Bret McKenzie is one half of musical-comedy duo Flight of the Conchords. McKenzie and Jemaine Clement found international fame with the cult HBO comedy, which followed the duo's fictional efforts to 'make it' in New York. An Oscar-winner after writing songs for The Muppets (2011), McKenzie's screen career began after a brief role in The Lord of the Rings trilogy helped win him a cult following.
You can always tell when we’ve learned a new chord, because we’ll use it in our next three songs. Bret McKenzie on Flight of the Conchords
Funny As traces the history of New Zealand comedy through archive footage, and extensive interviews with local comedy talent. Debuting on TVNZ 1 in July 2019, the five-part series explores how Kiwis "have used comedy to navigate decades of profound cultural change". Funny As touches on everything from live and musical comedy, to pioneers of Kiwi screen humour (e.g. Fred Dagg, Lynn of Tawa) and the hit exports of later years (Flight of the Conchords, Rose Matafeo). The series was made by production/creative agency Augusto, and produced by comedy veteran Paul Horan.
As this promotional clip makes clear, Funny As features an impressive roll call of Kiwi comedy legends. The five-part series traces the history of New Zealand comedy through interviews and archive footage. In coming weeks NZ On Screen will be publishing extended interviews with the comedy talent captured on camera for the series. Funny As ranges all the way from the early days of live comedy to screen pioneers (Fred Dagg, the Week of It team), the legendary Billy T, and the Kiwi comedians who've made their mark internationally (Flight of the Conchords, Rhys Darby).
These clips offer up a selection of Kiwi news bloopers. First, Sacha McNeil presents a retrospective of unscripted moments from TV3’s first 25 years of news: newsreaders sneeze and laugh, and reporters face rogue weather, animals, dance routines, and lashings of champagne from Olympic champions. Then presenter Hilary Barry laughs at inappropriate moments on The Paul Henry Show: she starts an extended battle with the giggles while mentioning All Black Waisake Naholo’s broken leg (2015). In 2016 she succumbs to laughter over an emergency defecation situation.
The video for this Phoenix Foundation single features Bret McKenzie excavating a deep hole, in a landscape that evokes the work of Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky (although Loren Taylor's video was actually shot in a clearing close to Wellington's wind turbine). The band turns up to watch, and the man finds eye-opening liberation from his toil. Vocalist Samuel Flynn Scott credited inspiration for the song to musician Lawrence Arabia’s recipe for satisfaction: ditching dreams of success, in order to enjoy making music. The result was a finalist for the 2016 APRA Silver Scroll.
Touted as the defining chapter of the trilogy, The Battle of the Five Armies sees Smaug wreaking havoc from the sky, Thorin Oakenshield succumbing to dragon-sickness, and a climactic battle to dwarf anything seen in the first two Hobbit films. As Orcs look to the Lonely Mountain with their eyes on the treasure, dwarves, elves and humans must decide whether to unite and fight them off. The final Hobbit film arrived in cinemas 15 years after Peter Jackson first trained his cameras on Middle-earth — and made it clear that global blockbusters could come from New Zealand.
In 2012 Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement sat down with some Kiwi children. They wanted to get back in touch with what the kids were about. Flight of the Conchords were creating a special song for health research charity Cure Kids; the children supplied them with lyrical ideas involving bowls, bubbles and a major overhaul of the banking system. A superstar team of Kiwi singers and rappers joined the Conchords in the studio. The chart-topping song's mix of deep concern and nonsensical rhyming celebrates and parodies previous charity efforts like ‘We are the World’.
JRR Tolkien's beloved novel The Hobbit follows Bilbo Baggins on a quest to help reclaim the lost dwarf homeland of Erebor from the dragon Smaug. Shoulder-tapped by Gandalf for the mission against some opposition, Bilbo joins a company of dwarves in an epic adventure: vying against goblins, orcs and Gollum's riddles. After the box office blitzing and Oscar-slaying Lord of the Rings trilogy, adapting the precursor novel was an expected journey. Martin Freeman (The Office, Sherlock) plays Bilbo, with Peter Jackson again at the helm in this first of a three-part adaptation.
Directed by Robert Sarkies (Scarfies, Out of the Blue), and written with brother Duncan (from the latter's novel) Two Little Boys is a tale of the misadventures of two Invercargill bogans. When a Scandinavian tourist fatally meets Nige's fender, Nige (Conchord Bret McKenzie) runs to best mate Deano (Aussie comedian Hamish Blake) for help. "Trouble is, Deano's not really the guy you should turn to in a crisis." Mateship is challenged by security guard flatmate Gav, a rogue sea lion and some dunderhead decision making. The black comedy opened in NZ on Sept 20 2012.
Featuring a rare star turn by stand-up comedian Raybon Kan (who also co-wrote the script), Diagnosis: Death is a genre-stretching tale of oddball nurses, haunted hospitals and bedside romance. Kan plays a cynical teacher sharing a hospital ward with a young student (Jessica Grace Smith), after both are diagnosed with cancer. Trapped in the ward during an experimental drug trial, the duo investigate a strange case of haunting. Shot specifically for DVD, Jason Stutter's second feature also features cameos by Conchords Jemaine Clement, Bret McKenzie, and Rhys Darby.
