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Inside E Magazine Interview - July 2009

by hellomyfriend » Thu Jul 02, 2009 10:21 pm

Flying High
Flight of the Conchords on identity, sheep and season two.
by Emily Saso (for Inside E magazine)

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By now you’ve likely heard of Flight of the Conchords, the most famous duo to come out of New Zealand since Frodo and Sam. The comedy band’s success has been nothing if not meteoric in the last few years: a hit television series on HBO, sold-out live shows, and a Grammy award for best comedy album in 2008.

Not bad for Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, two guys from a country that’s best known (and frequently made fun of) for The Lord of the Rings trilogy and a largely sheep-based economy. So with the DVD of their hugely popular second season about to be released, just how did Flight of the Conchords overcome the often joked about reputation of their homeland and soar to success in North America? By laughing right along with us, of course.

After meeting at the Victoria University of Wellington in 1998, Jemaine and Bret never set out to be a comedy duo, but after joining forces to brush up on their guitar and song-writing skills, they learned that they shared something beyond a love of music: an inclination for writing funny lyrics. “As soon as we started writing songs, they tended to be on the weirder side,” admits Bret, his endearingly bed-headed hair adding extra inches to his tall frame. “We’re not even really comedy music fans.”

After a few years playing festivals and pursuing various movie roles—Jemaine in the indie flick Eagle vs. Shark and Bret with a small role as an elf in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring—the boys got a series on BBC Radio 2 in 2004. The show, with its original combination of music and story-telling, was an underground hit and word travelled fast to the U.S.

After taping a special for HBO’s stand-up comedy series One Night Stand in 2005, Jemaine and Bret landed a deal with the network to create a television show that followed the fictionalized ups and downs of a naive New Zealand comedy band trying to make it in New York City. The pilot, an episode called “Sally,” was a smash success at the network and in 2007, the first season aired to rave reviews. (The second season just wrapped up on HBO Canada in the spring of 2009.)

Bret and Jemaine not only star in the series, but also serve as executive producers and, along with James Bobin (director and co-writer of Da Ali G Show), write most of the episodes. So what are they? Singers? Comedians? Actors?

“When I go through customs,” says Bret, “I put down ‘writer’ because if you put down ‘comedian’ they’ll ask you for a joke.” “Or they’ll search you,” quips Jemaine in his unmistakably accented baritone.

Bret and Jemaine finish each other’s sentences like an old, happily married couple—making it easy to see why their professional partnership has lasted for over a decade. “But we’ve all got differences in what we find funny,” says Jemaine, who admits that the sheep jokes—like band manager Murray’s infamous office posters boasting slogans like ‘WOOLcome to New Zealand’—are mostly James Bobin’s. “James finds New Zealand funny in a Kazakhstan sort of way,” chuckles Bret. “He’s trying to paint New Zealand as this vintage colony.”

While the show is fiction, many of the plot lines in season one and two are based on personal experiences and the aforementioned New Zealand stereotypes that Bret and Jemaine have helped to deftly exaggerated into deadpan, self-deprecating comedy gems. A perfect example of this art-imitating-life inspiration is found in an episode from the second season called “New Zealandtown.”

In the episode, the eighth of the season, the Prime Minister of New Zealand flies in a famous and extraordinarily wooly sheep named Gary to act as a sort of national ambassador at a consulate event. Sounds ridiculous but, say Jemaine and Bret, the plot is loosely based on a real story that made headlines in New Zealand back in 2004.

“There was once a very famous sheep in New Zealand whose name was Shrek,” laughs Jemaine. “They found this sheep in a cave,” adds Bret, “and it was a giant because the wool just kept on growing—it hadn’t been shorn for years. It became a celebrity sheep and they flew it to Wellington to meet the Prime Minister.”

Interestingly enough, Gary the sheep wasn’t even the original guest star. “In that episode it was [actor and New Zealand citizen] Sam Neill who was supposed to be the special guest, not Gary the Sheep,” says Jemaine. “But he wasn’t available/interested. So we quickly changed it to the sheep.” “Yeah, sheep are a classic fallback,” adds Bret.

While several episodes in season two are devoid of New Zealand-related gags and centre around more universal themes and struggles—Bret trying to sell his body to pay the bills, Jemaine’s hopeless attempts to pick up girls, the guys suffering through a debilitating addiction to hair gel—the biggest laughs often come from the New Zealand humour, something Bret and Jemaine have grown to accept.

“We tried not to promote New Zealand sheep,” says Bret. “We resisted in the first series,” adds Jemaine, “but I guess we were out of ideas for the second.”

With so many New Zealand gags crossed off the list already, what can fans look forward to in season three? Scratch that. Will there even be a season three? “We haven’t decided yet,” says Jemaine somberly. “We’re going to have a big break and decide if we have the energy.”

“Yeah,” affirms Bret, without missing a beat. “‘Cause we’re going to need a lot more New Zealand slogans.”

Flight of the Conchords, Season 2 DVD, will be released on August 4, 2009.

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hellomyfriend
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by chrissycubana » Thu Jul 02, 2009 11:38 pm




quips Jemaine in his unmistakably accented baritone.

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Bret and Jemaine finish each other’s sentences like an old, happily married couple—making it easy to see why their professional partnership has lasted for over a decade.


[image]


that was lovely - thanks nik! [image]
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"If there's one thing I can't stand, it's plagiarism."

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by Amily » Thu Jul 02, 2009 11:43 pm


... Will there even be a season three? “We haven’t decided yet,” says Jemaine somberly. “We’re going to have a big break and decide if we have the energy.”



[image] Team Season Three! [image]

They could take years and I'd still be here to watch it. [image]
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NEVER FORGET.
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by hellomyfriend » Thu Jul 02, 2009 11:56 pm


Amily wrote:
... Will there even be a season three? “We haven’t decided yet,” says Jemaine somberly. “We’re going to have a big break and decide if we have the energy.”



[image] Team Season Three! [image]

They could take years and I'd still be here to watch it. [image]



Same. [image]
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