Rich Fulcher is a comedian, writer and improviser, most well known for his roles in the hit comedy series Snuff Box, Drunk History, and The Mighty Boosh. He is one of our personal favorites. His other credits include Crossballs: The Debate Show, The Sarah Silverman Program, Childrens Hospital, Jon Benjamin Has a Van, NTSF:SD:SUV, Adventure Time, Arthur Christmas, The League, Rick and Morty, Kroll Show, Uncle Grandpa, Bob’s Burgers, Another Period, and Those Who Can’t. He’s like a comedy jukebox with a rare and original one-of-a-kind brain.
We had the chance to catch up with Fulcher to discuss his current Comedy Central digital series Questionable Science, what’s it’s like when people find out he’s not actually British, The Mighty Boosh, and discuss his history in the Chicago comedy scene. Without further ado, here’s our questionable interview.
How’s the involuntary breathing these days? Everything up to code?
Haha, yeah. We’re ok with that. I just had my Drunk History physical so I’m ready to go.
Did Derek [Waters] put you through the ringer?
I just think you have a to have a pulse.
Just to catch everyone up on your digital series Questionable Science, what’s the elevator pitch you would give to someone to encourage them to check it out?
What floor am I on? How many floors do I have?
Looks like we’ve got five floors to go here. It’s a tall building, we hit five and see that you’re going to floor twenty-two.
It’s a professor that has some renegade students who dabble in marijuana and study very strange scientific hypothesis. Oh man… that was terrible.
You’ve got three floors left.
Haha. It explores hypothetical from a skewed perspective. It’s those conversations you have when you are drunk or high in college. It’s basically that, but takes place in a classroom setting.
Oh, this is my floor. But that sounds interesting. I’m definitely going to check that out!
Ok great! Oh, wait. This is my floor too.
Are you going to follow me to make sure that I watch it online?
Haha, sure. So that was the initial idea and I just wanted to explore more about those things. I just wanted to do it in a classroom setting. We all know that setting. That way, you could just go to absurd levels because we already know the format.
Let’s celebrate everyone involved. You really have a great cast here hanging out with you in the classroom. For starters, love Steve Agee.
Steve Agee is awesome. I know him from way back, we were in an improv troupe together in about the year 2000 or so called F*$king Bastards. He and I go way back. He’s hilarious. Jennie Pierson and Dave Neher, they are amazing! They do comedy together for Funny or Die. This cast is so smooth. We have beats, but we just riff. Myke Wright and Pat Regan come from more of a stand-up background but they are both f*$king hilarious. It really was lucky because I got to hand pick people and didn’t get much interference from the suits. The mucky mucks. And that’s the beauty of a digital show. But if it ever got to series, it would be like, “Uh, can you get Hulk Hogan somehow as the Dean?” Haha.
Then the show becomes Questionable Suits at that point.
That’s my big bug-a-boo with shows that I really like that are inherently funny. Then they probably get calls from people’s agents saying, “Well, you know, Ralph Macchio would really like to be in this.” And sometimes you’re a fan, and you don’t want to turn that down. But then it kind of disrupts the comedy of the show. You have to be really careful about it.
Let’s turn on the way back machine if we could.
Haha, let’s talk about Crossballs. Recently we found out that Chris Gethard got uncontrollable nose bleeds while working on that show. Did you have any near-death experiences working on Crossballs?
No, I didn’t. I had a blast! The writing I could see however being more stressful. There were moments where you didn’t know if the guest on the show, who didn’t know it was a comedy, would go nuts. There were a couple of times when it was touch and go. Which was the beauty of the show. I think it would have been so good if we had done a hundred episodes before it aired so that people had no clue. And then when it came out, you’d have to worry. It was such a good experience.
One time we had this actor on and I was playing this professor of film that thought “reality“ was the only good TV because people weren’t pretending like actors do. And I showed a tape of 12 Angry Men and said, “Look at that, they’re all fake acting!” And then the guest, who was an actor, got really pissed off. “What are you talking about! This is great!” “This is classic!!”
Now, how did the UK come to be such a big part of your life and your career? And what percentage of you, at this point, do you consider British?
Haha! People are always surprised when they find out that I’m not British. They say, “Oh, wow, we just thought you were playing an American.” And then they’re disappointed and they push me to the ground.
All of a sudden your comedy became less funny to them?
