by Joanna Orland
American comedian, author and improviser Rich Fulcher was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule for a chat. Known best for his Mighty Boosh characters such as Bob Fossil, Rich’s comedy repertoire is fully extensive and ever growing. But let’s start at the beginning of his career in the UK –
Why did you decide to leave America for Britain?
I still look at it as I live in both places. But I just gradually started doing The Edinburgh Festival and then I got a manager out of that and then they started booking me. I was in an improv group and we just started booking all over the place and it turned out that London was the base. I lived in Chicago and London for a while, and then LA and London. But I’m mostly in London now, but I kind of consider myself Los Angeles / London.
How does the comedy circuit compare between US and UK?
In terms of live comedy, London has so much going on. It’s one of the best places to do standup. It’s just constant live gigging. I liken it to New York. And if you’re a well-known comic, you can make most money if you’re on TV, touring. You don’t make a lot off TV because they don’t have syndication out here. There’s hardly a better place to do live. The US – great for TV and Film. Live is king here.
And also for writing and performing your own stuff on TV. If you did something and they like it, they’ll give you a shot at writing it. They’ll just assume you’re going to write it. Whereas in the US it’s like, “let’s get a team in, let’s get a show runner, let’s get you out of it”. But I think the trend is changing in the US – places like Adult Swim where they really foster you developing the show yourself. So from that aspect, I think the US is really starting to catch up. But there’s just more stuff going on in the US.
Why do you think you’re better known in the UK rather than in your homeland?
Oh, cause I’m on TV in the UK. I am on in the US as well. This is the misnomer that people have – a lot of British shows are watched in the US… and there’s five times as many people. But strictly numbers, I probably have more people that know me in the US, but it’s just more densely populated. And I’m in London so people recognize me from shows. I mean it is a smaller, tight-knit community in terms of there’s a finite number of networks and comics. I don’t know what I’m talking about…
You’ve studied and performed a lot of improv. Can you talk about how improv has helped develop you as a comedian and a performer?
I think it’s invaluable to learn. I mean people can debate about how improv is as an artform in itself, you know, like on stage I want to just be improv, or I love longform versus shortform. But there’s no doubt that learning it and just knowing it as a skill is something everybody should probably know something about. My stuff on The Mighty Boosh, a lot of the best stuff I do, just comes out of improv and them letting me go with stuff. Sometimes you get the funniest stuff out of that rather than totally tightly scripted scripts. What I’m saying is, you can use it in everything.
How did you first get involved with that circle of Mighty Boosh comedians?
Because I was touring around, I kind of had this manager and so I was asking around is anybody doing a show or a sketch show?. I got involved in this sketch show called Unnatural Acts. This was like over 10 years ago. And Julian was in it. And Julian brought on board Noel and I brought on board Sean Cullen. We all sort of just gravitated towards each other and we decided at the end of that we’d do an Edinburgh show together, and that turned out to be The Mighty Boosh. And Sean couldn’t do it, and then here we are.
You’re very well known for starring in the Mighty Boosh as Bob Fossil and other characters. How much of the real Rich Fulcher can be found in these characters?
All of them can be found because their costumes had just come out of my wardrobe.
No no… No, just kidding. I didn’t have that Blue Safari Suit, but I have it now!
They pretty much gave me a lot of leeway – they said we have this idea about a guy who’s the zoo general manager and he’s really loud and American and then they pretty much let me develop the character out loud. But they kind of saw me in mind for that. Then all the other characters, they’ll just come to me with “this guy’s made out of Betamax – GO. Or this guys’ blue and he’s two feet high – Do something.” So they’re really totally flexible with stuff. They give you the boundaries and then you just go for it.
Who are your comedic influences past and present?
I love Louis C.K. right now of course. Who else… I love Derek and Clive. They were great of course. Monty Python’s always there. I loved Bob and Ray the radio guys. Bob and Ray were pretty hilarious, even now. And I love duos.
What is it about duos that you love?
They’re still sort of a tradition in the UK. They’re more rare in the US and I think maybe they’re an offshoot of like Vaudeville or something. But like in the Old-Timey days, like even in the 60’s and even up to the 70’s, there were like, you know, the Smothers Brothers. Those guys, I always found them kind of fascinating, because they’re kind of throwbacks to an era. That’s what’s so cool about here. Julian and Noel are a double act, and they have loads of people that work together like that. Like Mitchell and Webb.
Where did you get the inspiration behind your book and live show Tiny Acts of Rebellion?
They asked me to write a book and I just thought what do I like to do? What have I done all my life, you know, you stick stuff in your mom’s shopping cart and that’s what you do. And she gets a surprise at the cashier, and I used to do things like that when I was young. And then as I got older, it just kept going. We all need to do these little acts or else we’ll turn into Michael Douglas in Falling Down and just explode and just shoot up a floor.
Have you ever thought about expanding your performance repertoire and doing more dramatic work?
Yeah, I mean I want to, it’s just I tend to get typecast a bit. I mean even comedically, I get typecast as being loud, crazy, and so a lot of times people go he can’t even be in an office as a regular office guy. But I can. So I think I have to work on that first and then the dramatic side. I’d love to. I’d love to do stuff like that. In fact some of my favourite things that are even comedies have a drama sort of attached to them where they’re not just comedies.
If there were one word to summarize “Rich Fulcher”, what would that word be?
I don’t know why. But it’s my life. It’s a juggernaut.