If ‘Snuff Box’, the brilliant new semi-narrative sketch show from Matt Berry and Rich Fulcher, had a high concept it would be something along the lines of ‘What if The Persuaders were a pair of depraved hangmen?’
Berry is probably best known for playing ‘The Actor Todd Rivers’ and/or Sanch in ‘Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place’. Fulcher is prominent as, effectively, one third of ‘The Mighty Boosh’. The humour here is what you’d expect from a project by two people who’ve worked with emerging comedy genius Richard Ayoade.
Fulcher and Berry write as well as star – and they seem to have consciously measured the exact midpoint between the Boosh’s free-wheeling happy lunacy and the miserablist, bodily-function obsessed darkness of Chris Morris’ ‘Jam’. ‘Snuff Box’ is often scatological and silly, but also remorselessly plays with ideas like death and suffering and cruelty (there’s an onscreen hanging in the first 90 seconds) while being somehow as lighthearted as it’s debased.
The two main characters are strangely lovable monsters. Fulcher’s character is apparently the bastard son of Momma Cass and is by far the stupider of the two. In this first episode he makes mistakes and then consults with a seemingly hallucinatory version of himself who points out what went wrong. Berry’s character is like a harder version of Sanch from ‘Dark Place’. Ruthlessly exploitative, smug and heartless, he’s also smooth, really charming and dresses well. It’s a combination of leads that works very well indeed.
While this first episode has a narrative (and a cliffhanger) it detours into sketch-like segments which seem to have little to do with the main plot. One features Fulcher rapping about being a rapper with a baby (“I got it ‘cos I did it with a lady”). He does this while carrying a baby. Another features Rich travelling back in time and meeting one of Berry’s ancestors (a legendary hangman and founder of one of London’s more exclusive gentleman’s club). Perhaps the most astonishing moment comes with ‘Le Poo’ a mock advert in which Fulcher pushes the recent fashion for ‘distressed’ and ‘fake dirty’ jeans to its logical conclusion.
‘Snuff Box’ is dirty, glorious, disturbing and brilliant – it justifies BBC Three’s existance and it might be the best thing on any television channel right now.