Imagine the Marx Brothers formed a boy band and were hosting a comedy hour on MTV, and you have something like I Kveld Med Ylvis, the Norwegian talk show for which “The Fox” was created. Since its YouTube release last month, the video has reached more than 100 million viewers, while the song itself has risen to No. 6 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
Brothers Bård and Vegard Ylvisåker, aka Ylvis, visited New York City last week to perform their unexpected hit on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and Today. They also enjoyed a wine-drenched chat with Kathie Lee and Hoda. “It’s pronounced ‘Bored,’” Bård explained to Kathie Lee, who then touched his knee while wondering if the brothers were romantically involved.
Who can blame the ladies? Bård and Vegard are uncommonly handsome, which may be what is most odd about their extremely odd video. They are, to use an expression Kathie Lee might, “foxes.” But as the Transom discovered in a conversation last Friday, the Ylvisåkers are more accustomed to being objects of laughter than lust. They are, in other words, nerds in fox clothing.
Do you have many friends?
Vegard: Bård is socially more intelligent than me. But he chooses to scrap it and be a dork.
Bård: Vegard blurts out words.
Bård: If he makes a friend, it’s a stroke of luck.
Vegard: Straw hat!
Is this where your comedy comes from?
Bård: I think comedians often have a major flaw that makes them turn to comedy. It’s a defense mechanism. For us, when we came home from Africa—we grew up in Africa, very isolated—socially, we were totally behind schedule.
Vegard: We watched a lot of Monty Python while there. Our parents forgot to bring videos, so we watched Life of Brian 200 times, and I think that shaped us.
Bård: Also, our appearance was really bad.
Vegard: Pants up to here, white sneakers, white tennis socks with the red and blue stripes.
Bård: We had that hairstyle—the rat’s tail. We lacked friends, so we turned to comedy.
I’ve read that 50 percent of Norwegians are depressed.
Vegard: This one (motioning to his brother).
Given Norway’s reputation for depression and New York’s reputation for neurosis—Woody Allen is our patron saint—I thought it would be fitting to psychoanalyze you.
Vegard: I saw a Woody Allen movie on my 11th birthday. We were sitting with all of my friends from school, mostly 10-year-olds, and I remember my father getting really, really nervous, because there is that line in the movie when the woman says, “A stranger crapped on my belly.”
Bård: Let’s skip to the psychoanalysis.
Do you fly in your dreams?
Bård: I did. Now, I mostly lose my teeth.
That’s a sign of stress.
Bård: Also, my front teeth are not real. I crashed a bike.
A unicycle? That would explain the lack of friends.
Bård: No, but it could have been.
Vegard: You had a unicycle.
Bård: Guilty as charged.
Besides foxes, what animals do you relate to?
Vegard: He is a porcupine.
Schopenhauer has a theory about porcupines.
Vegard: Big fan of Schopenhauer. Was he the guy …
Bård: No, that was Copernicus.
That reminds me, when are you going to do a song about the Higgs boson?
Vegard: We love the LHC!
Bård: It’s my dream to go to CERN.
You rub a lamp, and a genie pops out. What do you wish for?
Vegard: I would like to start paragliding.
Bård: You’re going to use your wish for that, instead of just signing up for lessons?
Word association test—you’ll excel at this Vegard. Just say the first thing that pops into your head.
No, after I say a word.
Bård: Did we fail?
As they say in analysis, I’m afraid our time is up.