Tuesday, 19 April 2011

So You Liked The Mighty Boosh?

I was in philosophy class at the tender age of sixteen when my friend Leo told me about a show called The Mighty Boosh.  Initially I was sceptical; how could a show about two men working in a zoo be entertaining?  But my friend forced the DVD’s upon me, and so after school one night I took a break from my dedicated homework routine, put the DVD into my computer and sat back.  And I was taken on a journey through time and space, a journey I’m still on to this day.  The Mighty Boosh was a revelation.  Each episode was a totally enthralling trip, a juxtaposition of dark humour against colourful, arty and energetic adventures.  

The Mighty Boosh's Bizarre Logo

The first series follows the adventures of Vince Noir, a trend setting hipster (Noel Fielding) and Howard Moon, a trend apathetic 'jazz dalek' (Julian Barrett), Zoo keepers at the Zooniverse, owned by Bob Fossil.  The Zooniverse features a gift shop owned by shaman Naboo, whose best friend and familiar is the ape Bollo.  A diverse crowd to be sure, and every episode they embark upon a surreal adventure.  After a brief and generally irrelevant (but always amusing) introduction, it launches into the episode.  With trips to the afterlife, a trek through a mod-wolf infested forest and journeys to the arctic to find precious stones, every episode features a leftfield story with twists and turns.  Fashion, musicianship, arty-ness and relationships are all commonly explored themes. 

The Cast assembled outside the Mod-wolf infested Jungle Room

The Mighty Boosh has a few things that really make it special.  The banter between Vince and Howard is lightning, with hilarious back and forth between the two.  The balance of Vince’s obvious affection for Howard is juxtaposed with Howard’s disdain for Vince, and his ever changing hipster ways. 
The second factor is the regular breakdown into a song and dance routine.   Every episode features one, sometimes two songs, all of which are memorable and entertaining.  Julian Barrett is a talented musician and wrote most of the music.  Of particular note are their two man raps which they occasionally embark on, known as crimps.  With genius wordplay between the pair, they have become so notorious even the sugar puff monster has tried to get in on the action.  

Calm a Llama down!

The third and final factor that makes The Mighty Boosh so noteworthy is the imagination that goes into it.  I don’t know exact figures, but the Mighty Boosh has always featured a risibly small budget, which is compensated for by the enormous amount of imagination that goes into each scene.  In fact, they played it cleverly by often acknowledging the fact that money hard to come by, sometimes even breaking the fourth wall.  But it never comes across as cringe worthy, with the cheap costumes and unconvincing sets coming across as being intentionally kitsch, rather than financially restrained.      
Six years on, I have trouble remembering what TV shows I watched before I discovered The Mighty Boosh.  I seem to recall watching and enjoying The Office, but aside from that I think it was all dross.  But having watched The Mighty Boosh, it turned me onto a completely new type of comedy.  Comedy with a dark, yet (generally) good natured edge.   

Noel Fielding - The Cockney Hitcher

Possibly the most glowing review is demonstrated from this story.  After watching the first few episodes, I eagerly e-mailed my friend Felix telling him about this fantastic new show I’d discovered.  Having not heard back from him in twenty four hours about it, I e-mailed him again to see if he’d enjoyed it.  A while later, he replied saying that he’d stayed up until six that morning watching the entire first two series.  A wise man once observed “Crack is really more-ish” and The Mighty Boosh has a similar appeal.  

After having consumed both series myself, I found my thirst for psychedelic, surreal, dark commentary barely sated and so I set out to discover more.  And as is often the case with journeys into the unknown, I discovered a vein of riches far greater than I could possibly imagine.  But aside from The Mighty Boosh, very few of these surreal comedies seem to have permeated the public psyche.  

Julian Barrett converses with a coconut

The Mighty Boosh is reasonably well known, as it has unfortunately become something of an indie video bible.  What with Noel Fielding’s increasingly frequent appearances on the uncomfortably hip Never Mind The Buzzcocks, he (and therefore TMB) are quite well known, but there is a wealth of other shows  that a criminally small proportion of the population are aware of.  And so, I’ve decided to write a couple of articles (as and when I think of them) of a few shows that I would consider essential viewing for Mighty Boosh fans.  They all feature a degree of surrealism rarely seen on mainstream television, and all will transport you to somewhere totally abstract while you consume them.  

One of the ways in which I rate the potential of a show is the actors it features, and so I will try and highlight this aspect.  There seems to be a pool of about fifteen actors whose performances always hit the spot, and you’ll find them commonly spread out throughout these shows.  These include;

Noel Fielding
Julian Barrett
Rich Fulcher
Matt Berry
Richard Ayoade
Simon Pegg
Mark Heap
Chris Morris
Matthew Holness
Alice Lowe
Julia Davis
Nicolas Burns
Chris Morris 
Rebecca Front

And probably several others who’ve slipped my mind at this moment.  These people are all acting gods amongst men, turning in consistently entertaining performances in a variety of roles.  Some are more versatile than others, but they all consistently entertain. 

So, look out for my next entry where I’ll recommend you a darkly surreal comedy you've probably never seen!  

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