Can Mel really have purchased all six thousand tickets? That’s seemingly the only explanation for how the New Zealand folk-rock parody duo Flight of the Conchords can have so quickly sold out both of their upcoming Toronto concerts, despite the handicap of only having one fan. A large number of the tickets for the April 21 and 22 shows, both at Massey Hall, were snatched up through an online pre-sale to members of the band’s web-based fan club at the beginning of this month, and the remainder were snatched up within hours of when they went on sale publicly last Friday. All in all, it’s getting harder and harder to refer to band members Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement as “cult favourites.”
These days, Mel certainly has competition for the title of “most obsessed Conchord fan,” especially in Hogtown. In fact, perhaps intimidated by our fierce love for the Kiwis, Kristen Schaal (who plays Mel) will not be opening for the band in Toronto like she will be in other cities; instead, Bret and Jemaine will be joined onstage by Eugene Mirman, who plays the band’s deadpan deadbeat landlord, a frequent, if understated, presence on the television show.
Ironically, as the Conchords get set to begin their sold-out tour of North America (their first such flight since the premiere of their HBO show in 2007), their onscreen counterparts get poorer and poorer. One new episode sees the band bankrupt after Bret recklessly decides to buy a second cup (the drinking implement, not the franchise, although neither is a sound investment in an economic climate that has six hundred Starbucks branches ready to close).
The tour is to promote last year’s self-titled album, which is chockfull of clever lyrics and surprising musical creativity, and this year’s new season of their TV show, which unfortunately isn’t. The show’s second season, currently airing on HBO and HBO Canada, offers the same formula of silly yet straight-faced repartee between Bret, Jemaine, and their manager Murray (Rhys Darby) that made the first season so re-watchable. The songs, however, interspersed within each episode, have gone from inspired to tired. Now instead of waiting for them, you wait for them to be over.
The first season gave us singable and quotable hits such as “The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room” and “I’m Not Crying” (lyrics don’t get much better than “I’m not weeping ’cause you won’t be here to hold my hand. For your information there’s an inflammation in my tear gland”). While most comedic musicians play songs that are neither very funny nor very good music, these numbers manage to be both, but the difficulty of this achievement is only highlighted by the current season’s generic and forced musical offerings: new songs such as “Stay Cool” and “You Don’t Have to be a Prostitute” (one-dimensional parodies of West Side Story and The Police) show that the Conchords have unfortunately come to settle for the mantra of most musical comedy acts—it’s much easier to spoof existing songs than to create something fresh.
The explanation for the quality decline is simple: the Conchords were drawing on the best of a decade’s worth of stored-up material for their first season, while season two was pumped out as fast as they could get new rhymes down on paper. The group has already announced that it is unlikely there will be a third season. A sensible decision, if it weren’t for the fact that, even if their new episodes are only half as funny as the first set, they are still twice as funny as virtually anything else on TV.
At any rate, Toronto fans unable to get tickets to see the Conchords’ local appearances and unsatisfied with their new onscreen offerings need not despair. Instead, take pride in our own home-grown musical comedy duo, Matt Johnson and Jay Mccarrol, who this week released the eighth episode of their hilarious web series Nirvana the Band the Show, and who recently got picked up for a television pilot. And since we never get to hear any of Nirvana the Band’s songs (indeed, they don’t appear to actually have any), they should be able to deftly sidestep the second album (or season) syndrome. Perhaps the only way to keep a musical comedy act fresh is to never play any music.
Photos by Rosa Luxemburg.