SUI GENERIS Barratt and Fielding (here with Bollo) traverse the zooniverse in search of comedy.
Come with us now, on a journey through time and space to the world of the Mighty Boosh. In this peculiar, crayon-colored plane of existence, somewhere distant beyond our ken (or the London neighborhood of Dalston, as the case may be), we're introduced to a pugilistic kangaroo, a crack-addicted fox, and a hermaphroditic merman with a thirst for Bailey's Irish Cream. But five figures hold our attention over the course of three seasons of this inspired, off-kilter BBC series (out on DVD this Tuesday, July 21).
Howard Moon (Julian Barratt) is a mustachio'd jazzbo, a bit of a schlemiel, who nonetheless exudes an aura of grandiosity as he fails at music, writing, acting, love, and snake catching. Vince Noir (Noel Fielding), hair-obsessed and spindly in painted-on jeans, is an affably cocksure mod/goth hipster who's wont to be mistaken for a woman. Naboo the Enigma (Noel's brother Michael) is a tiny, beturbaned "freelance shaman" from the planet Xooberon. Bob Fossil (Rich Fulcher) is the choleric, cricket-hating American manager of the "zooniverse" where Howard and Vince work cleaning cages. Bollo (Dave Brown) is a low-talking lowland gorilla, forever grumbling that he's "got a bad feeling about this."
Adapted from the long-running stage and radio show of Barratt and Fielding, The Mighty Boosh is sui generis, its characters tripping across the time-space continuum, trodding tundra and desert, commingling with Vikings and astronauts and yetis. The oft-used "surreal" is said to be a word its creators dislike — but really, how else to describe a show with a character named "Tony Harrison, the sarcastic pink bladder"?
In addition to doing Howard and Vince, Barratt and Fielding slather on pancake make-up and sundry other ridiculous costume accouterments to play a galaxy of happy freaks. Fielding's the Hitcher is a green-skinned antagonist in a top hat with a cockney accent and an outsized Polo mint over one eye. He looks a little like a male version of Witchiepoo from H.R. Pufnstuf.
If the Boosh æsthetic bears a resemblance to the work of Sid and Marty Krofft, it also may appeal to fans of Monty Python (natch) and Flight of the Conchords. The show is rife with topical musical references, and each episode features a shambolic song-and-dance routine. Most memorable is Howard and Vince's invention of "crimping" — aptly described by Wikipedia as an "a cappella nonsense song sung in a scat style featuring lyrics characterized by non-sequiturs . . . rhythmically related to puirt a beul and beatboxing." (For a fine example of the form, YouTube the words "soup crimp.")
It's a funny, geeky, trippy, pop-culture-drunk kaleidoscope world that owes just about everything to Barratt and Fielding. They come up with the crazy conceits, pen the rapid-fire dialogue, write the music, choreograph the revues, and create the interstitial animation sequences. They're absurdly talented. And in the UK, where The Mighty Boosh is a huge mainstream success, they're superstars, their off-screen antics in late-night clubland (well, Fielding's at least) splashed across the tabloids.
The idea of a show as weird as theirs being massively popular in the US is laughable on the face of it. But smart British TV like this and Look Around You and Garth Marenghi's Darkplace has begun making its way across the pond to appreciative American cult audiences thanks to the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. And though the reruns air in the wee hours of the morning, it's worth spending a few clams to get the DVDs and witness the mind-bending sweep of The Mighty Boosh in its entirety. As the show's tagline puts it: "The Boosh is loose. See it, or throw your eyes in the bin."