Magazine article The New Yorker

Dance of the Conchord

Magazine article The New Yorker

Dance of the Conchord

Article excerpt


Jemaine Clement was early for the dance in the church basement. The gap-toothed actor and mainstay of the tongue-in-cheek band Flight of the Conchords had put on a loose shirt and shorts and grown a broody, two-day beard in preparation for the unlit "No Lights, No Lycra" jam at a Lutheran church in Greenpoint. But the door--posted with rules that included "No watching," "No breakdancing," "No cell phones," and "Sh-h-h!"--wouldn't open till 8:15 P.M.

The "No Lights, No Lycra" craze originated in Australia, in 2009, and soon migrated to Clement's native New Zealand, where he heard about it from two friends. "One loved it," he reported. "One said it made her feel dizzy." In L.A., he'd sought out the Cimmerian revels but failed to pinpoint the appeal, so now he was trying again. "Why is it different from dancing in your house, where no one can see you?" he wondered. "Maybe it's the smell." On cue, a passing young woman explained, "In the dark, you can dance however you feel in your heart."

Deciding, after some bashful waffling, to work up to baring his heart, Clement repaired to a local dive bar. Noting its mock-Tudor timbering and the bartender's head kerchief, he murmured, "This looks like a pirate bar." His request for a lemonade elicited a scowl. "Are you British?" the bartender asked. "Because British people ask for lemonade when they mean Sprite." "I meant lemonade," Clement said, not quite audibly.

He accepted a warm glass of water. Then he demonstrated his favorite dance move: the prancing horse, where you kick up one foot and canter forward. "You can add reins if you choose," he noted. After a moment, he clarified: "It's more for dancing in lit areas."

Clement has none of the overconfidence of the Playboy Mansion screen persona he sometimes affects, and all of the quizzicality of his more usual persona. A lot of lacerating thoughts seem to go unsaid. In the film "People Places Things," which opened last week, he plays a graphic novelist named Will Henry, who lives in Brooklyn and feels generally put upon--particularly after he discovers his girlfriend, Charlie, the mother of his five-year-old twins, having sex with a tubby monologist named Gary. After Charlie leaves Will and begins taking improv classes, she explains to him that "Gary thinks I have a lot of unexplored talent. …

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