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Flight of the Conchords: John Lennon meets Gary Shandling sort of thing
August 26, 2009 1:29 PM   Subscribe

September 9, 2005 - Flight of the Conchords performed six songs and chatted with the audience as part of HBO's One Night Stand, not quite two years before the TV series would air. The show is online for your viewing pleasure (29 minute MySpace video, also available as a youtube playlist of 6 videos).

Songs Performed:
1. Jenny (not in the show, but played live, with a bit of Freebird)
2. Think About It, Think, Think About It (in episode 3
3. Business Time (in episode 5)
4. Albi The Racist Dragon (in episode 7)
5. Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros (in episode 3)
6. She's So Hot, Boom (in episode 2)
posted by filthy light thief (65 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
The daytime of the night...
posted by inturnaround at 1:33 PM on August 26, 2009


Freebird!
posted by Artw at 1:34 PM on August 26, 2009


This really isn't helping my Flight of the Conchords addiction. I finally put the DVDs away because I think the boyfriend was getting annoyed.
posted by darksong at 1:39 PM on August 26, 2009


Oh heck yea!

James Bobin, director/co-creator was interviewed on Fresh Air last week, too.
posted by JaiMahodara at 1:50 PM on August 26, 2009


I actually find this the funniest thing they've done, particularly "Business Time."
posted by Bookhouse at 1:52 PM on August 26, 2009


Uh-oh, it's Wednesday night...
A friend of mine has a friend who lives in New Zealand and she says they pulled FOTC off the air there because it wasn't funny. That is, everyone on the street is just that hilarious.
posted by njbradburn at 1:53 PM on August 26, 2009


"Jenny" is perfect.
posted by everichon at 1:56 PM on August 26, 2009


You haven't had your after-work social sports team practice
So you are not too tired
Oh good, its all on
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:58 PM on August 26, 2009


Oh, I remember when my roommate and I discovered that this was on HBO's On Demand selection that fall. We laughed til it HURT. And then we watched it again.

And we realized why we've been best friends so long when we developed crushes on the guys - she liked Jermaine while I preferred Bret. Yes, the secret to our lasting friendship is our completely disparate tastes in men.

Team building exercise '99!
posted by philotes at 2:01 PM on August 26, 2009


A friend of mine has a friend who lives in New Zealand and she says they pulled FOTC off the air there because it wasn't funny. That is, everyone on the street is just that hilarious.

As it was told to me, the show has just never aired there because, like they say on the show, New Zealand is stuck in the 1970s. (The show does air in Australia, which is just a perfect joke for the show, except it's true.)

I can personally verify that New Zealand tv is an absolute wasteland of junky local stuff and recycled American crap, and FOTC would be incredibly welcome.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:01 PM on August 26, 2009


A friend of mine has a friend who lives in New Zealand and she says they pulled FOTC off the air there because it wasn't funny

That's not true. TVNZ turned down making a series with them (which had little in common with their HBO series) for various reasons, but the HBO seasons have screened here in their entireties.

But, yes, we are all naturally that deadpan and hilarious in New Zealand. /deadpan
posted by John Shaft at 2:02 PM on August 26, 2009


In fact season 1 has screened multiple times. Both it and season 2 screened very soon after their American showings.
posted by John Shaft at 2:03 PM on August 26, 2009


I dunno, I still think of New Zealand as the counter-Wales.
posted by Artw at 2:04 PM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I saw this shortly after it aired (on Youtube, in parts) and loved it, and everything to do with Flight of the Conchords. When I heard they'd be doing a series, I was very happy, and dutifully pirated it the first chance I got.

To be eternally disappointed. It's rubbish.

The songs are overdone and overproduced, the sitcom aspect banal and uninspired, and lacks all of the charm that brought me to like FOTC in the first place. I watched a few episodes, and then gave up on it entirely. It has pretty much no redeeming features as far as I am concerned, and kills a fantastic folk-comedy duo.

This HBO show, however, is great, and I strongly advise that you watch it, even if you didn't enjoy the show.
posted by Dysk at 2:08 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


As someone with a New Zealand accent living in London, the next time someone says to me "Oh you are so funny just like like Murray from FOTC" I may actually stab someone*.

