While my lost college years in Floptown may have been a glorified juju grab-bag of good experiences, lousy friends, fine beers and confirmation of both my most profound insecurities and long-comatose potential as a student, one thing is damn certain: it brought with it an unparalleled run of high-quality exposure to new forms and means of popular culture.
Foremost to this phenomena was a reintroduction to television. I’d been a syndication baby in the 1980’s and 90’s—raised on and coddled by a steady diet of FOX sitcoms and Nick at Nite—but I’d never really identified the boob tube as being a source of legitimately moving-and-shaking entertainment or storytelling. That changed radically as I found myself basically force-fed a new, high-protein diet of cable dramas and import shows by my running crew: among others, this included Deadwood, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Spaced and—most intrinsic, to today’s lecture–The Mighty Boosh.
If you’re reading this, then the safe money says that no serious primer is needed in summarizing said show. The brainchild of comedians Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt, the Boosh project was a collective mishmash of stage performances, radio/music albums and a three-season show that hit its apogee in 2007. The show’s consequent re-airing on Adult Swim gave it a second spurt of pop culture notoriety in the years that would follow, though the troupe’s remained mostly relegated to separate creative corners save for a few reunion appearances in 2013.
So, with all that effectively noted: while the Boosh may have seen its heyday pass in the same quiet night as The Dave Chapelle Show and other suddenly-seeming-really-archaic-despite-only-being-like-five-years-old fare from the mid-to-late-aughts, it still maintains a sweet little spider-hole in me and Jenks’ collective hearts. So much so that when we received a heads-up about this, we were effectively over the moon…
While it’s true enough that results relating to the Seattle burlesque scene “may vary,” there was no doubt in our minds that a show this specific in its goofiness would bring out the hippest and finest of our local fringe culture. We were so positively sold on this fact that we decided to make the scene en costume, going totally apeshit bonkers with a series of ill-advised thriftshop purposes in the weeks before the big date, and managing to do pretty damn well in the process*.
The decision of what, specifically, to go as was a big one. Had Exene been available, then it would have been the most posh of opportunities to go retro, and pull off a collective Vince Noir/Howard Moon combo, preferably with the Season One “Zooniverse” jackets…
But as our usual triple-threat was reduced to a date-night pairing, a new plan was needed. Jenks and I kicked around some abstract no-go ideas about Nann bread and gorilla costumes, before the whit of vicious inspiration struck right out of the blue: the perfect pairing—the absolute perfect pairing—courtesy of raconteur and flan-faced superman, Rich Fulcher:
Not only does Rich’s “Eleanor the Tour Whore” somehow constitute the most adorable and convincing woman ever… but it also allowed Jenks to flex some of that secondhand store swag in putting together her own take on the character.
Howard’s “Joe Buck” get-up took a bit more in terms of creativity, as those fringe jackets easily crank out at about two to three large, these days: the end result was a combination of vintage fair and a couple of costume-type bits and bobs.
It’s also worth noting that there was a great deal of trepidation about the whole facial hair thing. I haven’t gone moustache-specific since 1995—the days of filling in the mouse-fuzz special with mom’s eyebrow pencil—so I had absolutely no idea whether or not my middle-aged Mel face would be up to the task of sporting Howard’s patent whiskers: however, the endgame actually wasn’t that bad.
I think even Montgomery Flange himself would approve.
Emboldened by our ensembles and eager to see what sort of lunatic turnout the Jewel Box would have in store for us, Jenks and I sliced our way into the night air and a straight shot down the 99. We pulled up to the Rendezvous with twenty minutes to spare, and did our best disaffected posturing outside of the bar door: waiting to welcome our fellow weirdos, and possibly snap/swap pictures with the prerequisite two or three Old Greggs that we assumed would be in attendance.
And then it kinda started to click.
Minutes ticked past.
The crowd thickened out.
The doors to the theater opened.
Jenks and I exchanged a somewhat slanted stare.
And it became apparent that nobody else had bothered to really dress up.
