?Magical British sitcom The Mighty Boosh is one of those shows that seems to heavily divide people: you’re either a fanatic or you think it’s thin and overrated. I’ll come out and put myself in that first camp, but maybe not for the reasons you think. I feel like most Boosh-haters feel like the fans are only in it for the crazy costumes, silly vocabulary, and goofy songs. While it’s true that there is a very loose continuity to the series (oftentimes within each episode, even), it’s more than just a parade of nonsense. There’s good comedy writing here, often with just the right performances to back it up.
Noel Fielding and Julian Barrett are well known for playing not just the leads, Vince Noir and Howard Moon, but also a whole bunch of different supporting characters, and though there are several that have appeared multiple times (The Hitcher, Bob Fossil, and Rudy VanDisarzio being some of them), there are many more that are just as funny and somehow slip through the cracks. The characters on this list are (for the most part) one-offs, confined to a single episode and sometimes a single scene, and yet still steal the show so hard that it sometimes never recovers. There are many, many examples of characters like these, both played by the “core” Boosh members and by various other bit players: come with us now as we delve into the realm of the overlooked.
10) Kirk, “Nanageddon”
The first entry on this list, unspeakably perverse young shaman Kirk (played by Noel Fielding’s cousin Kirk Gaitskill-Kendrick) is also the exception, having appeared in four episodes. How can he be considered a minor character if he appears so many times, you may ask? Because, out of those episodes, he’s had maybe seven lines total, many of which consist of one word. This clip, an extended version of his scene from “Nanageddon,” is undoubtedly his best. Yes, he’s basically a one-joke pony, but I won’t spoil the joke here, suffice it to say that the blank look on his face is what makes it for me.
9) Bryan Ferry, “Hitcher”
In the first season, Vince’s affinity with animals was one of his key personality traits, and that season’s final episode explained this, kind of, by revealing that Vince had been raised amongst the creatures of the forest by Roxy Music frontman Bryan Ferry. What’s great about Julian Barret’s Ferry performance is that it’s only about 30% Ferry and 70% otherworldly weirdo medicine man, complete with facepaint, stilted accent, and a fake chin. Ferry is one of many Boosh characters to give Vince or Howard an instrument with which to summon him, fairy-tale style, but his instructions to “blow upon’t” are probably the most amusing. I’m also a sucker for that tree gag, especially since it seems to have been improvised, or at least a little unexpected (watch Julian’s face).
8) The Electro Girls, “Electro”
Dee Plume and Sue Denim, better known as the electro-rock duo Robots in Disguise, appeared a few times throughout the series, especially Dee (she and Noel were dating at the time of production), but their best appearance was definitely as Neon and Ultra, members of electro band A Kraftwerk Orange. They hire Vince as their frontman but turn hostile once he pisses off their keyboardist, Johnny Two-Hats, and even threaten to kill him until Howard steps in as a replacement. Sue and Dee also showed up in the second series as a pair of Goth girls, Anthrax and Ebola, and it’s one of the big shames of series three is that we didn’t get a third pair to complete the set.
7) The Bingo Caller, “Nanageddon”
Rich Fulcher, the sole American of the Boosh, is essentially the opposite of Noel; whereas Fielding buries himself deep in different characters, accents and costumes, Fulcher is essentially always the same character no matter what he wears or sounds like. Here he is relatively undisguised, apart from the bad hair, but is just as creepy and sexually hostile as usual. Despite the cheer with which he calls out bingo balls, he is definitely the embodiment of some despicable evil (just look at those eyebrows). All the same, I have absolutely no trouble believing what he says about number 43.
6) Sandstorm, “The Fountain of Youth”
The first season of Boosh featured a character made of rags named Mr. Susan who lived in a world of mirrors and got a giddy thrill from spritzing his, uh, “mirror balls”. On a DVD commentary, Barret has said that he always considered Sandstorm, a “DIY demon” made out of sandpaper and wire brushes, to be a sort of cousin, and so performed him with the same nasally voice. Sandstorm (also called “the evil sand beast” and just “sand”) is actually a bit of a tragic character, until Vince gives him the ability to touch things, resulting in yet another scene with a completely perfect soundtrack.