* Unlikely, I really don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.
posted by X-00 at 2:09 PM on August 26, 2009


This also aired on Comedy Central a few nights ago -- although without "Business Time", which I assume got hacked out to make room for the ad breaks.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 2:11 PM on August 26, 2009


Rewatching this, and comparing it to the show, you really can tell these songs were written on (and for) two acoustic guitars. They lose their soul in all the studio trickery and production.
posted by Dysk at 2:11 PM on August 26, 2009


I disagree, Brother Dysk. Like you, I discovered the One Night Stand before I ever saw the show but some songs worked better on the sitcom. Think, Think About It is particularly improved, I feel. The opposite is true of some other songs, Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros is the song that survived the worst.
posted by Kattullus at 2:18 PM on August 26, 2009


The songs are overdone and overproduced, the sitcom aspect banal and uninspired, and lacks all of the charm that brought me to like FOTC in the first place. This HBO show, however, is great.

I agree 100%.
posted by martinrebas at 2:28 PM on August 26, 2009


The truth about New Zealand is contained in these two FotC quotations:
"Jermaine: They're not from the 70's, they're from New Zealand.
Dave: Isn't that the same thing?
Jermaine: Similar I suppose."

"New Zealand - Take Your Mum."
If New Zealand were a meal, it would be a fondue.
posted by Paragon at 2:30 PM on August 26, 2009


I agree about the series being eminently missable, though I did enjoy Fou De Fa Fa very much.
posted by everichon at 2:35 PM on August 26, 2009


I loved Jenny from the first time I heard it, right around when this first aired.

Jenny never would have worked on the series.

As such, we can conclude that the series was not, despite plenty of hilarious moments, the proper vehicle for FotC.

Although "Too Many Motha Uckas" is pretty great.
posted by SpiffyRob at 2:37 PM on August 26, 2009


I knew about FOTC from MeFi and had my parents TiVo this for me when it aired originally (we didn't have HBO). The next time we were down to visit them my wife and I watched it and were dying. Both Jenny and Business Time are excellently done. My parents thought we were nuts.

If you like this, try their radio program that originally aired on BBC Radio. You can get it through iTunes. It has Murray (though his name is not Murray in the radio show) and some very funny guest appearances by Neil Finn of Crowded House. It's not unlike the HBO series in that it is about the band toiling in obscurity away from New Zealand. But it is less slick, more improvised, and (to me anyway) well funnier.
posted by AgentRocket at 2:38 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Murray is by far the best part of the show.
posted by Arch_Stanton at 2:41 PM on August 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


My friends, let's learn about unintentional cultural imperialism through economics.

Television programmes cost money to make. This money can only be recouped by fees paid by broadcasters to play and replay the programmes, which in turn depend on viewership and advertising.

If you are a New Zealand broadcaster, it is far cheaper to license an American show than to fund the production of a New Zealand one. The American producers can generate profits from the very large American market, with sales to other markets being gravy, whereas the NZ local market is tiny -- there are only four million of us. Even if people weakly prefer to see local content, it is not economically feasible for any broadcaster to provide it, unless it has such broad appeal that virtually everyone watches it, or its production costs are very low.

So the majority of our programming is sourced from the US, and much of the rest from the UK. This has real consequences. For example, after Emergency 911 became popular here in the 80s, we had to jigger our phone system to route "911", because the local emergency number is 111, but the popular programme overrode people's brains. Nowadays I talk to young people who believe that you can be fired at will, that you can sue for personal injury and we have degrees of homicide because the American fiction overwhelms their local reality.

The only unsubsidised local content we see tends to be news and reality tv, which are both broad appeal and cheap to make. Local drama and comedy is only ever made with public subsidies, from a small pool of funds which bankroll or subsidise local productions.

Now, if a local production does not attract many viewers, people criticise it as a waste of money, irrespective of whether it was a dud or a high quality but niche programme. So there are very strong incentives to only fund things that are low-brow and might have mass appeal, or which are unimpeachably worthy. Quirky, whimsical, risky things are very, very unlikely to receive public money.

