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Permission to land- The Irish Times interview

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Permission to land- The Irish Times interview

Postby Venus » Fri Apr 30, 2010 1:35 am

The Irish Times - Friday, April 30, 2010

Permission to land

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The comedy was an accidental by-product of rock ambitions, the global fame was even more of a surprise and now they're sort of looking forward to it all ending so they can go back home. New Zealand's comic superstars Flight of the Conchords talk to BRIAN BOYD

‘WE’RE PRETTY much doing the same show now that we used to perform in front of 50 people at the Edinburgh Festival in 2002,” says Bret McKenzie from Flight of the Conchords. That year in Edinburgh, the self-described “New Zealand’s fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo a capella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo” appeared in an eerie venue called The Caves.

Their midnight show featured the two of them sitting down with acoustic guitars, some songs and a bit of banter. Through excited word-of-mouth exchanges and superlative reviews, those early shows saw the Conchords go from nobodies to cult attraction to “standing room only”. From there, they have gone on to create one of the most acclaimed comedy programmes of the decade – their eponymous HBO TV show.

“Edinburgh was good to us,” deadpans McKenzie. “After three years, we achieved what would normally take people four years.”

When their two shows at Dublin’s Olympia Theatre next week went on sale earlier this year, all tickets sold out in a record 12 seconds. Similar to The Mighty Boosh, the Conchords inspire a sense of loyalty and devotion among their fan base, while at the same time sidestepping the mainstream and avoiding the usual comedic pitfalls that come with widespread acclaim and popularity.

Who else in the fame-obsessed, perpetually insecure, cash-in-while-you-can world of stand-up would walk away from a major TV series that was viewed by this generation as their Fawlty Towers ? Despite multiple Emmy nominations (and a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album), McKenzie and his on-stage partner Jemaine Clement, have decided there will be no third HBO series.

A statement late last year read: “We’ve noticed the less we say about the future of the show, the more people want to talk about it, so in an effort to reverse this trend, we are today announcing that we won’t be returning for a third season. We’re very proud of the two seasons we made and we like the way the show ended. While the characters Bret and Jemaine will no longer be around, the real Bret and Jemaine will continue to exist.”

The show featured the duo trying to make it as an alt-folk art combo in New York. With their demented stalker fan Mel and a regular cast of supporting comics, McKenzie and Clement were unlikely lo-energy and frequently bored and distracted looking protagonists. Most of the action came from the songs and videos.

“We’re very understated people,” says McKenzie. “There’s a big difference in energy level between Americans and New Zealanders. It can take a bit of getting used to. The music in the show was influenced by acts such as Pet Shop Boys, Marvin Gaye, Eurythmics, David Bowie . . . and Flight of the Conchords. We’re a big influence on ourselves.”

The comedy was somerthing of an accident for the Conchords. The duo first met at university in Wellington in the mid-1990s – they were both studying film and theatre. They first performed together as part of the five-piece comedy troupe, “So You’re A Man”, but they still harboured ambitions of becoming a band. With a common love of artists such as James Brown, Prince and Bob Dylan, they struck out as a duo. “We were a very strange band,” says McKenzie. “It might have been a different story if we ended up playing rock venues. We just ended up playing comedy clubs.”

What impressed most early on was how they contrasted their shy on-stage selves with vivid musical vignettes. Early on, they patented their between-song banter – mildly surreal ramblings with a self-deprecating core.

Five years ago, they began to make waves with a well-received BBC radio show – which, like the subsequent TV show – had them trying to make it as a folk duo in London. “There are similarities, yes,” says McKenzie. “The radio show was a stepping stone to the TV show. It helped us develop a way of telling stories, a way of creating a show. Radio is great because you are free to do whatever you want, but with the TV show, they can actually make things for you – you don’t have to pretend you’re in a spaceship. You can actually be in one.”

Not really the types to “pitch an idea for a TV show to a major network”, they were surprised by the HBO offer. “We’re not out and out ambitious, which is a bit strange in the US TV world,” says McKenzie. “I think people knew from the beginning that we had a different approach. It was fine with HBO because they are a sort of alternative channel (we had tried something with NBC, but that didn’t work). It was a worry trying to bring the stage show to TV, but we did want it to deal with surreal ideas in a very ordinary way, like the stage show. It was all driven by the songs, really.”

