A London exhibition of unseen Boosh goodies has just been announced, opening at Shoreditch’s Book Club on 20 October. Plenty of time to go on a journey through time and space with Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding, says Lucy Reynolds.
Often in life, when you need a little lift, you need to return to your old faithfuls; the things you hold dear that give you comfort. They feel warm and familiar like a favourite sweater or a pair of socks fresh from the radiator. Or, for me, watching two grown men dressed in sequinned spandex and tweed, scat-singing (‘crimping’) and travelling on bizarre psychedelic adventures. Yeah, I know, I’m a traditionalist.
Recently my TV broke. No, let me rephrase that: recently I broke my TV. It may have been a flimsy aerial or perhaps incandescent rage due to a fuzzy picture during Bargain Hunt, I don’t recall the details. But I found myself in the position of having no televisual delights at my disposal so had to go back through my DVD collection for entertainment.
My eye fell upon a boxset I hadn’t watched since my late 20s: The Mighty Boosh. The surrealist TV show that launched Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt as fully fledged comedy rock stars. The show that makes no apologies about being batshit, dark and pretty creepy at times. The show that I binged on so hard with my best friend when we were younger that we made up our own ‘crimps’, which we would perform to amuse each other. They were not meant for public consumption, although she is getting married next year and I am making a speech…
Let me take you now on a journey through time and space to the addictive and joyously silly world of The Mighty Boosh.
Vince Noir (Fielding): all-round fashion icon, with hair that defies comparison and an ability to be on the cutting edge of cool.
Howard Moon (Barratt): self-loathing, priggish jazz twat with a penchant for tweed and an arrogance that has absolutely nothing to back it up.
A bizarre cast of friends: Bollo (Dave Brown), a talking gorilla; Naboo the Enigma (Mike Fielding), a tiny mystical Shaman, and, my favourite, Bob Fossil (Rich Fulcher), an outlandish, boisterous American who wears shirts two sizes too small and dances erotically to 10cc’s reggae classic Dreadlock Holiday.
Mix this in with psychedelic animations, a whole host of weird and disturbing characters and a song in every episode, and you’ve just drilled down into some TV binging gold, my friend!
The road to comedy stardom wasn’t just straight to TV for the Boosh though: they had already gained a cult following from their award-winning live shows The Mighty Boosh, Arctic Boosh and Auto Boosh, moving to a six-episode radio series and then three TV series with the BBC and several sell-out live shows after that.
The interplay between Vince and Howard, along with the host of other weird creatures of the Boosh universe (or Zooniverse if you are watching series one) and the catchy and irreverent songs are what make the series so addictive. For music geeks, there’s the added bonus of some great cameos, with Roger Daltrey, Gary Numan and Razorlight making appearances.
How to begin your essential Boosh education? If you have the luxury of a complete boxset, starting with series one makes sense, but to be honest, there is no rhyme or reason to any of it. Each episode is a perfect, hermetically sealed ball of lunacy, meaning you can watch episodes in any order.
Here are my favourite episodes of each series.
Series one, episode eight: Hitcher
The last episode of series one introduced one of the most enduring, hilarious and nightmarish creations to span the series and live shows. Imagine the love child of Grotbags, Fagin and the Kray twins… voila, the Hitcher, a psychopath with a Polo eye piece and a bloody huge thumb.
When Vince and Howard are given the unenviable task of transporting Ivan the bear to the Animal Offenders Institute, they have to travel in the old Zooniverse van to get there. On the way to the Institute, they get lost and Vince and Howard part, leaving Howard to pick up the Hitcher on his way.
What ensues is a terrifying Cockerny knees up, with the Hitcher trapping Howard in a box with ‘old Elsie’, a beautiful woman who transforms into the grotesque vision of the Hitcher, while singing of eels “Up inside ya / Finding an entrance where they can / Boring through your mind, through your tummy, through your anus!” Lovely.
Series two, episode three: Nanageddon
Vince and Howard have a chance of getting off with sexy goth girls Ebola and Anthrax, but only if they can wow them with their knowledge of black magic. After Naboo and Bollo leave the flat, Vince steals Naboo’s book of black magic and while Howard swaps his normal tweed for eye-wateringly tight leather trousers and copious amounts of black eyeliner, Vince accidentally summons Nanatoo, one of the most evil demons in the universe.
Due to Nanatoo’s incarnation as a sweet little old lady, the goth girls leave in disgust. Vince and Howard find out just what they’ve unleashed when a horrified Naboo comes back to the flat. Facing the prospect of losing his shamanic powers from the Board of Shaman, Howard and Vince have to race against time, dressing as old ladies to find Nanatoo and prevent Nanageddon.
Series three, episode four: The Strange Tale of the Crack Fox
Howard swans off to a jazzercise class, ordering Vince to deal with the ever-increasing mountain of bin bags outside their door. Little does Vince know, but they have an unwelcome guest: the Crack Fox, nestling among the bags and boasting dirty syringes for fingers.
Naive Vince is taken in by the fox’s friendly advances (even though he often mutters threats under his breath). Upon foolishly letting him in to the Nabootique, the shop Vince and Howard work in, he is knocked unconscious by the Fox, who then proceeds to steal Naboo’s powerful Shaman juice.
Naboo has to tell the Shaman council of the latest scandal, who hold him responsible and sentence him to death unless the powerful juice can be retrieved. But the Shaman juice has now given the creepy crack fox supernatural powers. How will they ever win?
It’s impossible to mention everything that makes The Mighty Boosh so entertaining, but special mention has to go to Old Gregg, the merman with a mangina and a longing for love. Or Tony Harrison, the pink headed, tentacle waving member of the Shaman Council who is always bickering with Saboo (Richard Ayoade) and shouting, “It’s an outrage!’” But then there’s The Nightmare of Milky Joe, a desert island disaster with both Howard and Vince losing the plot and befriending coconuts that they personify and start relationships with. DON’T MAKE ME CHOOSE.
In the words of Howard Moon, it’s “coming atcha like a beam, like a ray, like a laser… Chika-chikaaa!”
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Lucy is a teacher whose dream as a child was to be WWE Wrestling Champion. That dream is still alive.