Now, about local comedy. There are competing strains in the local humorous temperament. We like deadpan, laconic lying (paradigm: John Clarke, now doing sterling work in Australia). We also like cheesy over the top gags and parody (paradigm: the late Billy T James, Bro'Town). Mostly, it is the latter strain that wins funding because rightly or wrongly the former is seen as too intellectual, and we are continually surprised anew when it works.

Back to FOTC. If you are TNVZ (state-owned, but run on a semi-commercial basis) or one of the private channels, there is no fucking way you would fund FOTC with your own money, when you could purchase the rights to American shows with production values beyond your dreams. If you are NZ On Air (the funding body I mentioned earlier) there is no way you will fund FOTC, because it is weird, nichey and could be construed as highbrow, and is not worthy like some history documentary.

In all cultures, interesting and worthwhile things bubble along here without achieving escape velocity, but it's especially hard for them here. So we get reruns of US sitcoms and police procedurals, and the odd US highbrow show that's proven to be a success there, and that's it.

If you are familiar with my Mefi commenting history, you might notice that although I am hugely in love with the rich deep world of American culture, I occasionally vent a little irritation when I see it effortlessly steamrollering my own, not from any sort of malice or ill-will on anyone's part but simply for structural reasons that we seem powerless to change.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:54 PM on August 26, 2009 [30 favorites]


Murray is by far the best part of the show.

This. Also, Rhys Darby was the only good thing about the crappy Jim Carrey movie Yes Man.
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:57 PM on August 26, 2009


Joe's Spleen has it in a nutshell. NZ television did actually try to import the American-style sitcom once, and the result effectively killed any serious attempt at NZ comedy on tv for a decade: Melody Rules.
posted by Paragon at 3:03 PM on August 26, 2009


The fan site What The Folk? also has a bunch of MP3s for download, as well as acres and acres of fan info.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 3:41 PM on August 26, 2009


i_am_joe's_spleen - thanks so much for that view into a world foreign from mine (in numerous ways). Flagged as fantastic!
posted by filthy light thief at 3:47 PM on August 26, 2009


A friend of mine has a friend who lives in New Zealand and she says they pulled FOTC off the air there because it wasn't funny. That is, everyone on the street is just that hilarious.

something France something USA something something bumbling idiots
posted by DU at 4:18 PM on August 26, 2009


American fiction overwhelms their local reality

I hope they never encounter Steve Jobs.
posted by DU at 4:20 PM on August 26, 2009


something France something USA something something bumbling idiots

It's ok. We think foreigners are hilarious too. Especially Americans.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 4:29 PM on August 26, 2009


although I am hugely in love with the rich deep world of American culture, I occasionally vent a little irritation when I see it effortlessly steamrollering my own

FotC is about as low-budget as a 13 year-old's YouTube "channel." There's no reason why a small group of friends couldn't get together and replicate the formula. Heck, that's how Peter Jackson got started.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:50 PM on August 26, 2009


Also, this didn't make the list but it's one of my faves:

If You're Into It (Episode 4)
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:14 PM on August 26, 2009


FotC is about as low-budget as a 13 year-old's YouTube "channel."

It takes a lot of money to look that low-budget!

Though, actually, it probably would take more than you expect. A number of new locations each week, outside shots, a different musical style or two each week requiring a different set, plus studio production of the same, usually a new character or two, and some of the cinematography can get quite adventurous.

You'd might still get change out of a castmember of Friends' weekly paycheck, but, still - there's quite a bit going on.
posted by Sparx at 5:17 PM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


FOTC was well promoted and has been replayed several times on New Zealand television, albeit on one of the less popular channels. I thought that the second season was not quite as good as the first, the original songs had been polished through years of live comedy and the new ones don't have the same magic, but maybe that's just me.