The rigours of starring in a big TV show didn’t sit well with them. “From the beginning, we couldn’t believe that these people from America had rung us up and asked us to make a show,” says McKenzie. “It was exciting that some Americans had even heard of us! When we began to make it in New York, we were very angst-ridden. It is really hard to do and you don’t know if people are going to like it. You see the early cuts and you think ‘Oh God, what have we done?’”

Clearly nonplussed by the celebrity that came their way on the back of the show, the Conchords are perhaps even more put out by their decidedly un-alpha male “sex appeal”.

The popular website salon.com has them on their “Sexiest Men On TV” list, writing: “A guy with a guitar is hot. A guy with an accent is hot. And a guy who can make us laugh is really, really hot. What, then, could be better than a man who embodies all of the above? Two men who do. Separately, they’re adorable, but together, they enter a pantheon of witty troubadours that includes Jonathan Richman, They Might Be Giants and Jonathan Coulton – men who are a little bit Bruce, a little bit Groucho, and more than a little appealing.”

“It’s all just weird,” says McKenzie. But then he finds a lot of things “weird” about the Conchords’ success. “It’s just not something you ever expect – playing to 5,000 people and having people say weird things about you.”

Not Cut Out For Fame And Celebrity may well be their motto. Clearly there’s a relief in the Conchords camp that the TV series has come to an end and they can pursue other interests (which may include film treatments). For now, there’s a major European and US tour which not only takes to them to the main centres, and also to places where you mightn’t expect a Conchords a following (there’s a show in Bergen, Norway).

Before finishing up with a big show at Los Angeles’s famed Hollywood Bowl venue there’s a show at The Greek Theatre in Berkley, California. They say on their website that they added in this Berkley gig because “the last time we played in Berkeley, we forgot some of the chords and insulted the audience”.

After that, it will be gladly back to Wellington, where they still live. “We can stay there,” says McKenzie, “and become “the guys who once had a TV show in America”.


Keepin' it surreal: six of the best Flight of the Conchords lyrics


EX GIRLFRIENDS

Loretta broke it off in a letter,

she wrote that she was leaving

and that her life would be better.

Joan broke it off over the phone,

after the tone, she left me alone.

Jen said she’d never ever see me again.

When I saw her again, she said it again.

Anne met another man.

Lisa got amnesia, just forgot who I am.

Felicity said there was no electricity.

Emily, no chemistry. Beth left, Fran ran.

Flo had to go; I couldn’t go with the flow.

Carol Brown just took a bus out of town.

But Im hoping that you’ll stick around.




BOWIE

Bowie’s in space

Whatcha doin’ out there man?

That’s pretty freaky, Bowie.

What’s a rock musician doing out in space man?

Isn’t it cold, quite cold out there Bowie?

Do you need my jumper Bowie?




BUSINESS TIME

Then in the bathroom brushing our teeth

That’s all part of the foreplay, I love foreplay

Then you go sort out the recycling

That isn’t part of the foreplay

but it’s still very important

I remove my clothes

Very very clumsily

Trippin over my jeans

coz I’m still wearing my shoes

But it’s okay because

I turn it all into a sexy dance




BRET YOU GOT IT GOING ON

Bret, you got it going on.

The ladies will get to know your sexuality when they get to know your personality.

I said, Bret, you got it going on.

Not in a gay way, just in a ‘hey mate, I wanted

to say that you’re looking okay, mate’

Why can’t a heterosexual guy,

Tell a heterosexual guy that he thinks

his booty is fly




A KISS IS NOT A CONTRACT

A kiss is not a contract

but it’s very nice, yes it’s very nice

Just because you’ve been exploring my mouth

Doesn’t mean you get to take an expedition

to the south

Just because we’ve been playing tonsil hockey

Doesn’t mean you get to score

the goal in my jockeys

Just because I’m in an

acoustic folk band,

It doesn’t mean I only want poon-tang

I can’t go around loving everyone

I just wouldn’t get anything done




HURT FEELINGS

Have you ever been told

that your ass is too big?

