Musings Upon Revisiting The Mighty Boosh

When I say the Mighty Boosh, I’m referring to Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding as Howard Moon and Vince Noir in the the 3 BBC produced television series’ (which I guess discounts the pilot? The majority of that got recycled into the Tundra episode anyway).

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Noel Fielding was recently interviewed on the Nerdist podcast, and upon mentioning  Julian Barratt, the internet exploded with articles espousing that the Mighty Boosh were surely about to make their return, Fielding and Barratt were working on new material, and essentially that the band was getting back together. Well, I listened to this interview and everyone needs to cool their heels, because Fielding said at this moment he and Barratt are NOT working on anything, but he hopes they will soon.

This did however prompt me to pull out my old Boosh DVDs and give them a re-watch and I had the following thoughts.

Canon? What is canon?

One of the great things about The Mighty Boosh is that the episodes pretty much all work without any previous knowledge, backstory, or recap. You can pick up any episode and know what’s going on (well, you may not know what’s going on either way, but you won’t be more lost if you’re new to the show).

The thing is, if you watch the show straight through, they outright contradict themselves. In the first series, Howard and Vince work in a zoo, Bollo is one of the zoo animals, and Naboo seems to be a bit of a kitschy attraction, who happens to have proper magical capabilities. Basically he’s like the fortune telling machine at an amusement park, but actually alive. Howard and Vince appear to live at the zoo (humans living in the zoo does have a sort of wonderful irony to it). In any event, we see them falling asleep and waking up in some sort of little cabin type thing that appears to be at the very least zoo adjacent.

Skip ahead to series 2, there is zero mention of the zoo, Bollo appears to have become Naboo’s familiar (far as I can tell this was never mentioned in the first series), and the four of them are all living together in an apartment in the city.

In series 3, they decided they lived upstairs of the Nabootique, a never before mentioned shop which is owned and run by Naboo.

But setting, living quarters, and status of animal relationships aren’t the only inconsistencies. In series 1 it’s clear that Howard is older than Vince, somehow discovered him and the fact that he’s gifted with animals, and trained him to be a zookeeper. In series 2 they ditched all of that, Howard and Vince were now the same age and there’s even a flash back showing them in the same class at school together (Vince looking like a young boy and Howard still played by Barratt). Then is series 3, Howard is back to being older than Vince (by 10 years?!).

The only canon seems to be whatever is immediately funny, regardless of what was said in the past.

From Charming to Twisted to Nightmarish

Series 1 of the Boosh is pretty charming across the board. The cast is a bit more rounded out than it is later on. We always have Fielding and Barratt, and Mike Fielding and Nick Brown’s characters survived the evolving series, but Rich Fulcher’s Bob Fossil only has two appearances outside series 1 (the rest of the time he was delegated other roles), and Matt Berry (as well as his character Dixon Bainbridge), seems to disappear from the show altogether, along with Mrs Gideon. While my heart slightly breaks that Richard Ayoade (who I have an undying love for) was contractually barred from playing Dixon Bainbridge, Matt Barry was excellent in the role and it freed up Ayoade to play Saboo in series’ 2 and 3 (although they never balked at doubling up on roles. Or tripling, quadroupling, one-million-ing).

While the characters were constantly being put in bizarre situations of danger, the tone was so light that it never really seemed like anything that bad would happen to them. The baddies had an absurdity that kept them from being frightening, like the Killeroo, the Ape of Death, Charlie, and my personal favorite, the Mod Wolves. Well, until that last episode. The hitcher always seemed a proper threat (thought the comically overlarge thumb was dropped in his following appearances).

A lot of this probably had to do with the fact that each episode stared with Vince and Howard coming out in front of a curtain and doing an introduction. They’d tell a little about what would happen in the episode. This meant they were playing characters, acting out a narrative, and knew what was gonna happen by the end (including the fact that any danger would be subverted).

Series 2 has a distinctly darker tone from the get go. For one thing, they ditched the intro, which suggested the characters were not acting, but actually in dire straits. And the bad guys (I’m looking at you Kodiak Jack, Old Gregg, and the returning Hitcher) seem a bit more malevolent and dangerous. Yes, Old Gregg claims to be in love with Howard, but Old Gregg is very clear that he will kill Howard if he tries to leave. Series 2 also features an episode so bizarre that even by Boosh standards it turned out to be a dream (“The Nightmare of Milky Joe”).

Series 3 treats us to “Eels”, the third and creepiest appearance of the Hitcher (that moment in the song where the Eel comes out of his mouth is hard to forget). We also get the most disturbing villain yet, the Crack Fox (that moment when he turns his head to face the camera makes me shudder, and I have a pile of half-remembered nightmares to show for it). This is really long and winding way of saying that series 1 is a little more light and fun and, while most people seem to prefer the later, darker tone (everyone raves about “The Legend of Old Gregg” and “Eels”), I like the 1st series the best.

