It was released as a single in April 1998. The song gained popularity after Sean Nelson gave a copy of the album to a KNDD DJ. Shortly after this, it was picked up by KROQ-FM. It then appeared at #38 on the BillboardHot 100 Airplay chart. A music video was produced to promote the single. Notably, the song was first used in the film Disturbing Behavior which is not included in the CD soundtrack. It was also used in the film American Pie, though the song was not included on the DVD release. In 2009, Capitol Records filed a lawsuit against Vimeo about a 'Lip Dub' version of "Flagpole Sitta". The Vimeo version shows the staff of Connected Ventures acting out the song. It went viral when it was released. The song is regarded as a power pop single to MTV and a post-grunge anthem to author Ericka Chickowski.PopMatters describes the single as "a hyper-literate alt-rock dissection of the stupidity of the modern age". Music journalist Rob Sheffield also considers the song as "nineties pop-punk rage at its loudest".
The song has been the theme song for the British comedy Peep Show since its second series. It also appeared briefly in the first series as background music in a bowling alley. Sean Nelson has stated that its use in Peep Show is "...the only pop culture item the song has been associated with that feels like a kindred spirit to the original attitude of the lyric."