August 26, 2008


The funniest show you've never seen (Raja Sen, August 26, 2008, Rediff)

Created by James Bobin in collaboration with Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement -- who play completely loser-ified alter egos of themselves on the show -- the premise is that of Bret and Jemaine living in New York and peddling their band, the FOTC, searching earnestly for gigs and girls. They are accompanied quite crucially by the Deputy Cultural Attache at the New Zealand consulate, Murray Hewitt (played by Rhys Darby) -- who also happens to be their manager.

On a very basic level, it is the kind of plotline that can wear quite thin indeed -- the humour predictably built around moments of extreme social awkwardness, 'we-aren't-Australian' jokes, and Americans whose only reference point to New Zealand is Peter Jackson's The Lord Of The Rings trilogy.

Yet the humour here is exceptionally quirky, constantly surprising and very, very hard to resist. Just like the New Zealand Tourism posters popping up in the background: 'New Zealand: Don't Expect Too Much, You Will Love It,' reads one, while another, with big white letters over much mountainous terrain, exclaims, simply, 'New Zealand... rocks!!!'


And the songs, the songs. The musical format is used both as organic, when they start jamming out a song around their dining table, or unapologetically surreal, when the entire show suddenly transforms into an 80s ballad video or a madly futuristic Bowie take-off.

The lyrics are maddeningly brilliant -- 'I'm not crying / It's just been raining... on my face,' sing the boys with hilarious sincerity after first-episode heartbreak -- and their approach is earnest, which is what makes it work. Clearly Bret and Jemaine are deluded enough to believe in their music, and, more importantly, the words they're stringing along together.

The fact that they're very talented musicians who can capably sculpt send-ups of varied songstyles -- everything from Duran Duran to gangster rap -- ensures that while the songs are ridiculously funny, they also make for pretty darned good listening.

The Conchords songs came before the series -- winning the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album -- and the show was written around them, which is what makes for 12 staggeringly brilliant episodes perfectly mixing zany, largely understated humour, and loony songs that have led to the band gaining massive YouTube-aided popularity worldwide.

...The Wife listens to the BBC Radio version of the show (torrent here) when she's driving around and ends up laughing so hard she's going to cause an accident sooner or later. The following will most likely be to blame:

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Posted by Orrin Judd at August 26, 2008 7:06 AM
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