Howard is a Terrible Friend in Series 1 & 2

No, really. Howard and Vince, from what we can tell, are friends. Probably best friends. They constantly argue with each other, but it’s good-natured banter and each gets to best the other. Howard does have an issue with jealousy, but that isn’t nearly as harmful as his delusions of grandeur, which often get Vince into trouble. Here’s a list of awful things that Howard does to Vince:

  • Makes Vince sleep outside the tent in the arctic tundra, consequently Vince is abducted by a Polar Bear
  • Makes Vince dress as a Panda to excite a female Panda and make a male Panda jealous
  • Trades Vince to Kodiak Jack (who clearly intends to rape Vince) in exchange for a map to find the Yeti
  • Traps them both on the planet Xooberon, trying to find the Fountain of Youth
  • Banishes Vince to the other side of the island and excludes him from interaction with Milky Joe (whether this occurs before or after the dream is slightly unclear, if it is after, it can be discounted)

The nature of the show is that everything Howard does seems to eventually backfire, while no wrong can happen to Vince, even when carefully orchestrated. And I’m not saying Vince is without fault and never does anything wrong. On the contrary, he’s constantly fucking up. The difference is that Vince generally tries to build Howard up, not hurt him. And Howard….well, that Kodiak Jack thing.

Vince is a Terrible Friend in Series 3

Let’s recap:

  • Distracted by a pop star, Vince fails to rescue Howard from Eleanor
  • Vince was spray painting the rude messages about Howard on the shop door
  • Vince bites Howard’s one-of-a-kind record, showing off to his punk friends
  • Vince let’s Naboo fire Howard for the Crack Fox incident because he get’s to have a cape

This evens things out significantly.

Music!

In the 1st series, most of the music seems to happen in spontaneous musical fashion, while is series 2 and series 3, though that still happens, the characters all seem to have grown a musical sensibility and are trying to make it in various bands or music groups, allowing more story related music to be used.

The music (almost exclusively compliments of Julian Barratt) is fun, catchy, and will be stuck in your head for all eternity. I dare you to listen to listen to “Mutants”, “Ape of Death”, “Tundra Rap”, “The Hitcher”, “Love Games”,  or “Eels”.

My personal musical sensibilities lean towards “I Did a Shit on Your Mum” (solely for the punk music aspect, of course) and the “Mod Wolves” instrumental piece. Seriously, I cannot stress this enough, the Mod Wolves are the best thing ever on the show.

This is not to be confused with crimping, a sort of musical rhyming game Howard and Vince play. It’s sort of like a song, but they’ve given it a separate sub-category. For that, I’d direct you to “Calm a Llama Down” and “Soup Song”. Crimping was such a staple in the show, it has a whole episode dedicated to it (“The Power of the Crimp”).

The Artwork

If the music’s main contributor was Barratt, we have Fielding to thank for the artwork.

The animated sequences, though stylistically different, were weaved in like Flying Circus animation. Though a small team of animators worked on the show, the animations were based on Fielding’s art.

The distinct style shows up all over the show, whether it be on a clock in the Nabootique or a painting on the side of the Animal Transport van.

The style seems to come through in the set, prop, and costume design as well. Nothing ever have too much of a polish, rather everything looks home and handmade.

The Gay Jokes Have Nothing on the Bestiality Jokes

3587540523_025e743a05_oWhen you have a comedy group of all men, gay jokes seem inevitable. Add Vince’s androgyny into the mix and see what happens (though the amount of times Vince declines to correct people who think he’s a woman is kind of kick-ass. He doesn’t really seem to mind).

Where the Boosh boys drew the line in regards to what they could joke about, if such a line ever existed, was well outside of the bounds of bestiality. The first series takes place in a zoo, so there’s plenty of opportunity there and they take full advantage (the aforementioned Panda incident is just one of several), but it creeps up even later on.

Not to say that there was sex with animals happening left, right, and center. It actually wasn’t, but the implied humor was inescapable.

The World of the Mighty Boosh

My last little point is that, for all the bizarre moments in the show, it’s all possible because of the creation of a different world. No, in our world a lot of this doesn’t make sense. But there’s a sort of sense to all this in the Boosh world. After all, each episode starts with the phrase “come with us now on a journey through time and space. To the world of the Mighty Boosh.” It’s an invitation to go on an adventure.

And some people don’t get it (though I think these people are trying too hard. There’s really nothing to get), or it won’t be their personal cup of tea, but there’s something to that world that I find very alluring.

Even I have to admit, it’s not the sort of place I’d want to live (and I probably wouldn’t survive very long if I tried to), but it’s a place I really enjoy visiting.

So when they offer that invitation, I’m all in.

All that’s really left to say is:

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About Risa Romano

Writer type thing. I work on stories for kids when I'm on the clock and screenplays quite a bit less for kids when I'm not. I have a blog: rambleonnerdyponderings.wordpress.com I'm also the creator and moderator of the Doctor Who vodcast/podcast A Disused Yeti: https://adisusedyeti.wordpress.com/
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