­er­ally got two min­utes.

When we toured the UK, some­times we’d try dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters in the res­tau­rants and make com­plaints and see how much free food we could get.

He’s a bit of a... culi­nary de­light­ist, I think is the term. When some­thing wasn’t cooked quite right or when some­thing could have been bet­ter, some­times he’d get the cook to come up to the ta­ble and go, “What have you put in that? Be­cause I think if you added a bit of this...”

He’s quite cheeky like that. I’d go, “Jamie, what are you do­ing? We’re just at a Pizza Ex­press.” JAMIE/ I met Rhys in 1999 at The Clas­sic. I was in a com­edy trio at that point. Rhys likes sketch com­edy and re­ally liked us. We ended up do­ing a show with Rhys called Earth­lings. It was GARY and Rhysently Granted.

It was a play about an in­ter­ga­lac­tic com­edy com­pe­ti­tion, in which GARY had been se­lected to com­pete on be­half of Earth. There was a par­tic­u­lar dance we had to do ev­ery time we trav­elled through space. I think that re­ally ce­mented the friend­ship.

Rhys has been re­ally great to me. In 2012 I was go­ing to do the Ed­in­burgh Fringe Fes­ti­val again, with my solo show. Rhys and his wife Rosie were pro­duc­ing it, and helped me get over there. Rhys also got me to open for him on his UK tour, which was amaz­ing.

Then ev­ery time he’s gone on tour, I’ve been his opener. Gen­er­ally pre-show it’s a cou­ple of quiet beers and muck­ing through a cheese board. His wife Rosie is his man­ager so he doesn’t get to be a diva.

Rhys has al­ways been Rhys – he’s just got­ten bet­ter and bet­ter at be­ing Rhys. His be­lief in him­self is prob­a­bly the great­est take­away for me in terms of ca­reer. When he was start­ing to be­come fa­mous, he did a set that didn’t quite work. Some­one yelled some­thing at him and Rhys goes, “Doesn’t bother me mate; wa­ter off a mildly suc­cess­ful duck’s back.”

I don’t ac­tu­ally know if I’ve ever had a proper, se­ri­ous con­ver­sa­tion with Rhys. We don’t talk about feel­ings.

There was one tour when I was on stage while he was on stage, play­ing sound ef­fects. It was amaz­ing to be able to watch the crowd’s re­ac­tion.

There were peo­ple cry­ing with laugh­ter – you could see their stom­achs were hurt­ing.

The same show, he had a UFO hang­ing from a fish­ing rod. The tape came off and re­ally ru­ined the end gag. Some­how, he man­aged to make it funny.

Even though he’s nat­u­rally gifted, he works re­ally f...... hard. He’ll think of a joke and he never seems to need to write it down. I think he’s just hard­wired to do what he’s do­ing.

He loves ev­ery­thing World War II and on one tour he went out of his way to go to Peter Jack­son’s avi­a­tion mu­seum. The rest of us couldn’t be both­ered. He goes, “You guys don’t know what you’re miss­ing out on.” I’m like, “Where’s the re­ally good restau­rant?” He’s like, “If it doesn’t have planes and guns mate, get f.....”

Rhys Darby’s Mys­tic Time Bird tours un­til mid-Au­gust. See rhys­darby.com for dates, venues and tick­ets.

Watch Darby and Bowen shoot the breeze, at the Clas­sic where it all be­gan, on stuff.co.nz

“I don’t ac­tu­ally know if I’ve ever had a proper, se­ri­ous con­ver­sa­tion with Rhys. We don’t talk about feel­ings.”

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