Flight of the Conchords is the creation of New Zealand locals Bret McKenzie and Jermaine Clement. The pair refer to themselves as “the almost award-winning fourth-most popular folk duo in New Zealand.” Yet it is their unique blend of comedy, parody folk songs, acoustic and hip hop that have delivered the men a cult following.
One of the most amazing facts about Flight of the Conchords and their success was that they were outright rejected by their own broadcasters in New Zealand. Clement recalled those discussions with television executives in his own country, outlining that the very concept of the show seemed too far-fetched for viewers. “They’d say, ‘Middle New Zealand won’t get it.’” This would be a bone of contention for the performer who would tell those parties that he and McKenzie are actually from “Middle New Zealand.” From his point of view, there is an idea that content creators in that part of the world are not allowed to be ‘too clever’ to speak over the audience.
Mainstream fans of Flight of the Conchords might not be aware that the concept was first showcased to the public through radio. Rob Brydon was the presenter of the program with Jimmy Carr playing a stalker character. It would be this setting where Rhys Darby would play the pair’s manager Brian Nesbitt for the six-part series that aired on BBC Radio 2.
Flight of the Conchords would win widespread acclaim on the comedy circuit before television ever became a reality. The duo won recognition at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the US Comedy Arts Festival and the Melbourne Comedy Festival amongst other appearances on stage.
It was the HBO series Flight of the Conchords that delivered mainstream success for McKenzie and Clement when the show debuted in 2007. It would be the platform for a range of fun guest stars including New Zealand native Lucy Lawless alongside Kristen Wiig, Demetri Martin, Judah Friedlander, Patton Oswalt, Art Garfunkel, Will Forte, Jim Gaffigan and Aziz Ansari. David Bowie was said to turn down an offer to play himself on the show because he already did so on the Ricky Gervais comedy Extras.
Comedian Arj Barker had a regular guest appearance as Dave on Flight of the Conchords. He outlined to the press that the ladies man persona would be designed by the pair given their real life impression of Barker. He admitted that he was drinking and partying a lot in the early 2000s and this would be a chance for the Kiwi duo to craft their own impression of him as a caricature.
While the HBO show would win over the comedy fans, the production behind the scenes of the program was anything but glamorous. Actor David Costabile played Doug and he admitted that the budget for season one was “so crappy” and operating on a shoestring. It would be even tougher for Clement who suffered from pneumonia during the production of season one.
The process for making the content turned on its head from season one to season two. The first time around in 2007, they worked the script around the songs that they played on stage and on the comedy circuit. For the second time before the 2009 release, they developed the script first and had to create songs and music videos around the overall story.
The series would only last for two seasons however, enjoying a 12-episode run in 2007 for its first season and a 10-episode run for its second season in 2009. Although talks of a motion picture version have stalled, there have been multiple reunion tours spanning 2012, 2015 and 2018 that culminated with an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
Flight of the Conchords have released two musical albums with a self-titled feature in 2008 and a 2009 follow up called I Told You I Was Freaky.