Come with us now on a journey through time and space … to a zoo. Where talking animals and people with bassoons sellotaped to their heads are really quite unremarkable. From a fringe radio-show, to a fairly mainstream TV program (you know, that kind of ‘main-stream’ where everyone watches it but still considers it fringe and trendy and totally individual. I mean, most everyone else just doesn’t *get* it), the Boosh has come a long way in making absurdist comedy both popular and acceptable. In most people’s eyes, Noel Fielding (a.k.a Vince Noir, Rock’n’Roll star) is still a god, the androgyne of the moment in cowboy boots and a cape. Is it an unlikely fad of the time?
Well, for a start, it’s not completely absurd. There are absurd contexts, or absurd incidences, but rules still apply. The entire Milky Joe episode contains a whole series of social interactions that are a) quite normal and b) somewhat depressing, other than the fact that these social interactions take place with, well, a bunch of coconuts acting as imaginary friends, from which all the humour is derived. This isn’t quite surrealism we’re talking here. This isn’t floating roses over a desert that is actually a clock melting on a woman’s back as she spindles along on the impossibly thin legs of some very tall elephant, this is just a touch of absurdity that expresses some very normal human situations with a little hilarity. This would not be the case without the character of Howard Moon. Howard Moon is a kind of everyman. His face is apparently so plain, that when Vince paints his portrait it just appears as flesh-coloured balloon. His very colleagues at the zoo barely remember his existence; he is constantly overshadowed by his trendy and bizarre friend Vince and is always just one step behind – but very serious about it. Even in his ridiculous ‘cream-poetry’ he has serious designs. Perhaps we can call this post-postmodernism, where we recognise that everything has now been said at least twice, and so have to resort to laughing at it in a more obscure manner. Howard is a cream-poet! How funny! How stupid to compare everything to cream! Does he think he’s going to get into Mrs Gideon’s pants like that? Well, getting into her pants isn’t really the point. Howard is, to all intents and purposes, in love with Mrs Gideon, and has to struggle against his own mediocrity and the constraints of a bored and commercial world in order to express it.
Without Howard, The Boosh may balloon off into unreachable weirdness – I remember once watching footage of Noel Fielding’s stand up and for about 9 minutes flat he pretended to be a fly. It was funny, but about a minute in you start wishing he’d get on with it. One of the great strengths of comedy is that it can interrogate us, our society, our norms, our values, and is not there (I don’t think) solely to make us laugh. Without Howard Moon as anchor, The Boosh would simply float away into a seemingly oblivious state of oddity. Even if he does wear a tweed library suit and get possessed by the spirit of jazz, he is still our everyman.