The Flight of the Conchords can barely make ends meet. It must be hard to make rent when your genre’s as obscure as “obscure guitar-based digi-bongo a cappella-rap-funk-comedy-folk” (apparently so popular in New Zealand that FOTC is only fourth best at it there). It certainly doesn’t help when your dimwit of a band manager—Murray Hewitt—refuses to book you nighttime gigs because New York City is too dangerous (“you could be murdered or even ridiculed”); instead the band plays in aquariums, libraries, expos, and as Simon & Garfunkel impersonators in a gig where they compete against Elton John and Bono impersonators..
Now that the Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement are about to release a new album and have embarked on a U.S. Tour (including a stop in D.C. on April 13 at DAR Constitution Hall), let’s take a look back at the best songs (open to debate!) of the recently second completed season.
No. 10: Friends
FOTC has also gotten high comedic value out of their guests stars this season—including comedians Jim Gaffigan and Patton Oswalt, two actresses from 24, Lucy ‘Xena Warrior Princess’ Lawless, and folk maestro Art Garfunkel. In this song, Gaffigan plays Murray’s best (and possibly only) friend Jim, who meets the band only after Muray’s “officially” dubbed them “friends.”
Highlight: Bret: If you cross the road and a drunk struck you. I’ll scrape you up and reconstruct you.
No. 9: Fashion is Danger
In season one the band made no secret of their fascination with ‘80s music—particularly David Bowie, dedicating an entire episode to him culminating with the track “Bowie in Space” (“Isn’t it cold out in space, Bowie? Do you want to borrow my jumper, Bowie?”) Bret and Jemaine go from being ignored by their own Prime Minister (Brian of New Zealand, Bret reverently calling him “my lord”) to paparazzi-worthy famous once they begin using hair gel—becoming infinitely cool. The video, a parody of “Fade to Grey” by Visage, features classic 80s bad fashion (including Babylon 5 space uniforms) and gives shout-outs to “Pr-Pr-President Reagan. Thatcher. Th-Th-Thatcher. Jazzer-size. L-L-Lipgloss.”
No. 8: Demon Woman
In a role totally opposite of the snarky yet demure one she plays on ’24,’ the dolled-up Mary Lynn ‘Chloe’ Rajskub plays Karen, a woman who forces Jemaine to dress up like Garfunkel and have sex with her (Jemaine calls this “Garfunkeling”). But before they do, Jemaine has to get rid of his blocky glasses, New Zealand accent, and do his best Garfunkel impression. The song, spoof of the “Devil Woman” by Cliff Richard is dedicated to Karen’s psychotic behavior.
Highlights: Jemaine: You sit on a rock. Looking nice in your frock, but you’re scaring my livestock.
No. 7: Song for Epileptic Dogs
Season one had the reoccurring role of Sally (Rachel Blanchard)—Bret’s former girlfriend who dates Jemaine briefly on two separate occasions and the focus of two of the best Conchords songs of that season—“The Most Beautiful Girl (in the Room)” and “Business Time.” “Beautiful” is a soulful ballad about attainable beauty (“You’re so beautiful. You could be a part-time model. But you’d probably still have to keep your normal job.”), while “Business” portrays married people’s sex as only occurring on Wednesdays when there’s nothing good on TV. So it’s no surprise here, in season two, that Bret and Jemaine literally duel over Brahbrah (played by Adventureland’s Kristen Wiig), whose missing terrier has canine epilepsy.
Highlights: Bret: This is the remix! Epilep lep lep, Epileptic Epilep lep lep lep Epileptic Ep Ep …” (dogs begin to howl, the flashing lights causing them to have epileptic seizures)
No. 6: Femident Toothpaste
In season two’s opener Murray makes it to the top of the music management chain, wiith a huge Manhattan office and multiple gold records, after riding the coattails of his second—and now favorite—client, the Crazy Dogggz, who reach number one in 24 countries with the song “Doggy Bounce” (as it turns out a completely plagiarized version of a Polish pop song made a decade earlier). Feeling neglected, the Conchords fire Murray and represent themselves after one final band meeting. Looks like things are looking up for the band when they land a gig writing and performing the jingle for Femident—an organic toothpaste made just for women, because women have special [dental] needs.
