Shiny Shelf

The Mighty Boosh

By Mark Clapham on 25 June 2004

Some things are worth a little patience, especially original comedy. The first few instalments of ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’ are patchy, but the highlights are well worth finding. I didn’t ‘get’ the first episode of ‘Vic Reeves’ Big Night Out’ at all, and it was a couple of weeks before my brain had tuned in to Vic and Bob’s style of humour. More recently, ‘Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace’ took a while to get going, but rewarded that perseverance.

‘The Mighty Boosh’ is a similar prospect. It’s cheap, and some of the ideas fall flat, but the great comic moments in the show are so good, and so inventive, that they’re well worth the wait. Like the other series mentioned above, the first episode you watch leaves you asking ‘what the…?’ and shrugging your shoulders slightly. A few episodes in, and you’ll be eagerly awaiting each instalment, and randomly quoting favourite bits.

The premise of the show, what there is of it, is based around two zookeepers, Howard Moon and Vince Noir. The dynamic between the two is in the mould of ‘The Likely Lads’, ‘Steptoe and Son’ or the best of Morecambe and Wise. Howard is ambitious, pretentious and nowhere near as clever as he thinks he is. Vince is vain, stupid, and shallow. The two irritate each other constantly, but are far more suited to each other’s company than to anyone else.

If the character side of the comedy is based on the claustrophobic relationships of classic British sitcoms, the stories and situations are more surreal, with the freewheeling lack of logic and cheap production values of a kids show. Stories usually start in the zoo, but can end up with Howard and Vince travelling to Antarctica, the Mirror World or Monkey Hell, or coming into contact with mutants or a man with cheese for a head. The animals talk, with some wonderfully unconvincing puppet (yet again reminiscent of kids TV). Each show has at least one song, taking from a bewildering range of musical genres from hip-hop to heavy rock.

Comedians Julian Barrett and Noel Fielding play Howard and Vince respectively, as well as writing the show. They’re supported by a cast of bizarre characters: zoo manager Bob Fossil (Rich Fulcher), a spaced-out American who can’t remember the names of the animals; owner Dixon Bainbridge (Matt Berry, who played the actor Todd Rivers/Sanch in ‘Darkplace’, yet manages to go even further over the top here), who as well as owning the ‘Zooniverse’ is also an explorer, adventurer and mad scientist; and Naboo (Michael Fielding, brother of Noel), a turbaned stoner fortune teller with genuine magical powers. It’s an excellent ensemble, with some of them doubling up as other characters.

A series like this reminds you what British TV comedy still has to offer. We can’t compete with the US on the mainstream sitcom front, where the American approach of employing huge teams of writers results in a stream of quick-fire gags that our home-grown efforts can’t match. What that system can’t produce is something this eccentric, silly and inventive. ‘The Mighty Boosh’ is far from perfect, but it’s a unique, charming series is unlike anything else currently on the air. Well worth catching in the BBC3 cycle of endless repeats, it will hopefully gain a wider audience when it inevitably hits BBC2.

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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named

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