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
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.”