'Flight of the Conchords' star Rhys Darby puts down roots with 'Short Poppies'

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Handout photo

Bill Harris, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:14 PM ET

At first I didn't get the title, Short Poppies. Then when I tried to look it up, I came across an expression I'd never heard of, “tall poppy syndrome.”

“Yeah, that's right, it is related,” said New Zealand native Rhys Darby, star of the new comedy series Short Poppies, which debuts Thursday, April 3 on Netflix. “It's funny, because it's something that America, and I guess Canada, don't relate to as much.

“It's definitely known down in my neck of the woods, New Zealand, Australia, and the U.K., Ireland, they're sort of familiar with this syndrome. It means, when you stick your neck out in a small community, you can get it cut off, no matter what field you're in. If you stand out, then you can be brought down a bit. It's just not something that happens over here (in the U.S.).”

I assured Darby – who is best known for playing band manager Murray Hewitt on Flight of the Conchords – that what he's talking about happens all the time in Canada, too, even if the expression “tall poppy syndrome” isn't as widely used.

“Oh well, there you go, I definitely thought you guys would have it, because it seems like a British kind of thing,” Darby said. “So that's cool, I knew you would be the same.”

Thus the title Short Poppies, which is a mockumentary about everyday New Zealanders, with Darby playing multiple roles.

“They're just ordinary folk who go about their business, but one of the reasons for the show is, there's really no such thing as ordinary folk," Darby said. "Everybody's got their weird quirks and interesting things going on.

“A bit of 'tall poppy syndrome' happened to me when I went back to New Zealand after some sort of success that I've had overseas. And I felt like, 'You know, it's not that I'm any weirder than the rest of you,' so I wanted to do a profile on ordinary New Zealanders, while at the same time making a comedy show. I thought Short Poppies was an interesting title, which would make people go, 'What's this about?'”

Each episode focuses on one character, played by Darby, who is being profiled by documentary filmmaker David Farrier. Regarding the various looks Darby displays, he decided against being purposely ragged – like, making it obvious he was wearing wigs and things like that – but rather to commit fully to the various characters in a physical way, given the supposed seriousness of the documentary format.

“Because the comedy is absurd, it just makes it funnier,” Darby reasoned. “That's something I learned with the Conchords, which is, act as real as we can be, and make the scenes very realistic, even if the dialogue or what we're talking about is the most ridiculous thing ever. Those two angles just make comedy gold.”

In that way, Short Poppies cranes for the sky. Just don't stick your neck out too far, Rhys Darby. You know what can happen.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @billharris_tv

 


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