Friday, January 11, 2008

Music Can Be Funny and Comedy Can Be Musical: The Mighty Boosh and Flight of the Conchords

I've been an avid (read: obsessive) fan of the offbeat BBC comedy The Mighty Boosh, starring Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding, for awhile now. I've only just discovered the HBO series Flight of the Conchords, starring New Zealanders Jemaine Clement and Brett McKenzie. I feel like I'm a bit backwards (not a particularly uncommon feeling for me) in embracing the cult British comedy, which is hugely popular in the United Kingdom but far less known in North America, and only just discovering the similar Flight of the Conchords which is popular enough in North America to get slots on late night chat shows like David Letterman and Craig Ferguson (although looking at what I just wrote, I realize I'm such an anglophile that I type "chat shows" rather than "talk shows" without thinking, and suddenly my actions seem clearer to me). However, my point to this post is how brilliantly music can be combined with comedy. Both The Mighty Boosh and Flight of the Conchords have that incredible ability to perform this kind of alchemy and produce comedy gold.

The Mighty Boosh on a break from filming "The Nightmare of Milky Joe"

Anyone who likes one of these two duos is bound to like the other. Both are quirky and use equal parts surrealism and pop culture reference (especially musical ones that true music obsessives like myself can guffaw at). Besides mentioning music regularly, both duos also incorporate at least one sequence of original music into each episode. Flight of the Conchords, and, to a slightly lesser extent, The Mighty Boosh create a context for these musical interludes by being in bands in the show. Both pairs have a seamless rapport and true musical ability (more than I'll ever have). Their music is far more creative than most of the tripe passed off as legitimate music, and they're wittier and weirder than someone like Weird Al Yankovic. While The Mighty Boosh have Gary Numan flying them in his plane to the tundra (Gary Numan has a pilot's licence...imagine that), Flight of the Conchords has insecurity-fuelled dreams featuring David Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust days, Ashes to Ashes period, and even his stint in Labyrinth (a personal favourite of mine). Music deserves to be lampooned and these shows do it better than any other. In the process, it gives us pretentious music fans and hipsters something to truly laugh about. And I dare you not to laugh at (or at least be completely disturbed by) a Rick James-like transsexual merman who lives under the sea (see "The Legend of Old Gregg" by The Mighty Boosh - my favourite episode).

Flight of the Conchords in "Bowie" episode

Despite the pathetic state of television these days, both of these shows have definitely struck a chord with me (the bad pun wasn't intended, but considering I refuse to re-write the sentence, I guess it is intended after all). I highly recommend purchasing the DVDs for the first season of Flight of the Conchords and all three series and the live show of The Mighty Boosh (The Mighty Boosh is only available in Region 2 at the moment, but they are worth buying a new DVD player for). While I may have been disappointed with the final episode of the latest season of The Mighty Boosh, the remainder of their work is so hilarious and mad that I already pre-ordered the latest season from

I've included a track from each duo. The Bowie song by Flight of the Conchords still makes me have a bit of a Depends moment ("do you need my jumper, Bowie?") and is one of the best impressions of Bowie I've ever heard. Bouncy Bouncy is off the Party episode of The Mighty Boosh - it is what Barratt and Fielding call a crimp - watch the show and you'll get it.

Bowie (Live) - Flight of the Conchords

Bouncy Bouncy - The Mighty Boosh

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