Rhys Darby is an actor, writer, podcaster and stand-up comedian from New Zealand. North American audiences first got to know him as Murray the manager from HBO’s Flight of the Conchords and more recently as Nigel the guide in the Jumanji movies. His other film and TV credits include Yes Man, The X-Files, Wrecked, What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople. His sound-effect skills and voiceover work can be heard in such projects as Voltron: Legendary Defender, as well as his four previous stand-up specials. A fifth special, Mystic Time Bird, is due out in 2020. Also new from Darby: a Spotify podcast about aliens, called “Aliens Like Us.” Darby caught up with me via Zoom from New Zealand, so let’s get to it!
When I sat down with Fred Willard in February 2020 inside his home in Southern California, he was noticeably weak — I held his microphone for him throughout our conversation — but his mind and his sense of humor was quite intact, and he was still working. In fact, Fred received a phone call during our interview inviting him to the Modern Family wrap party, and talked to me about being ready and willing to drive into Hollywood with only a morning’s notice to appear on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Willard was a deadpan king of comedy and an improvisational genius in all sorts of supporting roles in television and movies from the 1960s until his final days. We spoke about all of it over the course of an hour, from how he got involved with The Second City and Ace Trucking Company, to Fernwood 2 Night and Real People, hosting Saturday Night Live in 1978, meeting Christopher Guest and his memorable roles in This Is Spinal Tap, For Your Consideration, and of course, Best in Show. He had a funny story about how he scored a role in Everybody Loves Raymond. Willard also talked about what would be his last venture, playing Steve Carell’s father in the new Netflix farce, Space Force. Willard died peacefully at home on May 15, 2020. He was 86. He was the only live-action actor in a Pixar animated movie in WALL-E, perhaps because he always animated every project he worked on. Fred Willard most certainly will be missed. But let him tell you why in his own words, so let’s get to it!
Josh Thomas is an Australian comedian, actor and writer who broke out on the scene as a teenager, winning best newcomer at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in 2007 for his first solo show, “Please Like Me.” Thomas went on to stage his stand-up at the Edinburgh Fringe and Montreal’s Just For Laughs before developing his first TV series, also called “Please Like Me,” which documented his coming-out process and aired originally on Australian TV before getting picked up for multiple seasons in America via the Pivot cable channel. His follow-up to that, “Everything’s Gonna Be OK,” premiered in January 2020 on Freeform. The first season in full is available for streaming on Hulu. Thomas sat down with me via Zoom to talk about all of that, why working with bugs and teenage girls makes perfect sense, and more, so let’s get to it!