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  • Writer's pictureStand-Up Comedy Historian

Flight of the Conchords and Influences Playlist

Updated: Dec 16, 2023

One of my favorite musical comedy groups EVER is Flight of the Conchords or FotC. As the inspiration for New Zealand Comedy month, FotC have had a huge effect on my opinion of what constitutes clever comedy, and I hope you give their gentle and self-deprecating humor a chance!

The Kiwi duo consists of Academy Award winner Bret McKenzie and What We Do in the Shadows co-creator Jemaine Clement. The two have been nominated for multiple Emmys, and they won a Grammy in 2008 for their EP The Distant Future.

I couldn't find a Grammy win pic, so here's the boys with their Wellys

This list of some of their most famous songs includes obvious influences (their parodies are spot-on) and a few that clearly made an impression on a very young Bo Burnham. He has their lovely tune about miscommunication, Jenny, as one of his favorite songs on his YouTube channel.

And he's brought up how influential FotC were to his musical comedy career in multiple interviews.

The Guardian in 2011—

There's the possibility of a sitcom for MTV, a show "about the idea that the pursuit of fame is ruining everything. People wanted me to do something like Flight Of The Conchords, but I was, like, 'It's been done before and its [sic] been done perfectly.'"

You Made It Weird, third episode at 2:27 in—

I was a musical comedian, so NEVER cool, initially very uncool. And as I started at 16, or 17, or 18, very uncool. I'd be like...I can't look back on like the first three years of things I did and just be like...just the cringiest, you know what I mean? Like little like white, pubescent, Flight of the Conchords/Stephen Lynch ripoff.

PBS in 2018 with Josh Hamilton (the dad in his film Eighth Grade):

Bo Burnham: Well there were comedians. There was like this musical comedian Stephen Lynch who I really loved at the time. Flight of the Conchords I had discovered around that time and loved and like there are just like straight songs that like I’m just biting completely their entire gag. Tim Minchin I discovered as well, who was an incredible Australian musical comedian wrote Matilda. And Bill Bailey, he’s another British musical comedian. Old Steve Martin. But yeah, at 16, 17, 18, you know, it’s quite a time to be immortalized. You know let alone for at this point, it’s 20 million views for the, you know, the second thing I ever wrote.

Vox in 2018:

Who were you thinking about when you were creating that style?
“Aping” is a kind word. Stephen Lynch. I mean, like if Stephen Lynch ...
He was an earlier musical comedian.
Yeah, I loved him, loved Demetri Martin, loved early Steve Martin, loved “Flight of the Conchords.” I mean, there are songs that are just direct Stephen Lynch rip-offs and a direct “Flight of the Conchords” rip off and so I was just finding my feet. I was 16, 17 and stuff, so just like finding what I liked and trying to figure out what it was.

This connection is LITERALLY the reason I joined Reddit in 2019

Let's go!

The Most Beautiful Girl (in the Room)this song introduced the world to the amazing talents of Bret and Jemaine since it was the first to appear in the pilot of their phenomenal HBO show.

Obvious influence: Prince, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World

Influence on Bo: A number of lyrics seem similar to those in his song High School Party (like how he sees a girl across the room and later seduces her after dancing).

RobotsOne of the best comedy songs ever, this take on all humans being dead because of "the Robotic Uprising of the late '90s" is just perfect. Jemaine has even incorporated an Arnold Schwarzenegger impression into live performances with Bret as C3PO that is the cherry on top. Robo Boogie!

Obvious influence: Daft Punk ("I don't know who he is"—Murray haha)

Influence on Bo: I would say his tweet in binary code seems to have been inspired by Bret and Jemaine

Inner City PressureBret and Jemaine nail every music genre, but their '80s parodies are just sublime in my opinion.

I particularly appreciate the line about crossing the street again because you don't know which way you should be going...same, Bret, hard same.

Obvious influence: Pet Shop Boys, West End Girls

Influence on Bo: None that I know of. Maybe the synths in Comedy ("The world is so...fucked up"), Bezos I, or 1985? He does like wearing a big scarf like Jemaine here though!

Seems his poem "Scarf" is a bit autobiographical lol

Not CryingOne of the best runs of lyrics ever ("There's just a little bit of dust in my eye...How come we've reached this fork in the road, and yet it cuts like a knife?"). And the music video perfectly parodies boy band ballads.

Obvious influence: Backstreet Boys, Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)

Influence on Bo: Maybe his joke in Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous about women loving wet men? He did write the script for "Zach Stone Is Gonna Be an Actor" haha.

In addition to that connection, this song CLEARLY influenced Man or Muppet, The Muppets ditty that helped Bret nab his Oscar!

Hiphopopotamus vs. the Rhymenocerosright off the bat, incredible rap names, right?

This is one of my favorites (I'm going to be saying that a lot), and "Be more constructive with your feedback, please" is just hysterical (as is "Was it Steve, perchance?").

Obvious influence: Gangsta rap

Influence on Bo: This made a huge impact on him and his raps, in my opinion, especially the way he plays with and subverts the stereotypical rap song.

Bo made a name for himself as being the white boy who raps clever lyrics really quickly, and I think his "Flight of the Conchords ripoff" was most likely how similar this song sounds compared to 3.14 Apple Pi.

