Not just anyone can say they’ve contributed to something as legendary as the Muppets songbook. Bret McKenzie, known primarily for the comedy duo “Flight of the Conchords,” can definitely make that claim, though.
McKenzie is responsible for the original songs in both “The Muppets” and “Muppets Most Wanted,” movies that have reintroduced those famous felt puppets to popular culture. Sitting down with Zap2it to talk about “Muppets Most Wanted,” McKenzie says, “It is kind of amazing.”
Creating music for the characters in the Muppet universe is quite a bit different than it is for other movies. Upon reading an early version of the script, he sits down with director James Bobin to figure out where the songs should go and what they should be about. From there, it’s time to get weird.
“I put on whatever character I’m working for. [If it’s] Miss Piggy I start singing like Piggy,” he explains. “So, I sit at the piano and then start singing in a high, weird, truck-driver transsexual voice. And then there’s a certain Muppet sound I think which is sort of a go-to, sort of a banjo-y, piano-y sound, and you put those things in it and it usually sounds like a Muppet song.” Sounds easy enough, right?
Growing up a Muppets fan, McKenzie always leaned toward “The Muppet Show.” “I think, to be honest, the Muppets work best in their original format,” he says. “Half-hour TV shows, sketches, cameos, short pieces.” Luckily for him, Bobin includes elements of the show in the movies.
Still, McKenzie wouldn’t mind a return of “The Muppet Show” to TV. “It would be brilliant,” he says. As for the possibility of a comeback for “Flight of the Conchords,” which had its own show on HBO, he says it’s “not planned” at the moment. Don’t give up hope, though.
“Muppets Most Wanted” is in theaters now.