Have you ever been asked

if your hair is a wig?

Have you ever been told

you’re mediocre in bed?

Have you ever been told

you’ve got a weird-shaped head?

Have you ever been made fun of

coz of where you were from?

Have you ever been dissed over the intercom?

Have you ever found a gift

you’ve given thrown away?

Have you ever been told

that you’re the wrong shape?

Have you ever been told

you’re Miss New Zealand?

Have you ever had hurt feelings?

(All songs available on YouTube)


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Flight of the Conchords are at The Olympia, Dublin on Wednesday May 5th and Thursday May 6th.

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Re: Permission to land- An Interview with The Irish Times

Postby kellysouthpaw » Fri Apr 30, 2010 1:48 am

Can I just say I don't like the tone of this article :?
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Re: Permission to land- The Irish Times interview

Postby LauraK » Fri Apr 30, 2010 2:32 am

Rehash.

:)
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Re: Permission to land- The Irish Times interview

Postby M-DOG » Fri Apr 30, 2010 6:35 am

Has anyone heard anything else about them possibly not touring anymore? Say it ain't so ?!?!?!?!!?

:(
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Re: Permission to land- The Irish Times interview

Postby kellysouthpaw » Fri Apr 30, 2010 6:38 am

We're refusing to believe it, M-Dog :hrmpf:

Also, good to see you again :) :wave:
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Re: Permission to land- The Irish Times interview

Postby vmh » Fri Apr 30, 2010 6:39 am

M-DOG wrote:Has anyone heard anything else about them possibly not touring anymore? Say it ain't so ?!?!?!?!!?

:(


*gasp* You have uttered the forbidden words! Take it back! Take it back immediately!

:tsk:
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Re: Permission to land- The Irish Times interview

Postby M-DOG » Fri Apr 30, 2010 7:11 am

I TAKE IT BACK!!!! Please please forgive me! <3

This article made my girlfriend nauseous!
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Re: Permission to land- The Irish Times interview

Postby M-DOG » Fri Apr 30, 2010 7:14 am

I think she's being...a little bit...bulimic.
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Re: Permission to land- The Irish Times interview

Postby biscuit » Fri Apr 30, 2010 11:45 am

How utterly fantastic that yet another paper cites Norway as the prime example of the effing back of beyond :P Why the *cough* wouldn't we enjoy the Conchords up here?

I guess nobody knows we speak English... American and British tourists are certainly always flabbergasted to find out that we all do.

Come to think of it, all the European shows are in countries where English tv series aren't dubbed into the native language :hrm:
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Re: Permission to land- An Interview with The Irish Times

Postby SheWolf » Fri Apr 30, 2010 1:41 pm

kellysouthpaw wrote:Can I just say I don't like the tone of this article :?
Ok good then I won't read it.
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Re: Permission to land- The Irish Times interview

Postby Venus » Fri Apr 30, 2010 1:58 pm

As far as we know, FOTC will continue touring since they haven't said otherwise. :hrmpf: :)

biscuit wrote:How utterly fantastic that yet another paper cites Norway as the prime example of the effing back of beyond :P Why the *cough* wouldn't we enjoy the Conchords up here?

I guess nobody knows we speak English... American and British tourists are certainly always flabbergasted to find out that we all do.

Come to think of it, all the European shows are in countries where English tv series aren't dubbed into the native language :hrm:


There there, biscuit. :P Kinda off topic but John Cleese was on a TV chat show earlier this week and he was talking about how he's able to perform many shows in Scandanavian countries because people in those countries tend to 'get' British humour more than people in other European countries such as France and Spain. :)
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Re: Permission to land- The Irish Times interview

Postby mohumbhai mania » Fri Apr 30, 2010 3:07 pm

I thought the tone was fine. Less clueless than most articles.
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Re: Permission to land- The Irish Times interview

Postby mockingbird » Fri Apr 30, 2010 3:44 pm

Reading that article was like being told a favorite bedtime story - I've heard it a million times but I still love it. :thumb:
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