Highlights: Bret and Jemaine in unison: You are a woman, you have women’s wear. You have breasts and long-ish hair. Oh yeah. Your kind is found everywhere, yet you’re still very rare.
No. 5 We’re Both In Love With a Sexy Lady
In the ‘Bharbara’ episode, the two realize they’ve both fallen in love with the same lazy-eyed woman while jogging in the park. The song, a hilarious parody of R. Kelly’s “Same Girl,” and has that same sort of cheesy 1990s R&B—Casio keyboard sound-effects, slang and all.
Highlights: In unison: We’re both in love with a sexy lady with an eye that’s lazy. The girl that’s fly with a wonky eye. She’s smoking with an eye that’s broken, I think it’s hot. The way she looks left a lot.
No. 4: Carol Brown
Jemaine is ridiculed and shunned by his friends for dating an Australian—especially after he starts wearing Crocodile Hunter-esque short shorts. After a one-night stand, Jemaine returns to her apartment to retrieve his missing wallet. Jemaine performs along with a choir of his ex-girlfriends (led by the evil Carol Brown, who took a bus out of town). The choir sings about Jemaine’s deficiencies as a boyfriend in this homage to Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.”
No. 3: You Don’t Have To Be A Prostitute
In season one, Jemaine and Bret can’t pay their heating bills, and the song “Inner City Pressure” sums up their financial woes (“You know you’re not in high finance, considering second hand underpants. Check your mind, how’d it get so bad? What happened to those other underpants you had?”). Things are equally as bad in season two when the Conchords are forced to share one tea cup. Jemaine comes up with a cup chart, a schedule of when he can use the cup (7 p.m. to 9 p.m.), and when Bret can use it (9 p.m. to 11 p.m). The plan works until Bret goes on a $2.79 spending spree on a new cup. A $30 penalty occurs after the check for the gas bill bounces, which in turn makes the phone, electricity and rent checks all bounce, forcing Jemaine into male prostitution. Bret thinks prostitution is beneath him; this song, like to the Police’s “Roxanne,” pleads Bret’s case.
Highlights: Bret: Its a cold night, beneath the street light, there’s a man whose pants are too tight. Oh no, his pants are too tight.
No. 2: Hurt Feelings
Bret disses all the rappers he can think of and starts the first ever New Zealand vs. American rap war. His friend Dave suggests they form a gang to prevent Missy Elliot chopping “his whole body off.” The gang comprises Dave (supposedly an AWOL Navy Seal), senile ex-gangster Johnny Boy, and Mr. and Mrs. Li from the Internet café downstairs. This video has Bret and Jemaine dressed as Bethoven and play tiny spinet pianos (like in Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend”) and the song describes occasions on which they experienced hurt feelings.
Highlights: Jemaine: I make a meal for my friends. Try to make it delicious. Try to keep it nutritious. Create wonderful dishes. Not one of them thinks about the way I feel. Nobody compliments the meal. I feel like a prized asshole. No one even mentions my casserole.”
No. 1: Sugalumps
In the ‘prostitution’ episode, Jemaine and Bret consider all the options of how to pay their bills. Jemaine (thinking he can be the gigolo version of a Julia Roberts’ “Pretty Woman”) comes up with the solution. And so begins their parody of the Black Eyed Peas’ “My Humps”—the best song ever about the family jewels and arguably one of the funniest songs in the Conchords’ two-year run.
Highlights: Jemaine: I see you girls checking out my trunks, I see you girls checkin’ out the front of my trunks. I see you girls looking at my junk then checkin’ out my rump then back to my sugar lumps. While I shake yeah I shake it all up, you probably think that my pants have the mumps. It’s just my sugar lump bump-ba-bump. They look so good that’s why I keep them in the front.
Jemaine: Put the ladies in a trance when I wear track pants. My dungarees make them hung-a-ry, send them over the moon when I don pantaloons.
Bret: My sugar lumps are two of a kind, sweet and white and highly refined. Honeys try all kinds of tomfoolery to steal a feel of my family jewelry.
Flight of the Conchords perform an acoustic concert (i.e. no sketches, but still hilarious), along with cast-mate Kirsten Schaal, at DAR Constitution Hall, 311 18th St. NW. (202) 628-1776.