Mighty Fine

Mighty Fine

Elise Harris joins Noel Fielding, star of BBC Three’s Mighty Boosh, on a journey through time and space

IF you’re a little bored of all those sitcoms set in a pub, where people sit around and whine about relationships — or sit on a sofa and have wacky family hijinks, then BBC Three may have something which will appeal to you.

Fans of the ridiculous will cheer, and anyone craving something a little bit out-of the ordinary will rejoice.

In The Mighty Boosh, Noel Fielding and Julian Barrett play Vince Noir and Howard Moon — zoo-keepers at Bob Fossil’s Zooniverse — but they tend not to stay there.

Noel Fielding says,‘ The zoo’s quite irrelevant in a way, but it gives us somewhere to be. Usually what happens is that we find like a magic box and get sucked into another world, or go to the Arctic - we never really stay there because we always get bored. But even if we set it in a flat - or even if we set it in the Arctic — we’d probably end up somewhere else - in a library or something. We never keep still.’

There are sitcom elements, but not all that many, the interaction between the characters keep it grounded in something approaching reality. Julian and Noel’s relationship is a bit like Laurel and Hardy in a way.

‘He’s a bit of a dreamer who tries to better himself and I tag along for the ride and usually end up saving us if we’re in trouble - or I always end up on top. That bit’s quite understandable really. But we meet characters made of cheese and stuff like that and that freaks people out, because they go "what’s happening?"’

The pilot was in front of an audience, but the full-length series is not.

‘You know when you’re watching TFI Friday or something - people are having fun and you’re not part of it. We decided that wasn’t really the way. We also didn’t play any other characters other than the main two in the pilot and in the series we play a lot more.’

Julian and Noel play all the monsters and all the weird creatures. Noel is the Spirit of Jazz at one point and Julian plays a fusion guitarist with a hug afro with a door to another dimension.

Julian also plays ‘a man made out of cloth, called Mr Foo’ who lives in a mirror world, while Noel is an evil octogenarian hitch-hiker ‘with a polo over his eye.’

Other characters include their boss, played by American comedian Rich Fulcher and the kiosk owner — played by Julian’s brother.

‘He’s the sort of magic man and whenever we’re in trouble we go to him to sort it out. We’ve tried to ground the magic a little bit and the fact we always have to get back to the zoo and usually our boss sets the plot in motion.’

The show also features Matt Berry, who was in Garth Merenghi’s Darkplace on Channel Four. ‘He’s got an amazing voice - he’s only young but he sounds like a radio Four announcer.’

It’s all studio-based, adding to the eerie, unreal feeling.

‘We wanted to make it like a Cocteau film or something - make it slightly stylised. We don’t really like location - especially not in England - it’s just really grey and muggy. ‘


The comedy, odd as it is, is not nasty or cruel. ‘It’s quite happy - it’s quite uplifting and joyful and colourful - it’s a bit like The Wizard of Oz or something.’

Noel says he likes shows The Office, but The Mighty Boosh is a step away from that kind of realism.

‘It’s not real in any way - it’s not played real, it’s hyper-real and quite silly and fun. It’s not dark in any way - though there are bits in it that are quite weird and freaky, bur on the whole it’s a bit more like The Monkees - or The Goodies.’

He is not offended by comparisons to seminal 1970s and 80s children’s show Rentaghost - a programme that had deep layers of meaning and subtexts generally not immediately apparent to grown-ups.

‘I quite like Rentaghost. There is an episode where a grim reaper comes to take Julian to Monkey Hell - but they transport him back to hell so he can perform a haunting. We were sort of thought of Rentaghost - because the way we transport him back we were saying ‘maybe you should just click your fingers and you’ll disappear.

At first glance the show looks male dominated — but Noel insists that’s not deliberate.

‘The reason we don’t have a regular woman in it is it’s about me and Julian - and I’m kind of the woman He’s quite big and manly and I suppose I’m a bit effeminate so I like - whenever we go anywhere the baddies always mistake me for a woman.’

He thinks the show, with its musical numbers and flights of fancy, might throw people,

‘It might take them a couple of watches. It’s not really based on anything - it’s not a satire or a pastiche. We’re not satirising the media or types of people - it’s just its own thing.’

The Boosh has been around for a while, and has developed a following already. They had a successful show at the Hen and Chickens in Highbury for many years, several Edinburgh and on the radio

He says it was frustrating for him working on the radio, but the opportunity to do a TV series was exciting.

‘You realise how visual your ideas are when you have to do radio. Julian really loves it, because he plays in a band, it gave him a chance to create audio landscapes.

‘I really get into costumes and drawing the characters and creatures, so for me radio wasn’t as interesting. It was more interpreted just through voice, which is not as good for me because I can’t have fun drawing all the pictures and stuff like that.’

Noel has appeared in several series, but this is the first time he’s been involved in writing a full-length series. He is excited it has finally come to fruition, but trying to temper his enthusiasm.

‘We were as ready as we could be - we were raring to go. We nearly did a show with Channel Four a few years ago it all fell through and went wrong - so we a bit more cynical this time, thinking, let’s not get too excited.’

Now it’s made and all ready to be shown, he is happy they had time to develop the ideas.

‘We’re quite pleased, it’s what we wanted to do, we’re not panicking or anything because we made what we wanted to make - so it doesn’t matter what happens now. If people don’t like it at least we did what we wanted to do.'

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