Fun fact: Bo and Jemaine both use the phrase "bitches and hos" in their music (this and Words Words Words)!

YouTube captioning isn't helping here heh

Business Time—Bret and Jemaine's ode to the mundane sex lives of people in long-term relationships is always a hoot (that's why they call them BUSINESS socks ooh!).

Obvious influence: Marvin Gaye, Let's Get It On and other sexy slow jams for lovemaking

Influence on Bo: Prior to 2022, I would have said none, but Five Years in the Outtakes—with the protagonist's minor complaints about his partner—seems to be of the same genre. Yes, it's a Drake Controlla parody too, but it has the bones of Business Time in its foundation.

Fun fact: I have never seen this mentioned anywhere online, but if you tell Alexa "It's business time," the Amazon voice assistant will answer with lyrics from the FotC song. It's AMAZING!

Obvious influence: Justin Timberlake, SexyBack

Influence on Bo: Possibly the heavy use of autotune and vocal manipulation could have contributed to him creating songs like Can't Handle This and All Eyes On Me...

But I think we all know the REAL reason I associate Bo with this music video (and he can certainly don the pants with disco ball codpieces if he'd like for his next project haha).

Fun Fact: I am utterly obsessed with this prop myself and have tracked its appearances in Inside and The Inside Outtakes. You can even see my first reaction to Bo fiddling around with his disco ball in the Outtakes.

And then there's songs with no connection to Bo but that were obviously based on famous original versions!

BowieThis tune is the ideal homage to everyone's favorite genderqueer rockstar, and I kept having it play in my head the day Bowie died.

Obvious influences: David Bowie (duh!), Space Oddity and Fame (with a nod to Changes)

Fun Fact: Jemaine got to break out his Bowie impression again as Tamatoa, the giant crab obsessed with shiny things, in Moana. Perfect casting, in my opinion!

We’re Both in Love with a Sexy LadyBret and Jemaine both fall for Kristen Wiig as a woman named Brahbrah who has an epileptic dog (just...go with it).

Obvious influence: R. Kelly and Usher, Same Girl

Fashion Is DangerAnother '80s jam, the music video is an absolutely brilliant distillation of the weirdly art-schooly concepts that dominated New Wave. Posing a THREAT!

Obvious influence: M, Pop Muzik (listing of locations—New York, London, Paris, Munich)

You Don’t Have To Be a ProstituteI don't even know that this can be called an's more of a shameless ripoff (more of those to come heh).

But there are some really great lines ("Do you have any other skills—like typing?"), and it's always nice to see Jemaine in his short shorts.

Obvious influence: The Police, Roxanne

Carol Brown—I had the distinct pleasure of hearing this song BEFORE it was on the TV show. I got to see the boys in 2008 at Town Hall in NYC, and this was one tune they were testing out at the time (with Bret as the choir of ex-girlfriends).

Found my ticket in an old wallet

An absolute classic and one of my favorites!

Obvious influence: Paul Simon, 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover

This one is again so transparently ripped off from the original. Jemaine even sings, "There must be 50 ways that lovers have left me"!

Demon Woman—Jemaine sings about an evil lady in his life. He's also dressed up like Art Garfunkel for some reason...yeah, I don't really remember this one.

Obvious influence: Cliff Richard, Devil Woman

Think About It—The boys get political (in the most polite and New Zealand way possible), talking about AIDS and the plight of a man with knives and forks in his legs, which leads to one of the best lyrics EVER: "Would somebody please remove these cutleries from my knees?"

Obvious influence: Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On?

The Prince of PartiesBret accidentally takes LSD and this hilariously trippy song is the result. I love how he just says "No" when Jemaine asks to go to his party, and this image of a two-headed man has haunted me ever since I saw it on HBO.

Obvious influence: Psychedelic Beatles/Ravi Shankar on the sitar

Father and Son—Another ripoff, this time a wonderful twist on the typical "dad imparts wisdom to his child" genre of music. The final line filled me with SO much joy when I had attended their show with my ex at the Mann Center in Philly in 2016!

This quote from that Philadelphia Magazine review is particularly accurate in explaining the appeal of the Kiwi duo:

And they also often act as though they do not know what they are doing, as Clement broke a string on the first song, or so it appeared. Explaining how rock and roll that is, as well as the wrinkly white shirt McKenzie was wearing, they want the audience to feel so much smarter than them.

My '60s-inspired FotC T-shirt from the concert

My newest FotC shirt from Teepublic

Obvious influence: Yusuf/Cat Stevens, Father & Son

Mermaids—Unfortunately, this wonderful ditty was never officially released as a song, but it's definitely a fun one to watch. I really like the joke about how do they light seaweed under the water! Haha

Obvious influence: Don Ho, Lovely Hula Hands and similar Polynesian music

Fun Fact: Jemaine and his good friend and frequent collaborator Taika Waititi are both Maori (Jemaine is actually half-Maori).

As a final treat, here's a delightful video of all three going to Edinburgh Fringe back in 2002 with Taika taking on the Murray-like role of band manager Larry Pritchard. So hilarious!

That's all the Flight of the Conchords songs I can think of that had obvious influences, but please let me know if I've missed any.

[My best Kiwi accent] Good on ya!

For the complete list of New Zealand Comedy Month articles, please click here.


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