Rhys Darby

Comedian Rhys Darby on life in New Zealand

Rhys Darby: Willing & Able on flight of folly

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Christchurch is like a best friend who's had facial reconstruction.

The earthquake-damaged Christchurch CBD red zone. Photo / APN
The earthquake-damaged Christchurch CBD red zone. Photo / APN

Hi folks. Last week was pretty intense. A young lad by the name of Jake sent me a formal invitation to speak at his school in Christchurch. I took him up on the offer because boys of his age are exactly the demographic I hope to inspire.

The wife threw myself and my right-hand man "Buttons" on to a cheap Jetstar flight. This meant I had to set the alarm for 4:30am. The last time I had to wake up that early I was a teenage soldier hiding in a foxhole in Waiouru.

Anyway, it turned out I didn't need the alarm; my own body clock woke me up at precisely 4:29am. It's really spooky when that happens, isn't it? No doubt about it, I thought to myself, the human mind is an amazing thing.

Just before we boarded the plane we were informed by the flight attendant that we were positioned in the emergency exit row. "There's certain responsibilities if you're in that row," he said. "Are you willing and able?"

Buttons and I looked at each other. We were both thinking the same thing, so I jumped in first and said it: "Yes. That's us ... We're the popular 1990s comedy duo Willing & Able."

We both laughed. The flight attendant smiled faintly, which seemed an obvious indication that he wanted more folly.

"I'm Able and he's Willing," I said.

Buttons put his hand out for the shake. "Leon Willing".

I followed this up with, "I'm able to write the jokes but he's the only one willing to enjoy them!"

We high-fived each other on that one but the attendant had already moved on ... visually.

The last laugh was from the airline, though. Once we'd taken our seats, they informed us that if we wanted a coffee or a biscuit we'd have to be "willing" to pay for it.

I hadn't been back to Christchurch since 2010 so I knew I was in for a shock. Radio New Zealand took me into the CBD "red zone" for an interview. I stood there with a confused look on my face trying to get my bearings. A lot of the rubble had been cleared so there were just holes where prominent buildings used to be.

It was like going home to see a best friend after hearing the news that he'd had facial reconstruction surgery. I hardly recognised him, but when we hugged, it felt good.

They took me to the site where I had launched my comedy career back in 1997, a building on Lichfield St. This was also the place where I first met my wife. Only now it wasn't a building at all. It was nothing. It was gone.

I stood there in silence and then shut my eyes. With my eyes closed I could see it all as it once was and somehow that was comforting.

There's no doubt about it, I thought to myself, the human spirit ... is an amazing thing.

- NZ Herald

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