We do get lots of American sitcoms on NZ television. I don't think the the failure to replicate the sitcom formula is confined to NZ - can anyone name a "standard sitcom" (set-bound, multiple camera, laugh track) produced outside of the US that didn't suck. I know most of the US ones suck as well, but some manage to suck less.
posted by AndrewStephens at 5:20 PM on August 26, 2009


I loved the FotC show on HBO, both seasons. But the live stuff is just so much better. My favorite live versions so far of "Beautiful Girl" and "Robots" are included on the The Distant Future EP from 2007. They have some fun banter going on (bahh-listic!), and some of the improv song embellishments are hysterically funny.
posted by gemmy at 5:28 PM on August 26, 2009


AndrewStephens: I don't think the the failure to replicate the sitcom formula is confined to NZ - can anyone name a "standard sitcom" (set-bound, multiple camera, laugh track) produced outside of the US that didn't suck. I know most of the US ones suck as well, but some manage to suck less.

Red Dwarf, Fawlty Towers, Green Wing, Blackadder, Yes (Prime) Minister, Father Ted, etcetera...
posted by Dysk at 6:12 PM on August 26, 2009


Red Dwarf, Fawlty Towers, Green Wing, Blackadder, Yes (Prime) Minister, Father Ted, etcetera...
Point taken, your examples are indeed excellent shows. Moving the goalposts; these shows are sitcoms but differ from their American counterparts by being much shorter (usually less than 20 episodes) with all the scripts being written by a small group (often just one or two people). American sitcoms tend to have seasons of 24 episodes churned out by a huge team. The aforementioned Melody Rules was an attempt to get a show like that running in NZ. The occasional Australian or British US-style sitcoms that have appeared on NZ screens have been awful.
posted by AndrewStephens at 6:41 PM on August 26, 2009


Well, I like Flight of the Conchords the series, so there.

I also have a crush on BOTH of them. I have a hard time deciding which one I have a bigger crush on. I guess I'm just greedy. (OK, it's Jemaine, but I really like Bret too).
posted by lampoil at 6:46 PM on August 26, 2009


The TV show is great. They are both funny. Arj Barker is awesome, and is on the show. Rhys Darby. QED.
posted by chunking express at 6:47 PM on August 26, 2009


I found Murray -- and therefore, Rhys Darby -- annoying until I found out Darby named his son Finn. But then, I use Flight of the Conchords in my argument as to why Neil Finn is Cool and No One Else Realizes This (the whole "has played with Wilco, members of Radiohead and Johnny Marr" is also a part of my argument).

I like the FotC radio show plenty (I've been meaning to listen to it again), but I think the TV show has a sweetness about it. It just feels kind of calm and smart. It's the sort of thing that's more than the sum of its parts -- maybe not every episode is my favorite, but there is always something in each one that makes me laugh. And there are several I enjoy watching again and again.

(I think, in the end, I'm clearly a Jemaine girl. But I kind of think that was probably a foregone conclusion.)
posted by darksong at 7:08 PM on August 26, 2009


AndrewStephens, 'Allo 'Allo! is slightly less good (I suspect my opinion of it has something to do with my not having been born when it started) but did run for 10 years.

I'd say that not having a team churning out 24-episode seasons as quickly as possible is probably the very thing that enables the shows I mentioned to have quality, so I'm not sure I can find a good sitcom that meets that criterion. Then again, I challenge you to come up with any (non-animated) sitcom written by committee and churned out at a prolific rate that's any good, American or otherwise.
posted by Dysk at 7:16 PM on August 26, 2009


Also, the show is awesome because it featured Bret You Got It Going On, which is their best song.
posted by chunking express at 7:19 PM on August 26, 2009


I don't think I could choose a single favorite song... though I've been whistling A Kiss Is Not a Contract to myself a lot lately. Also a song that I believe is original to the series.
posted by Kattullus at 7:59 PM on August 26, 2009


Kattullus, I still prefer the live version, with just the two of them and a guitar each. There's at least two versions from July 2007 on What The Folk!
posted by Dysk at 9:21 PM on August 26, 2009


They lose their soul in all the studio trickery and production.

I became obsessed with Flight of the Conchords after I first discovered it a couple of years ago (and when I say "discovered" I mean "was force-fed the DVD by a friend"). Having seen YouTube clips of live performances and heard their other recordings since, I concur, they're so much funnier live.