5) Coco Loco Sailor, “The Nightmare of Milky Joe”
This (Cuban?) deckhand appears near the end of the second series’ last episode, rescuing Vince and Howard from a deserted island, and in the broadcast version his role is nothing to speak of. You have to turn to the deleted scenes to realize what this could (and should) have been. Rich Fulcher once again plays the same weird, creepy, insane persona he always does, and continues to function as a funny version Rob Schneider. His description of the dangers of eating rancid coconuts and resulting laughter may be just another long stupid joke, but it’s handled better than you might think: if this were, say, family guy, the above scene would have been five minutes long and repeated every other episode. And then everyone would start singing showtunes.
4) The Chav Shaman, “The Strange Tale of the Crack Fox”
Like many British imports, Boosh has succeeded in the U.S. by being distinctly British in a way that is generally accessible to us greasy outsiders. That doesn’t mean there aren’t jokes strictly for its native audience, and most Americans probably won’t immediately understand why Fielding is wearing goldface and speaking in a stuttering Jamaican-esque accent. Come to think of it, most Brits probably don’t either, but just so you know, a Chav is a type of gangster-ish youth culture, mainly found in South London, usually stereotyped as loud, obnoxious and arrogant (I don’t know if they’re exactly “England’s answer to Jersey Shore”, but it’s not an unfair comparison to make). Hence why this street shaman pretends to act all cool but can’t hide his enthusiasm for eating spaghetti hoops at his mother’s house. I don’t think the character has a name, but he does show up again in the “Party” episode, where he makes the mistake of jumping sword-wielding head shaman Dennis. His last words: “I’ve got to go to Costcutter for me mum!”.
3) The King, “The Fountain of Youth”
Sometimes, a really good music cue is all it takes to sum up a character (Dr. Orpheus is exhibit A), and as humorous as Nicholas Burns’ rolling r’s are here, I wouldn’t have laughed nearly as much if it weren’t for that ridiculous blast of opera music that plays for just long enough when he dramatically drops his hood. I also love how bad he is at maintaining his own pointless disguise: “Perhaps the King is closer than you think.” “Who’s that?” “The King!” Since this is the only episode to take us to Naboo’s home planet, this and one other scene is all we ever get to see of this oddly enthusiastic monarch, (but if he’s really as into lentils and folk music as he says, then perhaps that’s for the best).
2) Dennis’ Wife, “Party”
Even the casual viewer will notice that there aren’t many prominent female characters in the world of the Mighty Boosh, unless you count Old Gregg. Most of the time, the girls that do appear are simply the one-offs pursued by Howard and/or Vince in a particular week, and while the first series did feature reptile specialist Mrs. Gideon as Howard’s , she wasn’t given much to do that was memorable. Fortunately, the great third season episode “Party” introduced us to Dennis’ wife, played by Dolly Wells, who may have only had a-scene-and-a-half to make her mark but nailed it 500%. Nearly everything about her, from the Brigitte Nielsen hair to the improbable accent to her occupation, is wonderfully ridiculous, and perfect for the show. And the reason I didn’t list her name isn’t because she doesn’t have one, it’s because that’s yet another hilarious thing about her I don’t want to give away.
1) Donni the Tramp, “The Strange Tale of the Crack Fox”
Oh, where to begin? I love this man. I love everything he says, every scene he’s in, his swagger, his grizzly voice, his “electric soup”. Simply put, Donni is a Scottish bum that Vince runs into while searching for Howard in an alley. He’s most certainly not a savory character, but he’s quite polite and user friendly: he has a convenient card reader in case you’re unwilling to give him cash, and you can even write him off your taxes (and the look on his face when he delivers that line is perfect). To top things off, he makes a heroic reappearance later on in the episode, rescuing Vince and Howard from the evil Crack Fox. Steve Oram, give yourself a hand: you’ve done a supporting turn that’s easily better than Julian’s Crack Fox himself. It’s too damn bad Donni had to get stabbed to death by a fist made of needles. But who knows? This is the Boosh we’re talking about: maybe there’s a chance Donni will return, someday, somehow, in all his skeevy glory, if Noel and Julian ever decide to get their act together.