The state of British comedy at the moment is sadly dire. We are restricted to occasional flashes of brilliance like The Office, but that’s it. The days of The Fast Show are over – now all we have is Little Britain. Whilst we sell out our national heritage by making dire ‘the final series ever (for real this time)’ episodes of Only Fools And Horses and to a lesser-extent Absolutely Fabulous, our much-maligned American cousins have gotten their act together (at least in the creativity department – those studios really don’t know what they’re playing at) with shows like Arrested Development and Family Guy, not to mention the seminal Curb Your Enthusiasm. Hell, Larry David co-created Seinfeld which aired for nine seasons and a hundred and eighty episodes – kind of makes our Fawlty Towers pale in comparison, when you consider that it only lasted for twelve episodes. Unfortunately, this is where Cleese set the bar for British comedy now – both The Young Ones and The Office drew to a close in twelve episodes ‘because that’s how many episodes of Fawlty Towers there were’. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for ending before the show jumps the shark (Frasier, anyone? And don’t even mention Red Dwarf) but twelve episodes?? Larry David has written over fifty episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm alone.
And so, it is with pleasure that I receive The Mighty Boosh – not only a truly hilarious comedy, but also a groundbreakingly original one. It would be easy to label The Boosh as surreal comedy, but really I don’t think that it is. Sure the storylines and locations are very far out – magical, even – but those things aren’t what makes this such a funny show. Rather, it’s the chemistry between the two creators and stars, Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding, which gives us all the laughs. Barratt is Howard T.J. Moon, a self-professed ‘jazz maverick’ who constantly aspires to something greater (in a style not unsimilar to Harold Steptoe.) To offset this is Fielding’s Vince Noir, a fashion conscious optimist with a youthful outlook on life. Their interactions – often improvised – are the true comedy genius of The Mighty Boosh.
For example: in one episode in series one the plot involves the duo travelling to the artic tundra to find the ‘egg of mantumbi’ – a sapphire apparantly as large as a schoolboy’s head. They get there thanks to a lift from eighties electro-pop star Gary Numan (“not only is he a pop star, but he’s also got a pilots license – imagine that!”) and soon encounter a strange race of Jawa-esque creatures, and a demon known as ‘black frost’ (or ‘the icy bastard’.) This is a pretty far out plot for an episode of a sitcom, but it still relies on tradition comedy techniques to make it work:
Howard Moon: “Just imagine the headlines ‘Howard Moon, Colon, Explorer’. Got a ring to that don’t it.”
Vince Noir: “Colon explorer? I think that’s got the wrong ring to it.”
The ample supporting cast and fantastic set design add to the greatness of the show. Every episode also features a musical interlude, performed either by Moon and Noir or the villain of that episode – classics include Isolation, The Ape Of Death, and The Hitcher. Multi-talented or what?
Some people don’t like this show, whereas others do. It’s certainly an acquired taste, but arguably the best things are. It takes a few episodes to understand the nature of the comedy – that despite its fantastic setting and plotlines, it’s not actually trying to be ‘surreal.’ It’s a character comedy; the situations just add an absurd bent to it all. I certainly think you need to see a few episodes to properly ‘get it’ and that’s a problem – if you don’t like it once, why watch more? It also doesn’t help that the second series is entirely superior to the first series; some will argue that it isn’t worth watching four hours of the show before you get to the ‘good stuff.’ But what am I saying?! It’s all good 🙂
Recommended, if you’re prepared to take a flight of fancy and see something original. Genius.