House Of Fools, S01E04

by Joshua Gaskell

By Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer
BBC and Pett Productions for BBC Two
Tuesday, 4th February 2014

Detractors of Vic and Bob’s style of surrealism would have us believe that they merely present viewers with objets trouvés, objects ‘found or picked up at random’ (OED), with emphasis on random in the trivial sense. But, as Stewart Lee has said (talking about The Mighty Boosh) ‘Cynics think free-associating surreal stuff is easy, but it’s much harder than simply putting the word ‘fish’ into normal sentences at random points’. That is, it’s not easy to do it and be funny (and to keep doing it and keep being funny).

So, the seemingly-random-but-not-really object in this episode is Bob’s toupee.* He’s fussing over it because in the evening it’s the presentation of the Wig-Wearer of the Year Award, which he’s already won two years running. Vic is desperate to go too, but Bob is adamant that he won’t allow it. Everything will go smoothly unless, as Vic says, ‘something untoward happens’. No Wig-Wearer of the Year Awards for guessing if it does, particularly since untoward literally means not moving towards something, and plotwise House of Fools contains plenty of scenes of which that could be said. For example, after an argument about the respective merits of straight and curly cheese puffs, Bob patronisingly suggests to Vic, ‘Why don’t you show me what you’ve been doing on your little computer?’ ‘I’ve been up all night working on Photoshop, knowamean?’ Vic replies. What he’s done is attempt to work out what Richard Branson would look like without a beard by getting a picture of Branson and drawing a cross on said goatee. (And not with Photoshop but Paint, by the look of it.)

This episode is called ‘The Wig Affair’, and after the above untowardliness l’affaire side of things hots up: Bosh (Dan Skinner) comes in, proclaims his love for Bob as an excuse not to have to move out, calls him a twat, and, crucially, gives him some ‘bodybuilding juice’. Vic and Bob drink the juice, then see an arthritic rat-weasel-gerbil-bear-beaver-camel thing making off with Bob’s toupee. At this point the juice – which turns out to be a Reeves & Mortimer ’Roids solution – kicks in, and the two of them hulk up. However, Vic smashes a hole in the wall and the rat thing escapes into the flat next door, which belongs to Julie (Morgana Robinson). Following the entrance of Beef (Matt Berry), bearing a warped plastic frying pan and a pair of boots made from a wolf’s penis, Vic goes round to Julie’s to get the toupee.§ He and Julie discuss the longevity of the rat thing and its long-term residency in the block. This prompts some Are You Being Served?-style ’70s flashbacks, but yields no piece. Getting desperate, Bob assembles everyone to discuss possible solutions, and Vic suggests using some more of the pump-me-up juice. After a chemically-enhanced chase they all dive on the rat thing (à la the Croc Botherer) but in the mêlée Bob’s wig gets torn to shreds!

The solution is to fashion a wig out of cheesy puffs (duh!). And with this on his head Bob storms to a third successive victory at the Wig-Wearer of the Year Awards, and L’affaire de Toupet comes to a close.

* And actually, a toupee is more conventionally comic than many of their objects; the pork pie in Episode 2, for example. This is because, if comedy is fundamentally about seeing something that someone is trying to hide, then a snatched rug is its quintessence. Remember Elaine throwing George’s out the window in Seinfeld, or the scene at the beginning of American Hustle?
Knowamean, Vic tells us, is ‘cool for do you know what I mean?’ The iPlayer subtitles put it properly like that in the first place, which brings to mind Russell Brand’s story of someone’s nan who marked her ’Allo ’Allo! videos ‘Hello, Hello’.
‡ Whose ears are supposed to burn at this discussion of shaky, trivial projects, undertaken on little computers? Is it those who Martin Amis referred to as ‘the semilliterate windbags of the blogosphere’? Mea culpa?
§ Of the word issue, Kingsley Amis wrote, ‘The pronunciation of this word is perhaps the only point on which I agree with Tony Benn. It is ISHoo, and to say ISSyoo is a piece of pressi-OSSity.’ True, but for the purposes of comedy Matt Berry has been honing this sort of sibilant preciosity for years (pleaSSure etc.), which here gets an airing with peniSS. Indeed, Berry is so funny that Vic can be seen, not corpsing exactly, but just openly laughing at him.

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