The Mighty Boosh: interview

As the ever-mightier Boosh, Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt have inspired a cult following so tenacious even they find it freaky. Time Out hits Brixton for psychedelic comedy, fun with fans and a cheeky Nando's with The Mighty Boosh

  • The Mighty Boosh: interview

    Mighty mouths: Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt (click to see backstage images at The Mighty Boosh live show)

  • Take a look at our backstage with The Boosh photo gallery

    Read Time Out's interview with The Mighty Boosh from March 2006

    As we leave the permanent twilight that enshrouds the theatre, stepping past the xylophone made of skulls, the satanic crow with Polos for eyes and the empty husk of a decapitated monster, Julian Barratt asks:

    ‘So, where shall we do this interview?’

    ‘I’m starving. Let’s go and eat somewhere and do it over lunch,’ Noel Fielding offers. ‘I think there’s a cool little place round the back of the theatre.’

    After two or three minutes walking away from Brixton Road and into no man’s land we stop to reassess the situation.

    ‘I think we’ve gone the wrong way. It’s looking a little stabby round here,’ Noel says from somewhere deep inside his racing-green leather overcoat. The autumn sun glints off his golden shoes. ‘Fuck it, let’s just go to Nando’s.’

    As we walk in, The Mighty Boosh appear oblivious to the stunned, disbelieving expressions on the faces of the chicken-munching customers. Cameraphones subtly – and not so subtly – capture Messrs Barratt and Fielding as they ponder the menu. Girls giggle and point.

    It’s six weeks into their second major nationwide tour. They’re both unshaven, unkempt, showing the classic signs of life on the road.

    Food ordered. Dictaphone on.

    Have you been looking after yourselves? Eating properly? Sleeping?

    JB: ‘Half and half. Half looking after ourselves. Half partying.’NF: ‘Yeah, but we’re more used to it now. Last time me and my brother [Michael, who plays Naboo] were like: “Woo! We’re on tour!” ’JB: ‘Before, we would go and party every night. We’re pacing ourselves a bit.’

    Are there new characters on this tour?

    NF: ‘Rich Fulcher is playing a Lithuanian stand-up, and then Jules has a Charleston Heston-type character, Future Man. And I’m playing a new character, Sunflash, with these great angel wings.’

    What’s the process like when you’re creating a new show?

    JB: ‘We write all the stuff together. It helps that there are two of us.’ NF: ‘On your own you can get lost. We constantly edit each other.’JB: ‘Some things make me laugh more than Noel. Other things make Noel laugh more than me. And then we write stuff that makes both of us just piss ourselves. That’s the material that you need a good amount of.’NF: ‘This time we got a few people round, like Rich and Dave Brown [who plays the talking gorilla, Bollo], and we ran things by them. We also did a few small warm-up gigs.’JB: ‘It’s good that we did that. Sometimes you write things that sound really great when you’re at home but don’t work when you shine the light of an audience on them. Great writing and live writing are two separate things.’

    Does the fact that you can go anywhere or do anything in the Boosh world make the writing process easier or harder?