Rocked the Nation launched in 2008 with six one hour-long shows. Production company Satellite Media ransacked the archives and interviewed protagonists, to survey 100 key moments in Kiwi music history: including smash hits, riots, TV talent shows, and sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. Hosted by Karyn Hay, the series screened on C4 during NZ Music Month, and was the channel’s highest-rating series to that date. Follow-up series counted down 100 New Zealand Pop Culture Stories (2009, hosted by Rhys Darby) and 100 New Zealand Sporting Moments (2011, hosted by Dai Henwood).
Satire Futile Attraction follows a dysfunctional reality television crew as they make a show about dating. The unfortunate 'couple' being manipulated for the cameras are a phone-obsessed nerd, and a woman consumed with being ecologically sound. In real life, director Mark Prebble became the first New Zealander to get funding for his movie via an online crowdfunding campaign (as detailed in the making of video). Alongside lead actors Danielle Mason (Black Sheep) and Peter Rutherford (Event 16), the late Alistair Browning shines as a smarmy television host.
In this early, Edinburgh-centric episode of arts show Frontseat, Flight of the Conchords return to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for a sellout third season — although they argue the new show is “a shambles”. Also present at the fest are an array of Kiwi technicians, performers, and arts programmers. Meanwhile in his Marlborough vineyard, globetrotting cinematographer Michael Seresin critiques Kiwi society and its ugly towns, and calls New Zealand a “lonely, soulless sort of nation”. Also on offer: Artist Phil Dadson in Antarctica, and award-winning dancer Ross McCormack.
Fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Flight of the Conchords headline this episode of the TV stand up comedy series with the creepily earnest 'If You're Into It' (guaranteed to lose all but the hardiest of new girlfriends) and their hip-hop folk opus 'Hiphopopotamus'. Host Brendhan Lovegrove explores the speech patterns of Southlanders, Andre King does his best to ensure he won't be invited back to Palmerston North, and Sully O'Sullivan reveals himself as a menace to small animals and moving vehicles (but with a possible future in survey research).
Flight of the Conchords star and onetime Black Seeds musician Bret McKenzie clearly digs Wellington. In this video for solo project The Video Kid, he goes early morning skateboarding through the capital city. The downbeat groove of the folk-electronica number is a perfect match for a glorious 'on a good day' dawn, as the sun rises over Mt Matthews and the crew cruise down Wellington's Alexandra Road and along Mt Victoria's town belt. Later in the golden light they claim a deserted golden mile (Lambton Quay) for the skaters.
These excerpts from arts show The Living Room mark an early screen appearance for "jungle folk comedy duo" Flight of the Conchords. Starting in Wellington and building to performances at the 2002 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the item sees longtime colleague Taika Waititi playing the duo's wisetalking manager, pre Rhys Darby. After meeting Jonah Lomu at the airport, dreams of fame face cramped digs and the intense competition of Edinburgh. The duo handle things with their droll resolve. The following year the Conchords were nominated for a Perrier Award, en route to stardom.
A magazine show with an edge, The Living Room did for arts television production what Radio With Pictures did for NZ music — it ripped open the venetian blinds, rearranged the plastic-covered cushions, and shone the sun on Aotearoa’s homegrown creative culture. Often letting the subjects film and present their own stories, it was produced for three series by Wellington’s Sticky Pictures, who also made follow-up arts showcase The Gravy. These excerpts from the first series show a calvacade of local talent, including an early Flight of the Conchords screen outing.
This special episode of the TV stand-up comedy series showcases a newly blonde Cal Wilson and features guests Flight of the Conchords, who spoof small town tourism operators, take office supplies as metaphors for love to absurd lengths, and serve up some overly polite, self censored gangster rap. Wilson's other friends are her own creations. Katie the Chief Bridesmaid's contribution to nuptial disharmony invokes Rowan Atkinson's 'Father of the Bride Speech' by way of Lyn of Tawa, while her "sister" Adele is a painfully earnest feminist poet in a neckbrace.
This episode of the stand-up comedy show ends with an early screen appearance by Flight of the Conchords. The duo perform two songs that will later appear on the first HBO series, and debut album. The funky 'Ladies of the World' goes beyond Julio Iglesias, while the epic 'Bowie' (three and a half minutes into clip three) pays homage to the man whose complex changes of tempo and vocal range proved too difficult for them to play. Mike King hosts, John Glass reflects on bachelorhood and kissing etiquette, and Chris Brain references bikers, the Wiggles, Bill Gates and Star Wars.
A Wellington-only television show hosted folk comedy duo Flight of the Conchords' first TV appearance in 1999. This compilation features them performing six songs live on regional station Channel 7. The first two clips date from Newtown Salad's debut episode on 16 November 1999: the duo perform 'Nothin' Wrong', and end the evening with rare track 'Rock Beat'. The remaining songs were performed over four days in May 2000. After the 16-strong studio audience start clapping in time during 'Bowie', the duo use their hands to "protect" themselves.