Dave Brown

© benmeadowsphoto

Today marks the fourth day of Eleanorburgh, as Rich Fulcher & Dave Brown’s live show continues to wow the crowds at the Udderbelly Pasture in Edinburgh.  Tickets for the remaining shows are available here – and our head honcho, who went to see the show this weekend, can confirm at long last that the Velveteer’s previous reviews of the show are indeed apt… the duo have made a highly mighty show.

Today also marks Dave Brown’s birthday, and as an off-kilter entry into our Fulcher Fortnight, we thought it was an apt time to shine a light on Eleanor’s director and co-writer.  Here, then, are the uncapped thoughts of our editor in chief, Paul ‘Didymus’ Holmes, on just why the man in the ape suit deserves your attention.  Read on…

To many, The Mighty Boosh are a duo.  That’s what somewhat lazy journalists tend to print whenever they write another awful article about the pointy half and his escapades on the London night scene.  Those journalists are, of course, very wrong indeed.  To others, often those too young to really know any better, The Mighty Boosh is the show with the sexy guy who looks a bit like a girl, and his weird friends.  These people aren’t beyond saving, but its a lot of hard work trying to persuade them otherwise.

© Dave Brown

The more intelligent of Boosh admirers see them as a quintet, occasionally augmented by others.  In much the same way as George Martin, Geoff Emerick, Stuart Sutcliffe, Pete Best and Neil Aspinal have all been dubbed ‘The Fifth Beatle’, so too, can the likes of Paul King, Richard Ayoade, Spencer Millman and arguably Matt Berry be dubbed the ‘Sixth Booshy’.  And of the five main players in the collective which inspired this very website, one man in particular seems to get the least amount of attention.

Oh sure, everyone loves Noel.  He’s the charismatic, edgy bloke on front vox who gets the girls a-swooning.  And most people pay attention to the lead guitarist in this equation – as its clear to anyone with half a braincell that Julian Barratt is a ridiculously talented man.  They tend to notice the crazy keyboardist, Rich – expanding the scope of their work into unexpected and often delightful avenues… and once you start to look more closely, the solid bass player, little Mike Fielding, gets some attention too.  But the ape on the drums?  Surely that’s just a bloke in a monkey suit, not the man providing the solid rhythm and back bone to the work of the others?

I have a confession to make.  It’s one that readers who know me well enough won’t so much fail to see as a surprise, but wonder how there’s anyone left in the world who doesn’t yet know.  But for the benefit of the rest of our readership, let me make a bold statement here: Dave Brown is not just one fifth of the greatest comedy troupe arguably of all time, but he’s an essential part of the whole equation and someone I genuinely regard as a personal hero.

With The Velvet Onion, I’ve always strived to maintain that the artist is everything, and the potential urges to fangasm should be withheld in order to really focus on the work we are trying to help promote to the faithful.  Through this work, we have each managed to come into frequent contact with various members of Booshdom, who truly seem to appreciate the work we are doing.  But long before TVO, I knew deep down whom my favourite was, and why.

© Baby Cow Productions / BBC Three

The main reason, leaping off the page at me, is his versatility.  As well as being a gifted comic performer, he’s a talented musician, a stunning visual artist and graphic designer, a fascinating photographer, an accidental choreographer and now he’s even a stage show director.   On paper, the most important of these is the first.  As Bollo, in particular, he’s been responsible for some of the funniest moments in the history of the Boosh – on television, radio and stage.  Who here doesn’t find the tales of Chinko, the naughty ape, hilarious?  Who here can look at a clock set to 3pm without giggling, or get a trolley with a wonky wheel without feeling the urge to quote their favourite gorilla?  And how important a piece of advice is it to remember that it’s not the peel, but the ‘nana that’s important?

And Dave’s involvement with the Boosh doesn’t end with the monkey suit.  Having possibly played more characters than any other in the history of the series, Brown also had a heavy hand in creating the music for the show with Julian and Noel.  Anyone who’s seen the infamous Cadbury’s audition spoof viral video will know how gifted a percussionist Dave Brown is, and most people who saw the Future Sailors tour in 2008 were left stunned when he opened his mouth during the live rendition of ‘Nanageddon’ and the voice of a rock god emerged from within.  Judging by the large increase in Dave-admiration post tour, I think its safe to say that, night after night, a large percentage of the audience fell in love at that moment!

© The Mighty Boosh

Visually, too, Brown has had an enormous impact on the feel of the Boosh as a whole – both as a piece of artistic entertainment, and as a money-making super-brand.  He’s had an impact in various fields – from becoming the choreographer for many of the epic dance routines, to creating the entire presentation of official Boosh merchandise in recent years – the level of detail has at times, been astounding, never more so than with The Mighty Book Of Boosh.

