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Watching

Video Digest: November 2, 2007

Full of adolescent admiration, Rosecrans Baldwin pays tribute to Flight of the Conchords, New Zealand's fourth most popular folk-parody duo.

In high school, I spent a lot of time in the AV department. It was where the geeks, gays, weirdoes, and Goths hung out—plus the theater types, straight-edgers, pot-smoking jocks, Kids-era ravers, and a few normals—all because a librarian named Magoo let us sit at her desk, store our books in spare drawers, and make out in the back room in exchange for doing her job for her: delivering TVs and VCRs to classrooms when called upon.

Perhaps every high school has a crowd of kids who’d like to wear berets. For us, opera and jazz were cool. The Rocky Horror Picture Show was cool. Musical theater was cool, even Rent, at least until all the rest of the school started to go see Rent, and then it absolutely wasn’t cool. Where Saturday Night Live was cool, Monty Python was cool, Weird Al and Eddie Murphy were cool; pretty much any group or performer who combined music and comedy (early Barenaked Ladies, early Adam Sandler) and could be swapped around on cassette was appreciated.

Thus, my crowd was the crowd who—if it had been available at the time—would have recorded every minute of Flight of the Conchords on VHS, written up the scripts at three in the morning, photocopied and bound them, and then memorized them between class. The kids these days have the internet to do all of that, and so do we.


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For those who haven’t seen it, Flight of the Conchords is a show on HBO about two guys from New Zealand trying to make it as a band in New York. Frequently, they burst into song, and the show becomes a music video for a few minutes. If you don’t like the following clip, you won’t like the rest, either.



Sometimes, it’s about the music. Often songs are catchy enough that I’ll hum them to my wife, and then on the subway to tourists, and then to my co-workers who ask me to please shut up.



And sometimes, it’s about the comedy. For example, when Bret one day is feeling down and Jemaine tries to cheer him up with compliments.



Or perhaps it is a girl who needs a compliment:



But most of the time it’s about culture, about two guys from New Zealand being mistaken for Brits, or, less frequently, Australians, as they encounter America. Before they had their HBO show, Flight of the Conchords visited Austin and made a documentary for New Zealand TV about South by Southwest, “A Texan Odyssey.”











They also claim, during an HBO special, to have invented hip-hop. I believe them.



Finally, my top top favorite, since I live in France: Jemaine and Bret try to woo two women at a coffee shop by becoming French, or at least their version of it. Oddly, the scene’s shot in the actual coffee shop that was across the street from our old apartment in Brooklyn. I’ve shown this clip to several French people here in Paris, and only two thought it was funny.



biopic

Rosecrans Baldwin co-founded TMN with publisher Andrew Womack in 1999. He is the author of three books, including his latest novel The Last Kid Left (NPR’s Best Books of the Year). His nonfiction appears in a variety of magazines, mostly GQ. More information can be found at rosecransbaldwin.com. More by Rosecrans Baldwin

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