'Conchords': Musical Comedy from Clueless Kiwis

Originally published on February 13, 2012 9:29 pm

This interview was originally broadcast on June 14, 2007. You can listen to the complete interview with Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie here.

Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, aka the folk-parody band Flight of the Conchords, hail from New Zealand. They were named best alternative-comedy act at the 2005 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival.

They starred in an acclaimed HBO series called Flight of the Conchords — which was about two transplanted New Zealanders living in New York City's Lower East Side.

Clement and McKenzie join Fresh Air for a conversation and a few songs.

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While Bret McKenzie waits to find out if he'll be walking away with an Oscar for his Muppet movie song "Man or Muppet," we thought it would be fun to hear a song by McKenzie and Jemaine Clement as the satirical music duo Flight of the Conchords. They performed in our studio in 2007 when their HBO comedy series "Flight of the Conchords" premiered. They played two losers in a band who had moved to New York from New Zealand and had no gigs, few friends, and just one fan.

The funniest part of the series was the original songs they sang and their imaginary rock videos.

You know, each of the songs that you do kind of reflect a type of song and this one is called "What Is Wrong With the World Today?" and to me it's one of those, like, real, like, '70s what's, you know, "What's Going On?" kind of songs.

JEMAINE CLEMENT: Yeah. Marvin Gaye.

GROSS: Yeah. Yeah.

BRET MCKENZIE: It was sort of this one, like we - it was a mixture of Marvin Gaye and I guess the Black Eyed Peas song "Where Is the Love?"

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

MCKENZIE: There's something kind of funny in that.


MCKENZIE: (Singing) There's children on the streets using guns and knives, taking drugs and each others' lives. Killing each other with knives and forks and calling each other names like dork.

CLEMENT: (Singing) There's people out on the street getting diseases from monkeys. That's what I said, they're getting diseases from monkeys. Now there's junkies with monkey disease. Who's touching these monkeys? Please leave these poor sick monkeys alone. They got problems enough as it is.

MCKENZIE: (Singing) A man's lying on the street, some punk has chopped off his head. I'm the only one who stops to see if he's dead.

CLEMENT: (Singing) Is he dead?

MCKENZIE: (Singing) Ooh. It turns out he's dead. And that's why I'm singing. What is wrong with the world today?

CLEMENT: (Singing) What's wrong with the world today? Do-do-do-today. What-at-at, what is wrong with the world today?

Yeah. Think about it. Think, think about it.

MCKENZIE: (Singing) A good cop's been framed then put into a can and all the money that we're making is going to the man.

CLEMENT: What man? Who's the man? What's a man a man? What makes a man a man? Am I a man? Is Bret a man? Yes. Technically he is.

MCKENZIE: (Singing) They're turning kids into slaves just to make cheaper sneakers. What's the real cost 'cause the sneakers don't seem that much cheaper.

CLEMENT: Oh, why are we paying so much for sneakers when you got them made by little slave kids? What are your overheads?

MCKENZIE: (Singing) At the end of your life you're lucky if you die. Sometimes I wonder why we even try. I saw a man lying on the street half dead with knives and forks sticking out of his leg. He said ow-ow-ow-ow. Ow-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow. Can somebody get the knife and fork out of my leg, please?

CLEMENT: (Singing) Can somebody please remove these cutleries from my knees?

MCKENZIE: (Singing) And then we broke it down. This is where we break it down. This is where we break it down. This is where we break it down. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

(Singing) I could do acapella jams.

CLEMENT: (Singing) Acapella jams.

MCKENZIE: (Singing) Ooh-ooh. Breaking it right down.

CLEMENT: (Singing) Bringing it to you, yo.

MCKENZIE: (Singing) Yeah. Oh, yeah. Ooh.

CLEMENT: (Singing) Then we bring it back. Whoa, whoa. Whoa-oh-oh.

MCKENZIE: (Singing) Ooh.

CLEMENT: (Singing) Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah.

MCKENZIE: (Singing) Jamming out in the studio. Jamming. Ooh.

CLEMENT: (Singing) Jamming out.

MCKENZIE: (Singing) Ooh.

CLEMENT: (Singing) Jamming.

MCKENZIE: (Singing) Baby, ooh, baby, ooh. Yeah, yeah.

CLEMENT: (Singing) Fading.

MCKENZIE: (Singing) Just fading out.

CLEMENT: (Singing) Fading the mix down.

MCKENZIE: (Singing) Ooh, just fading out. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.