“Reality is quite boring. Council tax bills are boring. Eastenders is boring. I don’t really want to live in that world. I quite like living in the fantasy world. It’s a much more interesting place.” (Noel Fielding)
The Mighty Boosh is one of those things that delight those that like it and straight up baffle those that don’t; I remember enthusiastically showing it to a friend in sixth form and the only response I got was ‘I thought this was a comedy. Where are the jokes?’
For me, and many others, it’s a zenith of sorts for off-beat, nonsensical comedy, combining the borderline alienating and confusing craziness of Shooting Stars, the canonical funny-man straight-man dynamic (Vic and Bob again) and the best-friends-forever feel of JD and Turk in Scrubs. These influences, along with others, are all filtered through an expansive childish imagination and an encyclopaedic knowledge of pop music history.
The Boosh is held together by all these opposing forces, as while one tries to run away it always gets reined in by its counterpart. This is most visible in the characters themselves, as Vince Noir’s flamboyant fashion-celebrity status is the funny-man, while Moon’s nerdy, embarrassing Dad vibe offsets him as the straight guy. Their take on this model is tongue-in-cheek, as Vince’s ludicrously camp theatrics and dress sense makes him a parody of the ‘quirky’ funny guy, while Howard, disapproving of Vince’s frivolous attitude, tries too hard to be serious. They can even be viewed as a parody of gender perceptions, as Vince tries to be effeminate, and is, to the audience at least, absurd. But Howard also tries too hard to be masculine (smokes a pipe, aspiring novelist, moustache etc). Throughout the show they get referred to as ‘you, and your wife with the lovely hair’.
This gap between them means that everything is open to comedic scrutiny; nothing is sacred or taken for granted, as the main characters are open to ridicule along with everything else in the show. Howard gets mocked for wearing turtlenecks and elbow patches and goes to ‘jazzercise’ classes, but Vince has his own impractical obsession with vinyl jumpsuits and the vacant, fashion-zombie ‘Shoreditch Elite’ he associates with.
One aspect of the Boosh that confounds non-believers is the music which is central to the whole show; although I’ve not had the pleasure in person, a friend of mine told me that seeing the Boosh live is like a live karaoke for all their songs. Which sounds great. At least once in every episode there’s a full-length song, often with a dance routine. These songs are all flights of fancy and sometimes over-long pastiches of particular musical styles or artists, my personal favourite being the green, top-hatted ‘Hitcher’ doing a cockney Beastie-Boys ripoff, but everyone will have their own.
As far as I’m concerned, however, it’s the childish imagination coursing through the whole show that really makes it special. Fielding often cites the influence of children and surrealism on his comedy, specifically on a child’s energy and their acceptance of weird things. In one interview he is asked whether psychedelic drugs ever played a part in his and Barratt’s creative process, and his answer was, in effect, no, because this childish, surreal fantasy world was what drove the writing style. Therefore, for all the pop culture references and parodies, the Boosh’s motivation is a childish fantasy world where things don’t need to make sense to be fun, and where the budget doesn’t matter.