Taking the energy of a live performance and expanding stage banter into a fully realized universe (many of the show’s plots are based around pre-existing songs) isn’t necessarily a sure thing for HBO, which—judging by the marketing of Conchords—is throwing its full weight behind the project. The humor manages to be both silly and subtle, but in the ever-fickle world of television, smart and funny doesn’t necessarily mean success (just ask Andy Richter!). When asked about a second season, some crew members gave the ole ‘who-the-heck-knows?’ face and seemed hopeful for a strong audience reaction (if that wacky Internet is any yardstick, Conchords should do just fine—one of their performances on YouTube has been viewed over half a million times, and they have an extensive fan site, called What the Folk!).
When it came time to film, the team decided that the show should be based in New York because, as Mr. Bobin said, “it’s a place where you bump into people and things happen.” The bandmates, often shown strolling the streets below Delancey, do look somewhat interchangeable with the folks you might find at Max Fish; Mr. McKenzie has the ubiquitous hipster beard and tousled hair, while Mr. Clement sports thick-rimmed glasses (if anything rings false on the show, it’s that the two handsome men with cute accents would be unlucky in love here).
“We didn’t want to make it too hipster, because they’re more innocent than that,” said Mr. Bobin. “They live in that neighborhood for economic reasons.” (Um, O.K.!)
Along with Mr. McKenzie and Mr. Clement, the cast is rounded out by Dave (Arj Barker), the fellas’ go-to friend and advisor (we meet him in the first episode, where he tells the guys not to speak to him, since he’s trying to meet girls by looking lonely); Mel (Kristen Schaal), their one and only almost-stalker fan; and Murray (Rhys Darby), the group’s manager and New Zealand’s cultural attaché (his office has ever-changing pro–New Zealand posters trumpeting sentiments like New Zealand … not part of Australia!).
For now, the Conchords can film on the street without being recognized (although “I got recognized in L.A. and got free dessert,” Mr. McKenzie said. “I got recognized and put in the V.I.P. section before the real V.I.P.’s came and kicked me out,” Mr. Clement countered). However, before Conchords, Mr. McKenzie had his own notoriety as the object of obsession during a split-second appearance as the elf Figwit in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings. “He was at the council of Elrond,” Mr. Bobin explained, clearly amused. “He was one of 20 extras, and these girls started an entire site around Figwit.” (Figwit, Mr. Bobin said, stands for “Frodo Is Great, Who Is That?”) “He was described as the perfect elf. By the third movie, the producers called up Bret and put him in with a line. So in Return of the King, Bret is with Liv Tyler—he’s leading her horse—and he says something like, ‘Hurry up, my lady.’”
“I got to come back as a celebrity extra,” Mr. McKenzie confirmed later with a shy smile. “I shared screen time, but not actual film time, with Liv Tyler. It just looked like we were walking together.”
“Green screen … anyone can do that at home,” Mr. Clement said.
“Jemaine is jealous.”
“I’ve got myself with Humphrey Bogart, Laurence Olivier … ,” Mr. Clement said before the two cracked up all over again.