Let us celebrate the world of the Mighty Boosh (the Mighty Boo-oosh!)
I have no problems admitting being late. I’m late. Last on the block. I watched the first episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm when it premiered on British TV and I didn’t like it. Never mind that I was a fan of Seinfeld, from whence it came. I never watched another episode of that first series. I read the rave reviews. I ignored them. Not for me. It was only when my friend Rob forced me to borrow four episodes from his box set that the pieces fell into place, and within weeks I had purchased all of the three seasons then available, watching them whenever I had a spare half-hour. I now realise it is one of the greatest comedy programmes of my lifetime. The DVD box set is the saviour of the unfashionable latecomer. I didn’t like Spooks on first viewing; thought Matthew McFadyen was unconvincing as a spy. Now I have all three series on DVD and accept that it is a compelling and unmissable TV drama. I didn’t even watch the first three episodes of The Apprentice first time out, and only joined in because Leona urged me to. I think you know what I think about that programme now.
So it was with The Mighty Boosh. I’ve always been aware of the Boosh as a double act, and have admired Julian Barratt as an actor, knowing precisely who he was, and where he came from. I also have a track called Midfielding by the Midfield General, on which Noel Fielding basically seems to improvise a tale about gathering up a posse of the animals that never get on nature programmes. It’s fantastic. I saw the Boosh TV programme billed and advertised and trailed on BBC3 and just kind of didn’t watch it. It transferred to BBC2. Kind of didn’t watch it. At Christmas, I met Noel Fielding in HMV on Oxford Street with Lee Mack. He seemed like possibly the nicest, most laid-back man in comedy, and told me he’d really liked my book. It was at that moment that I knew I should get with the programme, literally. Then their tour dates, including a run at Brixton Academy, confirmed that the Boosh were going overground in a big way. They had the NME Reader Factor. Thank God Julie took it upon herself to order the DVD box set of both series on spec. I think we both just kind of knew it was time, to go with them on a journey through time and space to the world of . . .
The Mighty Boo-oosh! We’re now almost through series two, and feeling the tug of melancholy that in a couple of days, there will be no more unseen Boosh. This – as I’m kind of guessing you all know – is a comedy half-hour like no other. In the chemistry between Howard and Vince (Barratt and Fielding), TV has stumbled upon something money cannot buy, but years on the circuit can. In their off-the-cuff badinage, redolent of a lot of “naturalistic” comedy of today, they manage to be offbeat and low-key and minor-chord without ever appearing self-indulgent or smug. Theirs is the comedy of joy and silliness and costumes and song and dance. As Lee and I are currently slaving over a hot sitcom where story arcs must be paid off and act-three obstacles placed and overcome, I am filled with pointless jealousy that the Boosh can end an episode by having Mod wolves turn up. There is, as with all the best surreal comedy, a point and a pay-off, but these are secondary to the journey itself – often a literal journey, their stock in trade. Some of the jokes, written down, might even seem easy, but on the screen, they add to a parrallel universe that lives and breathes.
The first series, set in the zoo, was inspired, but so was the desire to break out of that zooniverse for series two and move to a flat, reducing the supporting cast to just Naboo (Fielding’s brother, Michael) and Bollo the gorilla. Of course, I miss the spoken red-curtain intros of the first series, and Bob Fossil (although Rich Fulcher turns up in most episodes, in heavy disguise), but the move has freed their minds.
Burrow underneath the deliberate wierdness (that fucking shaving-cream moon for one!), and the twin obsessions with jazz and hair, and you’ll find a fairly traditional British sitcom set-up: two losers with high aspirations. It’s Hancock, or Steptoe, or Mainwaring, and yet, it’s not. It’s drugs television that works if you’re not on drugs. It’s young-person’s television that works if you’re not young (although I do find myself arguing with myself about who’s the best out of Julian and Noel). It’s gone-wrong television that works if you’ve gone right. It’s stupid television that works if you’re clever (because of course it’s not stupid at all). It is my favourite comedy programme. Imagine that!