In fact, the folks who had collectively turned out for the evening’s affair resembled—as Jenks put it—“the waiting room at a parent-teacher conference.” Aside from a few Queen Anne types and one guy who’d made a decent kinda-sorta stab at a Kodiak Jack costume, the audience looked like it had mostly been funneled down the wrong bus line while en route to a night at Benaroya Hall: sharp suits, grey hair, long and blank pre-show stares at the Jewel Box’s tiny, ramshackle stage. As we took our seats, the question of the moment was less parts “have any of these people actually ever seen an episode of this show?” and more and more along the lines of “who the hell are these people and why in god’s name are they here?
Despite a feverish desire to have our skepticism knuckle-dusted, the state of things didn’t improve once the show actually kicked off the chocks. After decades of dutifully attending the lo-fi theater endeavors of ex-boyfriends/girlfriends/friends/relatives, Jenks and I have come to appreciate a simple truth: you can get away with a barnstorming-style show if the audience’s energy is willing. An engaged (and possibly drunk) crowd can pave over a multitude of production-based sins, just as a sharply-executed production can make up for a skeptical or unengaged viewership.
Unfortunately, neither happened. A fistful of dutiful (and presumed) friends of the cast and well-wishers did their damndest to get the rest of the congregation into the skits and dance routines, but it just didn’t stick: like a slowly-deflating balloon (Or Howard Moon’s head), the game giggles that met the first appearance of Vince and Howard in sock-puppet form** started to thin out promptly thereafter. Any inroads established by the house band’s kickass three-piece arrangements of some of the show’s finer hits were promptly cut off at the neck by the persistent sense that about ninety-sum percent of those in the front rows didn’t have the slightest king-fuck clue as to what they were watching.
When a striptease rendition of “Future Sailors” abruptly ended—leaving the dancer to shrug blankly at the A/V booth and simply jiggle-trudge off stage—the woman seated in front of us leaned over to her husband and hush-hissed something about “THAT NOT BEING PART OF THE SHOW, RIGHT?!” This was followed—awkwardly and presently—by the decision to project an entire segment from the show itself*** which, upon concluding, left the audience staring at an empty stage for what felt like about three full minutes****. As a point of rather sticky summary, it’s arguable that the biggest laugh and ovation of the evening actually went to one of the Rendezvous’ waiters, who—upon wandering in through a side door and finding himself buried between the narrow aisles of the theater with an armful of plates—simply stopped, looked about, and announced “Well, I imagined this working out better” in a deadshot demonstration of deadpan.
But as for rest? It was a lot like this: your roomie announces that they want to throw a holiday party with a cheeseball gimmick, perhaps involving white elephants or ugly Chanukah sweaters. You gamely agree, and spend a good week sharing how much you’re looking forward to the shindig, supplying friends with links for hideous sweaters on the cheap and basically pushing/pimping the evening’s format as had as your fingertips can manage. When the big night rolls around, your guests begin to trickle in—ideally lugging a flat of PBR or two—only you realize that they’re all wearing shit that they probably picked up at the VV on their way over; out-of-fashion and unfortunate sweaters, but nothing that gives credence to your actual idea, or the fact that you and your roomie spent like twenty sweet American dollars on your own ensembles.
And as the evening plugs on, those few folks probably peel off whatever sweaters they’re sporting, because it’s too warm. More friends show up, armed more with excuses about how work sucks and homework’s a drag, thusly explaining their total lack of any kind of sweater. A few hours in, and you’re all just drinking and grooving to a decent social beat, but you can’t shake the sense that it would all be so much better if anybody had taken the time to just buy a goddamned Hanukah sweater and embrace the spirit of the moment.
At the very least, our cable-knit shit was infallible. I only hope that the next swing at the format—Le Petite Mort’s announced rough plans for a follow-up in Summertime—will actually bring out the freaks, and that the troupe will find it in their hearts to let whatever beautiful bastard it was who came up with the idea fill them with the appropriately goofy sense of pride. It’s what the Boosh—and those who are toe-tapping on its ashes in reverent memory—would want.