The book was a labour of love from the entire gang, but especially Dave, that brought the same attention to detail and love for the project that The Goodies and Monty Python used to bring to their tie-in books back in the early 70s.   Then there’s the crayon patterns that have infused much of the products since the Special Edition boxset and the Future Sailors tour, which included a dvd booklet that actually SMELT of crayons, a set to use as your own in the tour programs and a sumptuous calendar for 2010 featuring the photographs of Andy Hollingworth.  The look of these items manages to capture the childlike, slightly confusing yet comforting feeling of The Mighty Boosh better than anything that has come before it.

© Dave Brown

So too, are his photographs from the set of the tv series (and the occasional live bits & bobs) a fascinating statement of what the Boosh is all about.  They’re usually highly colourful, playful images, never really giving you the whole story yet enticing you enough to feel the need to know more.  I’d happily sit down and listen to him discuss what was going on in just about every shot I’ve ever seen from Boosh events, which is why I’m especially excited by the possibility of an exhibition of his work, or a weighty portfolio tome as was hinted at when our budding TVO reporter Paulyne spoke to him at the Apple Store promo event earlier this year.

And now, with Rich Fulcher’s marvellous Eleanor The Tour Whore character, Dave has had chance to expand on his skills on the periphery of the Boosh – co-writing the show with Fulcher, and choosing it as his debut directorial project.  As Noel, Julian & Paul King are often commenting, directing Rich can be very hard work – not because he’s demanding, but because his mind is so filled with comic genius that its often hard to keep him under control when the ideas are spilling out of him.  After finally getting to see the finished show at the Edinburgh Festival this weekend, I can safely confirm what many others have been saying for months – the show is phenomenal, and the duo can most certainly be proud of what they’ve accomplished.

© Andy Hollingworth

But the main reason that Dave impresses me so much is that, above all else, he is willing to give something he believes in his all, even if the costs may be higher than many would be willing to pay.  When the first ideas for his Bollo make-up were discussed, Brown allowed make-up artist Christine Cant to shave his eyebrows off to further enhance prosthetics which were quickly abandoned, leaving Dave wandering about, as Noel opined, “like a seagull at the wrap party!”

And that’s not all – Dave was waiting for not one, but TWO important and unconnected medical procedures which were undoubtably causing him great discomfort whilst going out there, night after night, sweating in a gorilla suit and breakdancing in dresses, for the 90+ date Future Sailors tour in 2008.  He could’ve taken it easy… asked for a less physical role, but the importance of entertaining people was far more pressing, and so he gave it his all – even adding an ad-hoc stage dive into the equation after falling one two many times wheeling a globe off stage.  Then there was the time last summer, at charity event Orangaid, when Dave donned the Bollo costume on what was possibly the hottest day of the year, providing a quick stand-up routine and later duetting and body popping with Bill Bailey.

© Dave Brown

In that case, the charity was everything.  As well as playing a great ape on television, Dave has been passionate about the conservation of these endangered creatures – auctioning portraits of London Zoo’s gorilla Mjukuu for the Cameroon Wildlife Fund, supporting Orangaid (in aid of the Sumatran Orangutan Society) and donating to The Gorilla Organisation amongst his endeavours.  He also finds time to actively support the charity set up in aid of his niece, Rebecca Ling – who was tragically paralysed during hospital surgery four years ago.  Clearly a true modern-day philanthopist as well as a funny bloke with talent, then!

Not only is he kind-hearted, but he’s humble too.  Many would have asked for more attention over the years, as uncomfortable costume after uncomfortable costume hides him away in relative obscurity, yet for all the mocking jokes on dvd documentaries, I doubt he’d change it for the world.  So too, is he more than happy to support the work of others – giving Mr Bingo a big break via The Mighty Book Of Boosh and Tiny Acts Of Rebellion gigs, and calling upon his friends in the art world to help create the madcap worlds within worlds in the former with tremendous success.  His name isn’t even on the posters for An Audience With Eleanor The Tour Whore, however much Rich Fulcher tries to get a namecheck in during interviews.  Brown seems content with just getting on with it, and having fun along the way… and that’s an admirable trait in comedy, which is so frequently fueled by narcissism in performers of all creeds.

© Paul Holmes

I’ve been lucky enough to have regular contact with Dave in the last few years, after winning one of his Mjukuu prints which has pride of place in my home.  Whilst I’ve tried not to be ‘fannish’ with this article, and I’m sure that my respect for the man is more than evident,  I simply couldn’t wrap this up without publicly saying thank you to him for all his help and support in a number of ways far too boring, technical and in some ways too personal to broadcast here.

As with many of those in Booshdom who we at The Velvet Onion have chosen to write about on such a frequent basis, Dave is polite, friendly and approachable to all he meets, and utterly charming and generous to those he likes.  It is because of Dave, and others like him, that we support their work so proudly – instead of just appreciating it and enjoying it as we do with so many of our interests – we at TVO actively want to help these people reach the widest audience possible because on top of all the artist merits of their work, they just happen to be amongst the finest people we’ve ever had the good fortune to know.  So for everything, Dave… thank you, and happy birthday.

You can find out more about The Rebecca Ling Trust and make a donation at the charity’s official website here.  The Rebecca Ling Trust is a registered charity.

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