Come with me now on a journey through time and space to the world of The Mighty Boosh…
Noel Fielding is to be appearing on ITV’s The Jonathan Ross Show Saturday January 21st. They will no doubt be chatting about his new comedy show starting on E4 Thursday January 26 Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy which in the words of the E4 website is a:
Psychedelic character-based comedy show half filmed and half animated, with music provided by Kasabian’s Sergio Pizzorno.
Noel Fielding was just one half of The Boosh though, the Vince half, the other half, the Howard half, was played by Julian Barratt and he is absent from this new venture.
This post though is not to pointlessly speculate about this new Luxury Comedy venture rather as per the opening line to journey back in space and time to when the Mighty Boosh was just The Boosh and available only in sound and vivid imagination, its TV dance not yet begun.
Radio was an ideal medium for them as Fielding and Barratt’s combined visual imaginations were too big for TV budgets.
Inevitably as alluded this did not stop them venturing into TV or rather TV come wooing them.
Theirs is a drugged imagination where drugs may not actually be involved. Their British comedy cousins are Eddie Izzard, Bob Mortimer and Vic Reeves and they can trace their comedy ancestry through Monty Python and Spike Milligan all the way back to Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear.
Their night dreams weave in and out of their waking hours, their shadowy imaginings step into the light.
The episode subject of this post is Hitcher first broadcast back in November 2001 and rebroadcast this month on BBC Radio 4 Extra. The BBC’s iPlayer does not just reprise recent Telly but Radio too and this is how this episode came to my ears. This is the outlands of radio – about ten people listen to Radio Four at any one time, Radio 4 Extra is for those who consider even Radio 4 just too mainstream.
This episode is preambled in just one sentence on the BBC iPlayer page has ‘Howard and Vince takes Tony the Prawn to a zoo for animal offenders’. A description which on one hand does not tell you very much whilst at the same time telling you everything.
The Boosh are difficult to transcribe as their words are better heard than read. With this in mind I will venture vainly forth on just that endeavour.
It starts with Howard and Vince in the midst of their zoo-keeping duties, which translates as Howard’s head buried in a book and being insistently interrupted by Vince – think a child in the car, their constant drip drip to front-seat parents of ‘are we there yet?’ – for example
Howard, you know the black bits in bananas, are they Tarantula’s eggs?!
Howard is reading about ancient Greece – ‘why do you read that old-school rubbish?’ asks Vince! Vince does not have time for reading but has read Charlie Goes Abroad. And Charlie Takes Time Off. ‘Is that part of a Charlie Adventure series?’ Howard asks. ‘Yes’ replies Vince ‘There are hundreds of them – ‘Charlie Buys a Flamingo’, Charlie goes to the shops and realizes he has lost his little purse’ and on! Before Howard wishing an end to Charlie’s adventures suggests ‘Charlie Chokes on His Own Legs’! Howard then explaining that he is only interested in real people like Aeschylus and Pythagoras, people who ‘solved stuff’ – ‘Charlie solved stuff’ counters Vince
Charlie Solved The Riddle. The Riddle of His Own Existence!
One pleasure and relief in listening to this radio broadcast is there is no canned laughter – there is no studio audience laughter either. There is no studio audience. Their budget was just too shoe-string back then. There is laughter though. Between the two of them as they struggle to keep a straight face in response to the increasingly absurd statements each counters the other with. It reminded me of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore except with them there was just one jester Peter Cook with Dudley the corpsing victim, whereas with Vince and Howard both are as much jester as jested.
They are then visited my the manager of Zooniverse and the Zookeeper’s right hand man Bob Fossil who advises them they need to move Tony the Prawn who is a psychological killer to his brother’s zoo – zoo-keeping runs in the family! – the zoo for animal offenders – current inmates include a rapist crab, a mackerel that exposes himself – you do not want to see that from any living creature but especially not a mackerel – a baboon that walks into lifts and presses all the floors, a swan that keys cars…
They need to have Tony the Prawn delivered by four that afternoon. It is in their Jeep on their way that they will first encounter the Hitchhiker, or Hitcher.
Before that pick up though there is an argument about what music to listen to on the radio-tape player – Vince has made a Gary Numan mix-tape but Howard wants to listen to his jazz tape. Not just any old jazz but John Coltrane. He wants Vince to listen out for a particular moment of Sun Ra’s Jet Flight – ‘it’s coming up, ready?’ – except it is always just coming up, never quite getting there. Which is also kind of the point of it too. As Howard muses Jazz cannot be tamed or described ‘Jazz is. Jazz was. Jazz be’!
Full disclosure – I was not familiar with this Sun Ra and John Coltrane collaboration from The Futuristic Sounds of Sun Ra – rather technology in the form of Shazam told me.
Howard is driving and Vince must keep him awake. ‘Have you ever fallen asleep at the wheel’ Vince asks Howard. ‘No’ says Howard ‘But I have woken up at the wheel’ – Bum bum!
To keep him awake Vince tells Howard stories about how we was brought up in the Jungles of India by Bryan Ferry. He explains how they had to be careful in the jungle when falling a sleep that the monkey’s did not steal their faces. And that he himself one time did fall asleep. And then the story ends abruptly. Howard wants to know what happened next but Vince says that will be for another time. ‘Who are you’ cries Howard ‘dealing out stories in chunks’! Going on to exclaim that ‘You cannot juice me up and then leave me dangling – don’t be a juicy dangler!’ This leads to an argument and Howard asking Vince to leave the car.
The scene temporarily cuts away to Bob Fossil delivering a zookeeper themed stand up comedy routine but which is dying with the crowd – ‘even the hyenas have stopped laughing’ goes one heckle to which he responds
I don’t have any witty verbal comebacks but I do have this herd of Wildebeest over here and a starter pistol. What I call a stampede comeback!
Back to Howard at the wheel and having just picked up the Hitcher. The Hitcher is carrying a box but as Howard tries to strike up conversation with him he remains silent save slow heavy breathing. ‘Let’s listen to the radio’ Howard declares. Cue The Doors Riders on the Storm and Jim Morrison intoning ‘there’s a killer on the road’ then cue Howard quickly switching off said radio and stating there is ‘too much music in the world’!
The Hitcher does eventually speak though – in a vaguely threatening Cockney cadence! – and regales Howard with tales of his working past as a stage performer. This though really does need to be heard – words on a page cannot do this extravagant monologue justice.
Then Howard’s curiosity about the Hitcher’s box can no longer be contained but on asking about the box he suddenly finds himself in the box!
Later in the box he encounters Vince – for Vince too had met the same fate at the hands of the Hitcher. Eventually they meet the People of the Box. The People of the Box have been trapped in the box for many centuries. They then inform Howard and Vince that it was written that they would come. And save them. And be their king!
Howard is flattered. He knew there was an important purpose to his life. And being a king for the box people must be it. But it turns out they were addressing themselves to Vince!
Vince though does not want this role. It is the way is not it that those who want to be the leader of the box people are fated not to have that role and those that are so fated do not want it.
And sorry readers but I now myself must be a juicy dangler – always assuming I have your juices up! – and leave this tale here. For it concludes in numerous songs that I could not possibly transcribe or do justice to even if I could. The summary should you decide to seek it out is not entirely satisfactory either.
But if you are under the spell of the Boosh then you will realize that the place of arrival like the place of departure is neither here nor there – the journey is all.
- Noel Fielding to create live Art (punjapit.wordpress.com)
- Noel Fielding: a brush with comic genius (guardian.co.uk)