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Originally published Friday, May 8, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Flight of the Conchords riding a boom

The band Flight of the Conchords, musicians Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, play three sold-out shows May 11-13 at Seattle's Paramount Theatre.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Concert preview

Flight of the Conchords

7:30 p.m. Monday- Wednesday, Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St., Seattle; sold out (information, 877-784-4849 or www.theparamount.com).

The men of Flight of the Conchords are considered gods among the indie set.

In the past few years, Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement have skyrocketed from their home of New Zealand to pop-culture icons in America. The indie comedy duo is so beloved that when Clement got married last year, hearts broke everywhere.

They were the main draw last year at Sasquatch!, one of the largest music festivals in the Northwest. Before Flight of the Conchords even hit the stage, audience members were singing their songs. And to the joy of these fans, besides singing their hits, McKenzie and Clement jiggled their butts and bantered with the crowd.

Flight of the Conchords are all about quirky parody, and have riffed on such heavyweights as Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson and David Bowie. In their brand of humor — deadpan delivery and extremely outrageous lyrics — no genre is off-limits. They've taken on lounge, reggae, rap, metal, opera and Bollywood music. And did I mention that when they rap, they do it with alter egos such as Rhymenoceros and Hiphopopotamus?

McKenzie and Clement joined forces at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, living in the same flat and producing music together. They moved on to producing an improvisational comedy program on popular radio station BBC Radio 2, and started rising as cult heroes. Their shows became hits on YouTube. Then, Sub Pop signed them and HBO gave them a series.

The show "Flight of the Conchords" plays on the pair's magnetic awkwardness, following them through a close-to-life scenario of McKenzie and Clement (playing themselves, or at least a version of themselves) trying to hit it big as a band in New York. There, they bumble through both the dating and rock scene.

In an interview with CNN, McKenzie said the series is about 17 to 18 percent improvised and based on things that happened in their lives. He jokingly added that the series came from a brainstorm off what would happen if Ernie and Bert of "Sesame Street" started a band.

James Bobin, who directed "Da Ali G Show," directs "FOTC"; filling out the cast are Rhys Darby (as the band's inept manager, Murray) and comedian Kristen Schaal (as their obsessed fan Mel). These TV characters have gotten so popular that fans typically demand their appearance at Flight of the Conchords band shows, but tour life and TV life are separate. "Mel" even has her own blog, documenting her stalking of the two guys. The show just wrapped up its second season on HBO.

Flight of the Conchords have released three albums — "Folk the World Tour" in 2002, "The Distant Future" EP in 2007 and "Flight of the Conchords" in 2008, with the latter two on Sub Pop. They've brought in nominations and awards, too: "The Distant Future" won a comedy Grammy, and the HBO show has landed two Emmy nods.

But the best part of all the fame, the two told CNN, is the free shoes and free desserts.

Marian Liu: 206-464-3825 or mliu@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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