However, having been exposed to the TV series first, I must say it is completely hilarious on its own merits in large part because of the slick productions, especially when you catch references of the music styles they're parodying in the videos. Seeing shades of Pet Shop Boys and other 80s hits in "Inner City Pressure", dramatic power ballad moments in "I'm Not Crying", French/mod/60s pop in "Foux Dou Fa Fa", Shaggy Mr Boombastic in "Boom", uber cheesy vintage polished stage performances in "Ladies of the world", and the self-explanatory "Bowie" -- it was thoroughly satisfying, and it was as if they had deconstructed all these pop music sensibilities and put them back together with buckets and buckets of wry, deadpan humor, taking a piss at those types of songs but at the same time celebrating them. It's funny for the same reason their glossed-up photo spread in Bust Magazine was funny. The overproduction is part of the joke! It complements the ineptitude and self-deprecation that permeates the rest of their humor.

Speaking of humor, a friend of mine who had migrated to New Zealand says that Kiwis are the masters of understatement ("and when you're on the street, depending on the street, you would definitely be in the top 3 beautiful girls on the street"), and, like what someone said upthread, that everyone on the street really is just that hilarious.
posted by Lush at 10:26 PM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Lush, I quite like "Bowie" too, but I think the 2004 live version on What the Folk! is better than the one is the series. And a song like "I'm Not Crying" while perfectly functional as a parody of power ballads, is an awful song precisely for that reason - power ballads are horrible. A parody of a power ballad isn't really that funny anyway, as they're all pretty much so over the top as to constitute parodies of themselves anyway.

In fact, "I'm Not Crying" is a perfect example of what completely killed the show for me - the sitcom aspect was uninteresting at best, and when I'm not even getting good music for sitting through it, well...
posted by Dysk at 10:37 PM on August 26, 2009


I live in a country where people live, drink, and breathe videoke, and cheesy power ballads (which I hate) are played in public transportation all the time, so I don't know if it's just my tolerance level, but I absolutely loved "I'm Not Crying" if only for the lines "I'm making a lasagna... for one" and "if I am crying, it's not because of you, it's because I'm thinking about a friend of mine who is dying... that's right, dying!" delivered in the way a liar lights up when he realizes that what he said might actually be a good excuse.
posted by Lush at 10:48 PM on August 26, 2009


Kiwis are the masters of understatement

We're not quite as enthusiastic as Americans, no.

There is a deep cultural pattern of avoiding been seen to be boastful or obsequious, which means that expressions of pride and compliments need to be carefully modulated. We find both understatement and litotes helpful with this. The everyday need to channel enthusiasm into a carefully calibrated phrase feeds naturally into a deadpan style of humour.

You can tell when we're joking in this way by the fact that our demeanour is more artificial and reserved than usual. It takes some visitors longer than others to cop to this.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:52 PM on August 26, 2009


Brother Dysk: Then again, I challenge you to come up with any (non-animated) sitcom written by committee and churned out at a prolific rate that's any good, American or otherwise.

I hesitate to admit this but I started it, so here goes: I liked Friends. Other generally well-liked shows include Cheers, Taxi, Roseanne, and Seinfeld. You could say that most (all!) of those shows outstayed their welcome, but the first 50 or so episodes are fondly remembered. I can't think of any equivalent non-American show that can compare.
posted by AndrewStephens at 1:15 AM on August 27, 2009


The sitcom parts of the show provided a few very good laughs. It's certainly a lot closer to 'British humour' than American humour: much silliness.
posted by RufusW at 1:33 AM on August 27, 2009


I'm amazed at the amount of people that don't like the FOTC sitcom. I'm going to be a wanker and say that they just don't get it.

It's a very intelligent comedy masquerading as low-brow stupid humour. The delivery is so deadpan and subtle that often you don't even realise a joke has been made until you watch it again. Not all the episodes are gold, but there is so much humour packed in there that it demands repeat viewings. The chemistry between Jermaine and Brett seems so well worn and casual that its almost like they're not acting. I could listen to the two of them talk shit with Murray for hours.

and as darksong said - Its really sweet and good natured. Its a show that has been made to make you feel good and it does that very well. Shit, they even make jokes about threesomes seem innocent and cute. I can't think of another series that has made me feel so good.

