Both the comedy troupe of the 2000s composed of Julian Baratt and Noel Fielding, and an eponymous television show by the same name. It is named after a hairstyle Noel Fielding's brother sported in the 1970s.

Intriguingly, the two comedians found each other on the circuit, and though they had wildly different aesthetics (Baratt is a frumpy, barely dressed fusion jazz musician and aficionado, whereas Fielding is a flamboyant visual artist and a glam-rock/new romantic dandy) they decided to collaborate. Through a series of stage shows and tours they developed the characters of Howard Moon and Vince Noir, the former of which is a long time zoo-keeper who does it to keep body and soul together, the latter of which can literally talk to animals and maintains a childlike innocence. In their own personal interaction, especially in opening monologues, they seem almost passive-aggressively hostile towards each other, like two dissimilar siblings scoring points against each other and pandering for the audience's love - but as the show goes on you realize the two, despite being so far apart in personality and goals, have a deep, deep friendship.

By the time the TV show came about they had rounded out the cast with the American zoo-owner "Bob Fossil", an anthropomorphic talking gorilla, and Fielding's brother playing a gypsy shaman. Fielding had an interest in what he terms "psychedelic comedy" - in essence stream of consciousness nonsensical stuff designed to jolt someone into laughter (from his solo standup: "Where did you get your shins? They're genius!") and brings weird changes of venue and surreal characters into the mix, whereas Baratt's frumpy, constantly misanthropic and miserable Moon anchors the show by being a straight man who just wants to have Noir do as much of his work as possible while listening to jazz.

Fielding is a good looking man with a great fashion sense who brings a lot of fashion gags to the show: many comments are made about his immaculate hairstyle, when they travel to the Arctic Noir is dressed in what can best be described as a David Bowie/KISS-esque glitter lame jumpsuit, and gets them out of a jam by styling a ruler of hell (who happens to be a primate) with hair products. 

Baratt's straight man serves to keep the plot going forward and to rein in the anarchy of the Noir character in much the same way as the military officer in Monty Python would interrupt a sketch that had no workable conclusion to tell all concerned it was "silly", and segue into something else. But his unrequited love for a frumpy co-worker, his happiness with jazz (Noir: "only school teachers and the mentally ill listen to jazz") and his unrequited ambitions also provide McGuffins for additional plot development. At one point Moon makes a Faustian deal with the "spirit of jazz", for example. In fact, Fielding's subsequent work, "Noel Fielding's Luxury Comedy" suffers mightily from the lack of a straight-man foil. It has the same manic energy and nonsensical world as Pee Wee's Playhouse but for an adult audience it's simply too much. Boosh represents the perfect balance between the mundane and the fantastic, the glamorous and the frumpy, and the silly and the serious.

The sets and costumes, mostly designed by Fielding, bring a peculiar quality to the show. It's patently obvious that the highly colorful and manically-painted costumes and sets (he has an energetic folk-art/outsider art technique with lots of bright primary colors) are exactly that, and over the top. Human characters wear clothing painted to look like paintings of clothing. The Spirit Of Jazz looks scarily like a folk art New Orleans postcard of a jazz-performing skeleton. Every now and then "the moon" turns around to narrate some observation and it's clearly Fielding with an impasto layer of makeup or maybe even acrylic paint on his face. It's a shoutout to the origins of the series as a stage show, and reminds the audience not to take the disjointed narrative too seriously.

But that's not to say that the comedy ultimately derives from the surreal: there is some observational comedy as well, although often exaggerated. Vince Noir is told to leave behind the enormous amounts of clothing he intends to bring with him somewhere and sadly puts away an Elizabethan ruff collar, with Moon pointing out there's almost literally NO call for that. While enroute a ninja (the only courier stealthy and fast enough to get this cutting edge information to him in time) delivers a fashion magazine to Noir (the only way you can get the most current fashion information!) which reveals to be ahead of the fashion curve this week, Elizabethan collars are just about to be "in". (The fact that there really is a fashion magazine called "Depeche Mode" - "hurry fashion" - adds to the gag).

It didn't last: the series ended after a couple of seasons or so, literally having exhausted the comedy potential from what little structure they had. When your travels take you to the arctic and the afterlife, what more can you do with the same two characters and plots? But they have since reuinted for some one-off performances and stage shows, and they managed to bring a fresh new take to a comedy family tree that echoed Monty Python via The Goon Show.

 

 

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