Jemaine Clement has momentum. Although his mono-tone and distinctly unexcited voice would never lead you to believe that, his four Emmy nominations and Grammy win might. In his latest work, Clement took a break from his Flight of the Concords partner, Bret Mckenzie, and collaborated with writer/director Jared Hess (Napolean Dynamite), on his latest film, Gentlemen Broncos. Clement sat down with the Travesty on some lovely patio furniture outside an even more lovely hotel to talk about Orc-dwellings and being sexy. And in case you’re wondering, we tried to ask about sexy Orcs—he had no comment.
Texas Travesty: So is this your first time in Austin?
Jemaine Clement: Third time.
TT: Have you performed here before?
JC: Yeah; for Flight of the Concords and for South by Southwest two years ago. We did a lot of clubs.
TT: What’s the difference between the New Zealand comedy scene and the comedy scene in the US?
JC: The main difference is that there’s one comedy club in the whole country. And it’s not even in the town where I live.
TT: How do you work out material with only one club to perform at?
JC: We do more sort of theatrical stuff. When I started it was more…you know like here when you do standup there might be a few skits floating around but that’s not the main part. In New Zealand it’s like people doing plays as the main thing. There’s a little bit of standup. When I started there was standup once a week. But it was good because we wrote a lot of material because there would be the same people coming in, and so you can’t play the same songs, because they’ve already heard it.
TT: We have a movie series in the US that came out called The Lord of the Rings. Have you heard of it?
TT: For a lot of people, New Zealand is like…
JC: Hobbit land.
TT: Does that get frustrating?
JC: No, not at all. In some ways it’s good.
TT: People know New Zealand because of it.
JC: Well people often confuse it with Australia, which the landscape is really different. If you’ve seen Lord of the Ring vs. Mad Max. Mad Max is what Australia’s like; the sort of post-apocalyptic red desert compared to an Orc dwelling in a mountain. There’s less fiery eyes and stuff like that [laughs].
TT: Did you ever have any ideas for Flight of the Concords that you liked but never made it in for one reason or another?
JC: Well, the three of us write—me, Bret, and James. Sometimes we’ll boycott each other’s ideas. There were ideas that I hated that we didn’t do. Then there were some ideas that I hated and we did do.
TT: What comedians did you find most influential when you were growing up and learning comedy?
JC: Well, I really liked Billy Connolly. But I don’t feel like I emulate him in any way. I just like him. Do you know the show The Young Ones? [Yes]. It’s from the 80s and was really quite surreal. Have you seen The Mighty Boosh? [Yes]. Concords was often confused with The Mighty Boosh but I think we were both just heavily influenced by The Young Ones. And the Garry Shandling Show is another one that I grew up with that I really loved. I was never allowed to stay up late. Usually, I had to go to bed at eight. But I would just be like, “I have to watch the Garry Shandling Show!” [laughs]
TT: When you were filming this movie did you pretty much stick to the script, or did you do get a chance to improv some scenes?
JC: We did both. We tried to stick to the script for the first time and then added things. We stuck to the script, but there are little things in there.
TT: You were named one of the 100 sexiest people by “Who” magazine in Australia. How does it feel to be sexy?
JC: It feels good to be sexy. I really think it’s really cool that I’m one of the 100 sexiest people. What are the pedigrees? Just in the world?
TT: I think so.
JC: It could just be the first 100 people in the phone book.
TT: What are your plans now that Flight of the Concords is off the air?
JC: I’m writing a film with a friend of mine, and I’m doing a little bit of acting.
TT: In this movie you did some acting?
JC: I did a little bit of acting in this movie. [laughs]
TT: How did you hook up with Jared Hess for this?
JC: He had seen Flight of the Concords, and I think he specifically liked the comedy in it. He had a kind of voice in mind when he cast for it. He didn’t even pick me up. He didn’t even ask me to do it or anything. I didn’t go to an audition or try out. I would just email him all the time with 30 photos of different bad haircuts that I had found, and just be like, “what about one of these?”
TT: One more question. If you had one meal left to eat before you died, what would be in that meal?
JC: I might go for like a salad with sort of everything in it. A chicken, banana, and ice cream salad. And I would try to outsmart them and just keep adding stuff.
TT: And just never stop eating?