The first series has a nice little arc to it and ends perfectly. I could talk and dissect the show till the cows come home.

I was however, a little dissapointed (well, a lot dissapointed) with the second series, so I'm choosing to pretend it was never made.
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 6:47 AM on August 27, 2009


and when you're on the street, depending on the street, you would definitely be in the top 3 beautiful girls on the street

Depending on the street.
posted by grubi at 6:54 AM on August 27, 2009


For the record, people, his name JEMAINE, not JERMAINE.

NO 'R'. OKAY?
posted by grubi at 6:56 AM on August 27, 2009


I was however, a little dissapointed (well, a lot dissapointed) with the second series, so I'm choosing to pretend it was never made.

Uh oh. I haven't seen any of the episodes yet, and I was really looking forward to buying the DVD and watching them all. But with the last episode of the first series, I thought, "Hmm, how are they going to be able to continue like they have been?" It did seem like a good ending for the whole thing.
posted by trillian at 7:36 AM on August 27, 2009


For the record, people, his name JEMAINE, not JERMAINE.

NO 'R'. OKAY?


Okay. But Bret still gets to have an R in his name, all right?
posted by Spatch at 7:50 AM on August 27, 2009


The correct terms for true fandom are "Jemainiac" and "Bretosexual".
posted by Paid In Full at 8:00 AM on August 27, 2009


I was however, a little dissapointed (well, a lot dissapointed) with the second series, so I'm choosing to pretend it was never made.

The second season was largely based on new songs, whereas the first season was from songs they had been playing for years. Part of the reason for the delay between seasons was to write new songs specifically for the show.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:20 AM on August 27, 2009



If you are NZ On Air (the funding body I mentioned earlier) there is no way you will fund FOTC, because it is weird, nichey and could be construed as highbrow, and is not worthy like some history documentary.

But they do fund Outrageous Fortune, which (although a guilty pleasure) isn't exactly highbrow...
posted by patricio at 8:53 AM on August 27, 2009


What I find most interesting about the Conchords is the spectrum of reaction from people on hearing them. Look at this thread, for example: one person thinks the HBO special is low-low-budget, another calls it "slick".

I have now seen them live, heard the BBC series, watched the HBO series, seen a bunch of live performances. They all have merits and all have weirdness, but they really seem to work well in all these different formats, for what they are.

I think this sort of low-key, hilarity-in-stuttering-pauses humor is something that either clicks with an audience or doesn't. But I've been delighted that all of it has been pretty funny in its own way, and that these guys have kept it going for a decade plus.
posted by jscott at 9:25 AM on August 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


6 part mockumentary radio show links:

BBC Radio 2

Wikipedia

iTunes - nope no link. Can't find it. Lazyweb?

Amazon (available as a 3 CD set)
US
UK
posted by morganw at 9:38 AM on August 27, 2009


6 part mockumentary radio show links:

iTunes - nope no link. Can't find it. Lazyweb?


Ah- only available in the UK iTunes store. World is flat, ha!

7 digital also has it, again only in the UK store.

If you're in the US and don't want to pay $35 for the import, there are plenty of 2nd hand copies from Amazon sellers.
posted by morganw at 9:46 AM on August 27, 2009


Let the record show that I was the first person in the thread to spell Jemaine correctly.
posted by lampoil at 6:59 PM on August 27, 2009


Uh oh. I haven't seen any of the episodes yet, and I was really looking forward to buying the DVD and watching them all. But with the last episode of the first series, I thought, "Hmm, how are they going to be able to continue like they have been?" It did seem like a good ending for the whole thing.


Possibly an unpopular opinion, but I think the second season was better than the first. And the perceived dip in quality seemed more related to the novelty wearing off than any actual problem with the writing.
posted by coizero at 2:06 PM on September 2, 2009


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