We've all been there: You're packing for a road trip, and you can't make up your mind.
Should I bring the birdcage or the giant foam mattress?
"Maybe I'll bring some kitchen supplies," said comic Kristen Schaal, whose unique brand of theatrical comedy makes good use of such eccentric props.
Schaal plays scene-stealing stalker Mel on Flight of the Conchords, HBO's deliriously twee sitcom about a New Zealand folk-parody duo (Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement) who come to New York looking for fame, only to wind up with a manager who can only book gigs in libraries and elevators, and a single, obsessed fan (that'd be Mel).
The show's blend of absurdist deadpan humor and over-the-top musical fantasy numbers has turned its unassuming stars into alt-comedy heroes and legit, Grammy-winning musical sensations. On Monday, two weeks after the show's second-season finale, they'll kick off a national tour at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.
Schaal, who's also a performer on The Daily Show and former contributor to South Park, will open the show. While packing for her two-week stint on the road, she called tbt* from her home in Brooklyn to chat about the Conchords, The Daily Show and her own stalker fantasy.
So, "alternative comic." Are you cool with that tag?
Sure, sure. That's a good safety word. It puts people at ease. I love labels. (laughs)
You think we should all have labels?
Well, I don't think I'm cooler than a label. If you can label me, all the better. I love the word "alternative!"
Is the series over? Everything I've read points to it just being two seasons, because the process of writing all the music is so creatively exhausting to Bret and Jemaine.
I don't know, and I don't think I will know for sure until June. I wouldn't want to say the show's over until it's officially over. I think that's a mistake they made, where they said in an interview a while ago that they'd only do two seasons. They sort of had to apologize to HBO. (laughs) I think it would be really fun to do a third season. You could just blow the house down and be really ridiculous and fun.
You're strictly a performer on Flight of the Conchords. Do you ever get to see the creative process between Bret, Jemaine and (co-creator) James Bobin?
Yeah, a little bit. I get to see the scripts in their earliest stages. But then they kind of shoo us away as they're writing. (laughs) I've never gotten to see them write together, or even figure out a song in the studio together. But I bet you the emotions are high.
You had your first song this season, Dreams. How does that process work, in terms of rehearsing, recording, learning the choreography, all that stuff?
It was pretty simple. They said, "Here's a song we're writing, here's the tune, here are some verses." They were open if I had some input on the verses and the ideas, which was fun, because it's amazing to see it come to fruition. No rehearsals, I just went in and sang it a couple of times, and then shot it. There's no time to do much other than that.
Do fans of the show like you? I would imagine there are some real-life Mels out there, and Mel doesn't seem to like it when other women get too close to her boys.
I think so. Nobody's made any death threats yet. I think people are comfortable with me. I'm sure they're a little jealous. I mean, I would be.
Are there groupies like Mel in the comedy world?
Yeah, there are a couple. None of them have tried to sleep with me. They're all girls. But there are a couple where I'm like, "Really? You're going to see his set again?"
Who's your celebrity obsession?
Oh, man ... I always get so stumped on this one.
You don't have a stock answer? That's like the No. 1 question you must get!
It is No. 1! And every time, I'm always like, "Oh, you should really think of someone for next time." I've said Tori Amos before, and I'll say it again. I really want to meet Tori Amos. She's my favorite musician, which I know makes me incredibly alternative. (laughs). But she's so cool! Someone e-mailed me and said they saw her at South by Southwest, and I was like, "Did butterflies fall out of her mouth when she coughed? Was a fairy tied up in her hair? What was she doing!?"
What's the creative process like on The Daily Show? Do you write your own segments?
I have a unique relationship, where if there's a topic that comes up and it seems to fit — it has to be sort of female-related; that's my department — if you pitch the idea and Jon (Stewart) likes it, we go back and write it up, and if he likes that draft, you'll get booked to do it. I get a dress rehearsal, because my stuff's a little more involved, and he gives me notes, and we go back and rewrite it. Sometimes the whole thing can be entirely rewritten before we perform it. Your brain is constantly churning. Churning brains! It's fun.