by Curt Holman
Billed as "New Zealand's fourth most popular folk-comedy duo," Flight of the Conchords enjoyed an overnight success in 2007 thanks to their hilarious, eponymous HBO series. Of course, most overnight successes turn out to be the outcomes of years of hard work, and pop parodists Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie have been performing together since they were both New Zealand college students in 1998. In 2005 they even had a BBC radio series, also called "Flight of the Conchords," with a similar plot as their HBO show.
Debuting in June 2007, HBO's "Flight of the Conchords" follows fictionalized versions of Clement and McKenzie as they struggle to make it as musicians in New York. The cringe-inducing humor evokes Tenacious D, A Mighty Wind and such Ricky Gervais shows as "Extras," but the musical interludes are what launch "Conchords" into the comedy stratosphere. Each episode takes several of the twosome's already-funny songs and makes music videos out of them. I suspect that the clips' YouTube popularity have gone a long way to make the Conchords a cult sensation: A second HBO season is scheduled for 2008.
I love the Conchords' clips so much that picking the best one can be a nearly agonizing dilemma. My favorite is probably "She's So Hot ... BOOM!" although I find "Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros" irresistible, and the New Zealanders even, inevitably, take on The Lord of the Rings in one tune. Still, when I want to introduce Flight of the Conchords to the uninitiated, I usually encourage them to watch "Business Time," which I think best captures their deadpan sensibility -- while being, incidentally, very much not work-safe.
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