Rhys Darby is best known as the character actor behind Flight of the Conchords’ Murray Hewitt, but he has perhaps one of Hollywood’s most unusual side gigs: monster hunter. The New Zealand comedian has traveled to the far limits of the earth (and scientific understanding) in search of cryptids—creatures yet to be documented by science. You know, like Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and the mysterious Jersey Devil.
It’s a fitting passion for Darby, whose oeuvre consists largely of oddball characters relegated to the edges of society. I’m thinking of his delightful turn as a monster-turned-into-a-man—indeed, a cryptid—in this year’s bumpy new season of The X-Files, as well as his recent role in Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Darby plays Psycho Sam, a bushily bearded jungle hermit, who helps the protagonists—Sam Neill and Julian Dennison—on their journey. He also co-hosts a radio show, The Cryptid Factor, dedicated to the paranormal.
Last week we shared an in-depth conversation with the actor/stand-up/adventurer, who also hosts the comedy night Rhys Darby’s Saying Funny Things Society at Largo in Los Angeles almost every month. Darby’s fascination with these mysterious, inexplicable, possibly nonexistent beasts is so strong, though, that we thought it deserved its own thorough investigation. So here, in his own words, are Rhys Darby’s top three favorite cryptids.
“I’ve been on an expedition to find that one, and to a certain degree it does exist, because they’ve got a hybrid animal down in Texas that can be captured. I’ve seen the actual thing. It’s kind of a monster that started in Puerto Rico—they had wings and big legs in the back, small ones in front, they could leap into the air. And then slowly, over time, that changed, and now it’s a hybrid animal between a wolf and a coyote.”
“The Mongolian Death Worm is massive, it spits acid, it’s the closest thing you’ve got to a kind of Dune monster. You’ll never do better. It’s truly terrifying.”
“I just love the Yeti because he’s so elusive. You talk about Sasquatch or Bigfoot as much as you like, but there have been so many more sightings of them than the Yeti. The Yeti, though, has just as believable a mythology behind it: the local people that live in the Himalayas, Tibet and China, all around that region, have seen this creature, and have their own ideas about it. I know recently they’ve tried to prove it was actually an ice bear, or a very ancient bear, from the DNA they’ve got of the Yeti, but that’s just one theory. We all know it’s highly unlikely that bears would be living at those altitudes. It’s probably more unlikely that giant apes would be living at those altitudes. So what is this thing? It’s definitely a combination of the two, because it does walk upright. And I think there’s just so much more mystique about it, because you’re talking about a magical land that many of us have never been to and will never go to. It’s such a bizarre, weird kind of—it’s at high altitudes, I find it more mysterious. And the final thing I’ll say on this [Darby’s wife, Rosie, interjects: “Because we could be here all day…] is that I’m a big fan of Tintin, and one of my favorite books is Tintin In Tibet. And he came across a Yeti—he actually saved him. They’re a good thing, they’re not bad, and I think we just need to be on the right side of these spiritual beings.”
Chupacabra art by Alvin Padayachee
Yeti art by Philippe Semeria
Seth Simons is a Brooklyn-based writer, performer, and birdwatcher. Follow him @sasimons.