New York Post

Kiwi Con Men - New Zealand comedy duo masters the offbeat

By Sara Stewart

One of them is an elf : Flight of the Conchords Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, who had a bit part in "LOTR." Two awkward, thirtysomething guys in a music-parody band have their own HBO show coming out? Something here rings a bell.

"We joked about calling it Tenacious Dundee," says Bret McKenzie, one half of New Zealand folk duo Flight of the Conchords.

Sure, there are surface similarities between their upcoming self-titled show and "Tenacious D," which made Jack Black and Kyle Gass household names: half-hour episodes are built around the relationship between the two guys and their travails in the music biz, interspersed with actual songs.

And then, of course, there's the rabid cult following of comedy insiders.

But, they say that's where the similarities end. While Black and Gass were hard-rock strivers, McKenzie and bandmate Jemaine Clement bill themselves as "New Zealand's fourth most popular digi-folk parodists." Plus, the show centers more on the " 'Odd Couple'-type" friendship, says Clement, than it does on the band.

"We've have to kind of exaggerate character traits to enable the stories to exist," says McKenzie. "So I've become incredibly stupid, and Jemaine has become incredibly mean. But these are not really true of us in real life. I hope. Otherwise, I'm unbelievably naive."

Flight of The Conchords at Comix

Clement also hones his dark side in "Eagle vs. Shark," an independent movie from New Zealand due out Friday. He plays, as one reviewer put it, "that kind of tech-support prick geek that feels superior to everyone while being completely ridiculous in everything from attire to conversation."

The movie's quirky, magic-markery style, and especially Clement's look, have earned more than a few comparisons to "Napoleon Dynamite" - a film also echoed here and there in "Flight of the Conchords." One of the duo's songs, for example, finds the duo donning silver-painted cardboard boxes to perform "Humans Are Dead," in which McKenzie sings a "binary solo": "0000001, 00000011, 0000001, 00000011. . ."

Most of the show's songs are incorporated into the story rather than performed; "Sexiest Girl in the Room," for example, seems to take place in Clements's mind, as he muses that the blond in the corner is so hot she could be a "'60s air hostess" or a "part-time model."

New York comedy fans will note other familiar faces at that party: Eugene Mirman and Arj Barker. Later, Judah Friedlander ("30 Rock") pops up as well.

"We didn't know a lot of people here when we started," says Clement, "so we largely relied on people we'd met doing comedy onstage."

Comedian Kristen Schaal also appears as Mel, the group's solo fan and stalker, who's an amalgam of strange experiences the duo have had over the years.

"But not a lot," Clement says. "It's not like we're the Grateful Dead."

McKenzie has had his own brush with stalkery fame, though: he's the "most popular elf extra" from the "Lord of the Rings" movies. Despite minimal screen time - "probably less than a second" in the first, he says, and two lines in the third - McKenzie's character, whom fans have dubbed Figwit, improbably spawned a fanatical following; one site anoints him "The Legolas for the Thinking Woman."

" 'Lord of the Rings' fans are very. . . passionate," McKenzie says. "I've hopefully overshadowed that. I don't want to go down in history as the elf extra."

If nothing else, the duo will go down in history as the act that had to follow the grandiose sendoff of "The Sopranos." "Flight of the Conchords" premieres one week after the finale.

"We told HBO we were going to make a Mafia musical, to fill the gap," says McKenzie, "but it ended up being very different."

Taken from the New York Post

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