    JB: ‘You wouldn’t ask Terry Gilliam that.’
    ‘It makes it really hard. For instance, take “The Office”: it’s a great show, but it’s set in an office. Which gives them clear restrictions and limits; it’s just writing about stuff that happens in an office. You can’t have them upside down, or in a horse’s eye.’
    ‘Whereas we have to choose our own limits.’ NF: ‘Yeah, from a much broader range than most. A scene might be set in a shop but without the reality of being in a shop. Things come alive and we can jump to any place. Underwater, space… anywhere. Our only real boundaries are the emotions of the characters. It’s really about how they would react in whatever situations – that’s what we have to stay true to.’ JB: ‘We’ve created a world that has its own logic. The characters have a life and integrity, and there are some things that they wouldn’t do.’ NF: ‘You’ve got to be careful not to subvert that. If you have a character who’s innocent and you get them doing something outrageous, you’ll get a laugh, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for them or right for the show. We’re less wilfully obscure now, as well. In the beginning, we were just making ourselves laugh. Not consciously. But there was weirder stuff in those shows. It’s very simple, what we do. We’re just two men, sitting and talking from two different points of view. It always makes me laugh that we do all the characters, the music, the animations – and the bit people love most is just us talking.’At this point a blushing teenager, more street than their traditional indie-kid devotees, plucks up the courage to approach our table and places a napkin and pen in front of Noel. ‘My sister’s a big fan of yours. She watches your show every week. Could I have an autograph please?’‘Yeah, of course. What’s her name?’ he says with a huge grin.‘It’s Rufaro. R-U-F-A-R-O.’ ‘Excellent.’ He quickly scrawls his signature and a twisted smiley face – a piece of original Boosh artwork. Considering pieces in his last exhibition were selling for hundreds of pounds, and that there is an insatiable market for all things Boosh, this is a casual gift with true eBay value. ‘There you go. Nice to meet you.’‘Thank you!’ she gushes, overwhelmed. ‘You watch the show every week?’ Julian asks as she wanders back to her gaggle of friends.‘Yeah.’‘Did you see me in it?’She shrugs, flutters her eyelids one last time at Noel and leaves. For a moment they are transformed into their alter egos. Noel’s Vince Noir revels in the moment, purring like a demon being pleasured by a succubus, while Howard Moon’s wounded pride slowly heals itself by accepting that, for a true jazz artist, it’s not about the fame, it’s about the music.I can already see through the restaurant window a queue of hardcore fans, like a dark, brooding cloud in a clear sky, waiting patiently on the white steps in front of the theatre across the road. Hitcher, Crack Fox, Old Gregg and various other inhabitants of the Boosh universe are among their ranks. Only another six hours to go before the doors swing open and they can be the first to swoop upon the merchandise stall. No comedy act has ever inspired the cult-like fanaticism that flows through the true Boosh disciple. The web is awash with their forums, blogs and gossip sites: electronic temples to the wonder of Boosh. One video on YouTube shows a sepia-tinted montage of photos of Julian set to Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’. In the comment box underneath someone has written: ‘I love Julian Barratt, he looks like my guitar teacher.’

    Who are their most devoted fans?

    JB: ‘There’s a fan club called "The Mod Wolves" [based on characters from series one].’NF: ‘They’ve all got badges with “Mod Wolves” on them.’

    And what about the weirdest fan videos?

    NF: ‘There’s a video there of me and my girlfriend called “Noel and Dee Forever”, with all these photos of us together. It would have taken someone hours and hours.’JB: ‘I don’t go anywhere near them.’NF: ‘It’s a little creepy at times.’

    Do they send you things?

    NF: ‘Yeah, I get clothes. You got a hamper.’JB: ‘I got a hamper. Full of massage balms and things like that. We also get cookies. I don’t eat any of them. Not really a good idea to eat things fans have made because you don’t know what state of mind they were in when they made them.’ NF: ‘I get hats. It’s sweet. Our fans are often quite young, so it’s what they can afford.’JB: ‘The nicest things are the drawings or paintings. We put them up in the dressing room. Especially stuff that the little kids have done.’NF: ‘I have this mad one with lots of glitter that a little girl did. I love it.’

    What is it about The Boosh that makes it so popular with children as well as adults?

    JB: ‘It’s childlike. They see us and think: “They’re grown-up men and they’re acting younger than me, and I’m four!” Maybe that’s appealing to a child, being shown that you don’t have to grow up.’NF: ‘Yeah. And we’ve got a talking gorilla, a wizard who flies around, monsters and baddies. Kids love that. I used to love “Monkey Magic” when I was a kid. I was obsessed with it. Kids pick out the magical stuff.’

    What’s next for The Mighty Boosh?

    NF: ‘The film. Albums. We have ideas.’JB: ‘We’ll do an album; we just need to decide in what way. We’re learning in a slow way. We didn’t do any seminars on how all this works.’NF: ‘We’ve worked really, really hard on everything we’ve done. We didn’t cut any corners. We did three Edinburghs, then a radio show, then three TV series and two big live tours. And it’s me and Julian who wrote all of it.’JB: ‘It would be nice to have a bigger canvas to do things on, though. Our stories are pretty epic and getting them into half an hour is becoming increasingly tricky. Whatever we do next will be what most excites us. That’s the most important bit: we still get excited.’

    Take a look at our backstage with The Boosh photo gallery

    Read Time Out's interview with The Mighty Boosh from March 2006

    Win copies of 'The Mighty Book of Boosh'

    The Mighty Boosh play Wembley Arena on December 12, 15, and the O2 Arena on December 17, 18.

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