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"Flight of the Conchords" and Stealth Humor
2007-06-20 16:40
by Mark T.R. Donohue

If there can be said to exist a weak spot in my judgement when it comes to comedy, it is that I have a susceptibility to over-the-top mugging at the expense of jokes more underplayed. This is why I have a soft spot for Freddy Got Fingered and once wrote that "Twenty Good Years" had some funny bits to it. I enjoy scenery-chewing, and to be frank I get more than a little annoyed at standups like Jon Stewart who smirk even as they're delivering their own material. I would much rather see someone try too hard for a laugh than seemingly not try at all.

This seems like a good point to again mention that I hated Napoleon Dynamite. Loathed it with a focused intensity. Part of this loathing was inspired, like Cartman in that two-parter "South Park" all about the "Family Guy" manatees, by people's uninformed assumption that it would be "the sort of movie" that "a guy like me" would like. Well, what sort of movies are those? Cheaply made, amateur-looking unfunny ones? What kind of guy do you think I am, anyway?

That's why it's kind of a surprise that I like HBO's "Flight of the Conchords" so much. The show is so low-key the leads often don't seem fully awake (especially the monumentally passive, half-heartedly bearded Bret McKenzie, who blinks funnier than a lot of people speak) but its overall tone of lazy diffidence is completely broken up and put into needed perspective by beautifully conceived and shot musical numbers. If you have trouble figuring out why an argument between McKenzie and his bandmate/roommate/life partner Jemaine Clement about whether hooking up in the same room as your ex is more or less startling than the sudden switch-on of a lamp is funny (it is, but in a low-key way) certainly the duo's spirited performance of "Part-Time Model" will allow you to laugh happily and unambiguously. It makes sense in line with writer/actors McKenzie and Clement's Tenacious D-like recastings of their own personalities that The Conchords only seem fully alive when they're playing their music. Musical sitcoms don't exactly have a long tradition of television success but with the limited run and extended production time HBO allows "Flight of the Conchords" could catch on for a couple of very funny seasons. So long as Clement and McKenzie, who are clearly far more multiply talented and motivated than their onscreen personas suggest, keep bringing the songs.

2007-06-20 20:10:59
1.   Bluebleeder87
it had it's funny moments i'll tune in again, the songs were the funniest thing about the series.
2007-06-21 00:42:40
2.   Benaiah
Both "Prettiest girl in the room" and "I'm not crying" were hilarious. I am in love with this show after only one episode. The rewatchable factor is off the charts. "You could be a part time model." Indeed. "I am usually much more charismatic than this." Again, I agree completely.
2007-06-22 06:02:08
3.   T Money
I enjoyed it too. Wonder if it'll sustain, but enjoyed the premiere episode.

It's worth noting that one of the two leads, Jermaine Clement, is also featured in a new New Zealand comedy called "Eagle Vs. Shark" that just came out in L.A.

Same deadpan style - the music + an extra hour = not as good.

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