By: Jaime' En Fuego, Phoenix Concerts Examiner
Like they said in that cheezed out 80's song: "Ya don't know what ya got 'til it's gone!"
It's the mentality we fall under all too often that our favorite performers will do the same 'Dog & Pony Show' forever never thinking for a second the taxing toll such immense intense pressure takes on someone. This is especially true in the case of those that rise to the top with the quickness which is exactly what happened with the two greatest television shows from the past decade to last a mere two seasons: Chappelle's Show and Flight Of The Conchords!
Neither had really stormed the American mainstream's sight until their respective spontaneous ascents to prominence. Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie who comprise "New Zealand's 4th most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo" FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS were relative unknowns upon making their American debut on HBO despite overseas acclaim from their native country and across Western Europe including a hilariously sadly short-lived 6-Episode radio show on the BBC very few fans in the States are aware of, heard here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJI_ypXka58&list=PL66EE90F3B4BA36A9, that served as a thematic precursor to the television debut audiences and critics alike instantly loved. Many of the same songs, themes and characters transitioned to TV perfectly and in a brisk whisk of popularity power the Conchords were suddenly infiltrating the USA British Invasion style minus the screaming girls with appearances in 2007 at hipster center South By Southwest in Austin's Texas, a rib-ticklin' knee slapper for late night's best host David Letterman and a cementing of their prestigiousness win at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards for Best Comedy Album. The Emmy-nominated series commenced its second season with a lengthy US Tour and record release but the strain of formulating an entire season/album's worth of material in just a few months as opposed to the years put into crafting and honing their OG creations seemed to wear thin on these crazy cool Kiwis. Though the second season was fantastic in it's own right as far as acting and humor went the songs themselves seemed to span the gamut from brilliant to lacking the luster in a few cases that was a constant trademark of their debut, a bi-product of having to crank something out on a deadline compared to letting it age like a fine wine. Regardless, fans were clamoring for more musica from the Conchords but in a shocking move at the height of the group's popularity they decided to call it quits on TV and move on to not just other projects but those separate from one another as well, presumably intent upon showing the world they could succeed either solo or as a duo, and proved the point resoundingly with Jemaine's contributions in front of the camera for Men In Black 3 and Dinner For Smucks with Bret's being more behind the scenes, most notably taking home an Academy Award win for Best Original Song from 2012's Muppets reboot. So even though they walked away at the top of their fame they still remained within the public's eye, just in a different capacity which is hard to say for the incomparable Dave Chappelle, who for a magical momentous moment in comedy was considered the funniest guy alive!
The biggest thing the Comedy Central gold mine Chappelle's Show accomplished in its two instant classic seasons was coerce nearly every race and ethnicity on the planet not to take themselves too seriously. The first episode probably set an unattainable benchmark with it's 'Blind Black White Supremacist' sketch but it really was the template for the racially charged hilarity that made the show such a hit that Dave was offered $55 million just to keep the concept propelling forward, though the pressure of putting together the country's most popular show at the time spurred him to stroll away in a similar fashion at the apex of his awesomeness! Similar to the Conchords, Dave had achieved eschewed notoriety within smaller, secluded ranks courtesy of bit roles in films like Robin Hood: Men In Tights, Con Air and Undercover Brother yet the instant cult classic/critically panned Half Baked, which he co-wrote with future TV cohort in crime Neal Brennan, was what solidified his reputation amongst keen fans of comedy along with his side-splitting stand-ups Killing Them Softly. His Comedy Central association began soon after and though it commenced as a slow-burn, word-of-mouth type endeavor during its first season by the time numero dos approached it was full on pandemonium, coming from sketches skewering bullseye targets like Lil' Jon, Prince and infamously the late Rick James, a sequence which while hella hilarious inevitably became the punchline for a program that Dave thought was losing its way even in the face of such prominent popularity! Unable to handle the grind of everyone's eyes being firmly fixed upon him, Dave Chappelle decided to abruptly say "Peace Out!" to that massive aforementioned amount of money and halt the progress on his namesake show's third season which was already knee-deep in the creative process with a solo trip to South Africa with the intent to reflect upon things and get away from fans screaming "I'm Rick James, BITCH!" He has since appeared in zero Hollywood movies and aside from the occasional unplanned stand-up across the country from time to time the man who America, and the rest of the world, fell in love with has kept a relatively low key over the past decade, leaving devout fans distraught and delirous if he would ever emerge once again to liven the lives of his fervent followers!
Then the unthinkable occurred, all thanks to the masterminds at the Fill Werrell approved world wide interweb destination FUNNY OR DIE, who were somehow able to make the unthinkable possible by assembling both the man in exile DAVE CHAPPELLE and the Kiwi Comedy Cacophony FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS to co-headline the site's first ever festival tour. It may not amount to that guarantee of a Conchords movie that Bret McKenzie mentioned in 2011 or for our beloved Señor Chappelle to charm us on the small or silver screen once again but it will still certainly be fascinating to see what these two creative forces pull out of their respective rabbit hats when they preside over what for this fan of both creative forces might amount to the most righteous day in comedy history for me! And who knows, perhaps getting their feet wet again and remembering how killer the medium is will compel our comedic heroes to do something more substantial. Fingers firmly crossed.
DAVE CHAPPELLE and FLIGHT OF THE CONCORDS are set to break your funny bone on September 22 at Ak-Chin Pavilion in Phoenix as the final date of the FUNNY OR DIE: ODDBALL COMEDY & CURIOSITY FESTIVAL!
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