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Conchords' Mel Takes Flight: Televisionary Talks to Kristen Schaal

While I love Flight of the Conchords' Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, the real breakout stars of their HBO series are Murray, played by Rhys Darby, and the Conchords' stalker/number one fan, Mel, played with pitch perfect precision by New York-based comedian Kristen Schaal.

Flight of the Conchords is set to return to HBO on Sunday with a second season of what Schaal promises are "madcap adventures." I caught up with the baby-voiced comedian last month to discuss Mel, why Matthew Weiner made her put her cigarette down while filming the Mad Men pilot, her comedic influences, and what character she'd most like to play on 30 Rock.

Televisionary: What it is like working with Bret and Jemaine and the writers of Flight of the Conchords? How involved are you in coming up with any storylines for the show involving Mel?

Kristen Schaal: Pretty involved, but they come up with amazing ideas and they are great to collaborate with, so I can say, I don't think Mel would do that and they'll change it. They're really good about it. And sometimes they'll come up with some really mean things to do to Mel and I'll say, can't you do something else to Mel? But they'll still keep it in. (Laughs)

Q: Can you give me an example of when you actually did put your foot down and tell the writers that what they had written was too mean to do to Mel?

Schaal: Well, I thought it was really mean [in Season One] when they brought their girlfriends to her house. (Laughs) I thought that was really mean. But they did it anyway because it made for good comedy.

Q: One thing that people are constantly wondering is: are you in anyway similar to Mel? Or are you completely different?

Schaal: Well, I like to think we are completely different. But I mean we both talk the same--

Q: And you look the same.

Schaal: (Laughs) Oh, yeah, that's right! Those two things but we don't dress the same, that is for sure. I am obviously very different than Mel. I am actually really waiting for someone to ask me, have you ever stalked anyone or been obsessed with anything? And I just want to be, like, yeah that's how I got this job. (Laughs) We're very different. Mel is just a character, obviously. I don't want to jump either of their bones, personally. That's going to be hard for them to take! (Laughs)

Q: In Season One of Flight of the Conchords, we got to see Murray sing. In Season Two, will we get to see Mel sing?

Schaal: Yes, yes. She gets her own song... and her own video. It's really good. And that's another thing that I got to have a lot of input into, the song. It's really exciting. It's about dreams.

Q: Who would you say are your main comedic influences?

Schaal: I would definitely say Andy Kaufman. He's someone that I've studied and I've read everything that I could about him and I really enjoy how he turned performances into something where no one ever knew what was going to happen. Steve Martin also is sort of a master in the category of experimental comedy which I really admire. Those are two of the big ones for me.

Q: Are you a television fan? Do you watch other TV comedies?

Schaal: I am and just this past year I've been watching more as I've had more TV time. I love 30 Rock; that might be my favorite comedy show on right now, and also The Office is pretty good too. Those are ones that I definitely TiVo. And Mad Men too. I know that's not a comedy but I love Mad Men.

Q: Not many people may realize this but you were in the pilot of Mad Men, weren't you?

Schaal: I was! I was in the pilot but the show got picked up and moved to LA and I couldn't do more because I was doing [Flight of] the Conchords. But I love it.

Q: What was your experience working on the Mad Men pilot? Did you think back then that it would become such a huge drama series sensation?

Schaal: Not at all! It was a pilot for AMC. I didn't think anything of it, especially back then. I mean, it was for AMC and filmed in New York, it seemed just like some funky project. But it was awesome and as soon as you got to put on your costume and get your hair done, it was just so much fun. And I remember, you had to smoke cigarettes constantly. At one point, they yelled cut, cut, hold on, hold on, and Matthew Weiner ran over to me and said, 'You don't smoke, do you?' (Laughs) Cause I was just puffing like crazy. I was like, puff, puff, puff, puff. And he said, 'why don't you just leave your [cigarette] in the ashtray?' (Laughs) That's why I would need to start smoking if I wanted to be on the show. I don't think I could do the show again, which is too bad, but I am just happy to watch it.

Q: So, if you could guest star on any current series, I guess you'd choose 30 Rock. What kind of character would you want to play?

Schaal: Oh, yeah that would be so fun. Oooh, I don't know. I'd think it would be fun to play like a drugged-out rock star. It would be fun to play someone who's really just self-indulgent. I don't think I'd ever look the part but that would be more fun than anything. That would be, wow.

Q: I know you are working on a few projects in the future. I heard that you and Rich [Blomquist] are working on a romance novel?

Schaal: Yes, we are. We're writing it. It's not a romance novel, it's kind of morphed more into a how-to sexual guide that's made up of short stories that are incredibly sexy and funny. We're writing it so you can read it with your baby with these 3-D glasses because we're going to put all the raunchy parts in red ink. Which would also benefit you if you needed to find a, you know, quick fix. I was going to say that this book is the book that Kim Cattrall and her ex-husband wish they wrote. (Laughs) Is that too insensitive? I thought that might be funny but then I thought... (Laughs) I haven't read Kim Cattrall's book. We started writing it and then the show kind of [took over]... and then Rich went to work on the Daily Show and we had some other projects, so hopefully we can get back on it.

Q: And you're in Paul Weitz's upcoming film, Cirque du Freak?

Schaal: That was really fun. I got to live in New Orleans and get fat and feel gross on the food. But it was cool. It was a multi-million dollar movie so that's a type of project I'm not familiar with! I am used to doing low-budget films. I got to do stunts up in a harness a couple of times and I thought it would be fun. And getting to work with John C. Reilly. It's just effortless for him to be a funny character and I got to hang out with him a couple of times, which was a treat. He's so nice and so funny and he loves to name drop Tim and Eric [of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!]. They do great stuff together and he's always, like, hey, do you know Tim and Eric? It's the most awesome name drop.

Q: You get to play a character named Gertha Teeth?

Schaal: That was really fun and she has these amazing teeth. It was again yet another humbling job where I am basically sort of coloring the background of this movie with other people playing freaks.

Q: You've already shot all of Season Two of Flight of the Conchords. If there was anything you'd want the writers to do to Mel, no matter how outrageous, what would it be?

Schaal: Oh, wow. I think it would be so much fun if Mel got some stalker friends of her own and had a taste of her own medicine. I think that would be so much fun to play with.

Something tells me that thanks to her winning performance as star-struck Mel, Schaal--like the Conchords--already does have a fanbase of her very own.

Season Two of Flight of the Conchords premieres Sunday, January 18th, at 10 pm ET/PT.


Anonymous said…
Poor sweet, delusional Mel. Flight of the Conchords would not be the same without her and I'm glad to see that she'll be getting her own song this season!

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