John Flansburgh

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John Flansburgh
Flansburgh in 2023
Flansburgh in 2023
Background information
Birth nameJohn Conant Flansburgh
Also known as
  • Flans
  • Flansy
  • Rolf Conant[1]
Born (1960-05-06) May 6, 1960 (age 63)
Lexington, Massachusetts[2]
GenresAlternative rock
Occupation(s)Singer-songwriter, musician, guitarist
Instrument(s)Vocals, guitar, bass, percussion, trumpet, harmonica
Years active1980–present

John Conant Flansburgh (/flænzˌbərɡ/, FLANZ-berg; born May 6, 1960) is an American musician. He is half of the long-standing Brooklyn, New York–based alternative rock duo They Might Be Giants with John Linnell, for which he writes, sings, and plays rhythm guitar.

Commonly referred to by the nickname "Flansy" or "Flans",[1] he is married to musician Robin Goldwasser, with whom he occasionally performs.

Early life[edit]

Flansburgh was born in Lexington, Massachusetts. His father, Earl Flansburgh, was a well-known Boston architect. His mother, Polly Flansburgh, is the founder and president of Boston By Foot. Her father, Brigadier General Ralph Hospital, was an artillery commander in the U.S. Army in the Italian Campaign during World War II.[3] His brother, Paxus Calta (born Earl Schuyler Flansburgh), is an anti-nuclear activist and political organizer.

Flansburgh attended the George Washington University, where he learned to play guitar while working as a parking garage attendant, then Antioch College and Pratt Institute, where he graduated with an arts degree.[4]

Since 1982: They Might Be Giants[edit]

Flansburgh co-founded They Might Be Giants, with longtime friend John Linnell, in 1982 while a student at Pratt Institute. The two share singing and songwriting duties, with Flansburgh on guitar, in addition to performing a variety of instruments when the need arises. In the 2002 documentary Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns), he was described as holding a leadership role in the group, managing most details of their live act and handling much of the promotion effort.

As a songwriter, Flansburgh enjoys a mix of styles; many of his songs have an absurdist and satirical bent, but he often breaks for more earnest and romantic themes as well. He penned and performed vocals on the group's first Grammy Award-winning effort, "Boss of Me", which charted in Europe and served as theme song to the hit television series Malcolm in the Middle.

Side projects[edit]

Flansburgh in 2005

Flansburgh has pursued a number of solo projects during his time with They Might Be Giants. His band Mono Puff recorded two full-length albums and four EPs in the late 1990s and toured occasionally. The band also included bassist Hal Cragin and drummer Steve Calhoon, plus various guest collaborators.[5][6]

Flansburgh also ran a subscription-based record label called the Hello Recording Club.[7] Flansburgh has also directed music videos for such artists as Soul Coughing, Ben Folds Five, Frank Black and the Catholics, Harvey Danger, and Jonathan Coulton. He also produced Coulton's album, Artificial Heart. In 2004, as a one-off, Flansburgh produced and starred in the Off-Broadway musical People Are Wrong!, which was co-written by his wife, Robin Goldwasser.[8]

In 1998, Flansburgh guest-starred as himself in the season 4 finale of the Cartoon Network animated series Space Ghost Coast to Coast.[9] In 2004, Flansburgh created and hosted a series on WNYC entitled Now Hear This. The program spotlighted a variety of his musical interests, featuring interviews with artists such as Stephin Merritt, David Byrne, Matt Stone, and The Darkness. While no longer in production, it continues to be archived on the station's website.[10] In 2007, Flansburgh played a short role as "Computer" in the Adult Swim comedy series Xavier: Renegade Angel.[11]

In 2023, Flansburgh released a solo EP entitled Forest / Trees.[12]

Personal life[edit]

Since 1996, he is married to musician Robin Goldwasser, with whom he occasionally performs. Flansburgh considers himself politically liberal and has spoken of his support for Bernie Sanders for President.[13] Flansburgh is left-handed.[14]

On June 8, 2022, while in a ride share on his way home from a They Might Be Giants show at the Bowery Ballroom,[15] Flansburgh's ride was involved in a collision with a drunk driver. Flansburgh had several broken ribs, many of which had multiple fractures, but no vital organs were damaged. The following day, bandmate John Linnell posted a statement on Twitter.[16]


Flansburgh frequently plays a red Gibson ES-335, a sonic blue Fender Telecaster, a candy apple red Fender Jazzmaster, and a goldtop Gibson Les Paul. He is known for his unique, custom-made gold Mojo guitar, known as the "Chessmaster".[17] He designed the body himself, taking inspiration from the geometric shapes of old guitar cases.[18]


  1. ^ a b Millman, Debbie (March 3, 2012). "Design Matters with Debbie Millman - John Flansburgh". Archived from the original on July 12, 2012. Retrieved September 30, 2012.
  2. ^ Symkus, Ed (March 28, 2013). "Kings of Quirkiness: They Might Be Giants at Paradise April 3-4". The MetroWest Daily News. Retrieved November 22, 2022.
  3. ^ TMBG Info Club (1994). "John and John Answer Your Questions". Retrieved September 30, 2012.
  4. ^ Nonstop Sound (January 11, 2012). "Q&A: John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants". NBC New York. Retrieved November 22, 2022.
  5. ^ Unsupervised (Liner notes).
  6. ^ The Devil Went Down to Newport (Liner notes).
  7. ^ Rosenberg, Joel (April 4, 1997). "Mono Puff: Unsupervised". The Tech. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved November 22, 2022.
  8. ^ "Q&A with Gothamist". November 12, 2004. Archived from the original on June 2, 2012. Retrieved November 12, 2022.
  9. ^ Flansburgh, John (April 17, 2019). "Hey Flans, do you remember anything specific about your Space Ghost: Coast to Coast interview? It seems that aside from a very small clip, it was never aired". Tumblr. Retrieved November 22, 2022.
  10. ^ Flansburgh, John (April 2, 2004). "Now Hear This". Archived from the original on January 2, 2007. Retrieved October 8, 2012.
  11. ^ Rosner, Bennett (January 7, 2019). "John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants Interview with WRSU". (Podcast). WRSU-FM. Retrieved November 22, 2022.
  12. ^ "Forest / Trees EP." Accessed August 6, 2023.
  13. ^ Hallenbeck, Brent (November 15, 2015). "Sanders' Campaign Stands at the Intersection of Entertainment, Politics". USA Today. Retrieved November 22, 2022.
  14. ^ " FAQ". Archived from the original on April 6, 1997. Retrieved April 24, 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link). Retrieved 2012-09-30.
  15. ^ "Shows/2022-06-08 - TMBW: The They Might Be Giants Knowledge Base". Retrieved June 14, 2022.
  16. ^ @tmbg (June 9, 2022). "An important message from John L." (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  17. ^ "Mojo Chessmaster". Retrieved April 20, 2018.
  18. ^ "Truly Gigantic!- An Interview with They Might Be Giants". Archived from the original on November 26, 2015. Retrieved November 25, 2015.

External links[edit]