Once upon a time on a planet named Hondo a well-respected war general was asked to save his home planet from certain destruction via comet by finding a new, inhabitable world & destroying its current resident population with a flesh eating virus to make room for the Hondonian people. The general crash landed on Earth, but decided not to mass-murder the 7 billion people who inhabit it because it’s on this new world that he heard music for the first time. Now desperate to save Earth from the Hondonians, he attempted to alert his home world of the wonders of music via satellite transmissions, all while living a double life as a family man & a dive bar folk musician. The question is would he be able to get his message across before Hondonian assassins ended his traitorous life. This is, more or less, the history of Future Folk.
Future Folk is a duo of novelty musicians from Brooklyn, New York (Nils d’Aulaire & Jay Klaitz) who’ve been writing & performing songs around the above premise for more than a decade. If they hadn’t been toiling away at their shtick since the early 2000s it’d be pretty easy to accuse them of being derivative of similar, but more successful acts like Flight of the Conchords or Tenacious D, but the truth is they’re more contemporaries than copycats. And just like the two acts just mentioned, their transition from concert hall sketch comedy to television/film is an impressively smooth one. Their visual & narrative backstory feels well explored & intricately detailed, but more importantly their screen presence & dedication to the act feels entirely sincere. As a film The History of Future Folk is somewhere between a quirky indie comedy & a low-stakes sci-fi fantasy epic. As a contribution to the comedy landscape at large, the film is a priceless document of a finely-tuned two-person act that doesn’t have any other way to reach an audience outside the Brooklynites who’ve seen them perform it live.
The most amusing aspect of the Future Folk’s Hondonian backstory is the way it’s played with straight-faced deadpan. It’s first introduced as a bedtime story for a little girl who treats it like an awe-inspiring myth of the ages. The same exact story is later treated like comedy gold by the far less sincere hipster bar patrons who accept the threat of intergalactic war & flesh-eating viruses as an ironic joke. In both instances the misplaced Hondonian general speaks in total, unembellished honesty. What people do with the truth is largely dependent on the audience in question. This stripped down earnestness pairs nicely with the film’s complete absence of a budget. Many shots feel candid, as if they were stolen without a permit, but its cheapness never feels like a detriment. It only adds to the Future Folk’s brand of earnest charm.
I guess it takes a certain tolerance of twee preciousness to get on The History of Future Folk‘s wavelength, but like I said, its much more in line with the subdued humor of acts like Flight of the Conchords than it is with heart-on-the-sleeve indies like Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. The History of Future Folk works best as intricate, feature length sketch comedy. Its limited budget & dedicated-to-the-joke leads leave little room for vanity or pretension. There’s an endearing sense of heart & earnestness that adds to the film’s charm, but it’s most mostly remarkable for its ability to earn belly laughs through such unlikely sources as department store Muzak & red plastic buckets. The History of Future Folk is an easily-lovable, genuinely hilarious work of modern sketch comedy. It’s about as much of a crowd-pleaser as a quirky, low-budget indie comedy could possibly be, twee vibes be damned.