Rhys Darby: A Man Of Our Times
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2003
Although a newcomer in the UK, Rhys Darby's blend of physical stand-up, combined with sound effects, characterisation and askew observation is well known in his native New Zealand
This bouncy, Rod Hull-haired Kiwi has more than a touch of the kids' entertainer about him, with his boundless energy, instant likeability and obvious skills in physical theatre.
His show starts with an 007-style action sequence, miming skis, helicopters, motorbikes and the like in some daring escape. Very impressive, but not all that funny.
And that's the feel of the whole show. There's always going to be some pleasure in seeing a grown man acting like a T-Rex, and acting it so convincingly, but behind the spectacle there's no real gag beyond: "Has anyone noticed how stupid dinosaurs look? What's all that about then?"
His limitations are shown up in even starker contrast when he leaves the let's pretend pantomime behind, with straightforward observational stand-up routines that sound decidedly unadventurous. Even the best segment, about how, since walking on the moon, Buzz Aldrin felt everything else in life was insignificant, has been done before, and better, by Stewart Lee.
Aldrin is one of Darby's heroes around whom he structures the show, thus giving him the chance to play out surreal imaginings of beekeper Edmund Hilary climbing Everest for his insect chum or Jacques Cousteau having a dalliance with a mermaid.
There is a cartoony charm to the comedy, and there is fun to be had if you can switch off and take the act at face value. But if you prefer your comedy more intelligent, look elsewhere.
"I'm a dancing idiot," Darby confesses towards the end of the show, "and I'm happy with that."
And that's a shame, because if he could back up his genuinely impressive physical ability with something of substance he really could be a force to be reckoned with.