Exactly. Now I’m less of a genius doing my characters. I was one of those Chicago guys that did Second City and Annoyance Theater as well as Improv Olympic. There was one point where I was doing a show, actually sort of similar to Questionable Science, where we improvised the University lecture. And somebody who had been doing the Edinburgh Festival said, “Dude, this would kill over there. They would love it because a classroom is a classroom.” So we went over there. And it was so much fun! We produced ourselves. But after the first time we did it we got a manager. Then we started to tour with all of these British comics and we went to Australia. And then when our group broke up I just happened to be in the UK at the time. And I just asked if the manager would still represent me. And she said yes. And then I landed on this sketch show called Unnatural Acts. Five people saw it, but Julian [Barratt] and Noel [Fielding] where on it as well. And a guy named Sean Cullen.
It was interesting how it all worked out. There was no plan for it. I never said, “I’m going to go to the UK and be a guy.” It was more that I was just over there and I had left Second City so I didn’t have any regular acting jobs going on. And it just clicked with myself, Noel, and Julian. And that’s when we all decided to do The Mighty Boosh.
With the way we can access everything now, and with The Mighty Boosh being on Netflix, do you have a lot of people that are just now discovering it come up to you as if it were brand new?
I mostly get recognized in Amoeba Music and Apple stores. That’s the majority of my fanbase.
Is it by section in Amoeba? For instance, if you step out of the Jazz section, all of a sudden no one knows you? But the used vinyl you’re a hit?
Haha, yeah. The Howard Moon fans are in Jazz for sure. Honestly, what’s really cool is other generations are now discovering it. We would meet these people, really famous British celebrities like Billy Bragg and Billy Idol. And they wouldn’t necessary be fans, but their kids would be. So they would bring them to the show and we’d meet them. Nine times out of ten, first the kids would like the show and then show their parents, and then they would end up liking it too.
It feels like The Mighty Boosh in a way has become a new American generation’s gateway into British humor just like Red Dwarf, Faulty Towers, Monty Python and so on was for the previous. Instead of it being shown on PBS, the source is Netflix.
That what it was for me for sure. Anything on PBS. Yes Minister, of course Monty Python, all that stuff. I would just eat that up. I never made that connection that one day I would go there and just do bad British accents for a living.
Do you now have your own genuine British accent complete with back story and geographical location?
Haha. People are so good at doing accents over there, they can get really specific to the region. So it really just became a running joke on The Mighty Boosh that I’d be the one who would do the accent that would be way over the top bad.
One thing that I really love about your career so far is that you have been a part of a lot of shows that have taken huge risks and really gone for what they wanted to be vs. catering for mainstream success. It’s got to be a real fun world that you play in?
It’s almost a badge of honor when people don’t watch a really cool show. Some people also really hate it. Success can be a dividing device. But it’s not like I relish doing comedy that pisses off half of the room. It just so happens to be what I do and that I like doing. And because of shows like The Boosh, Tim and Eric, and all of those, they’ve found a niche that you’re able to do that. Sure, it’s not The Big Bang Theory. And if I was asked to guest on The Big Bang Theory, I wouldn’t turn it down. It’s really great now that everything is a platform where you can find a niche. If you get a million viewers, you can do just about anything.
Now, I have to bring up that you’ve double dipped as an Elf so far in your career. Do you have a fetish for playing one or is it something you just can’t refuse when offered?
Oh yeah, haha! I love elves. I’m the best elf. I am the Uber elf. What’s funny about Arthur Christmas is that they didn’t have one specific role for me. They had me read for a bunch of things. So I had no idea what I was going to be in the film. Or what they would pick. Luckily they picked Elf. That has more lasting power.
Let’s discuss Sexy Murder if we could for a hot minute. This is a show you are a part of that also hails from the UK.
Yeah. I was fortunate enough to do this show called Top Coppers which was on BBC 3. And the guys who did that, they asked me to do Sexy Murder. BBC 3 had gone digital for some reason and they asked if I wanted in. Basically, I play a director. Like in the HBO series The Jinx. This show is a parody of Making of a Murder or The Jinx. My character on the show tries to manipulate things to make it look like a murder. That genre is so ripe for parody right now. It’s really good. You can watch it now on the BBC 3 site on YouTube.
Now back to Questionable Science to close things out. Do you get to name these episodes? What’s the story behind the titles?
Well, before we start writing, I just think about all the hypotheticals for the episode and the titles stem from the ones that we choose for that episode. For instance, “What if sneezing were racist?” “What if Matthew Mcconaughey could fly?” “What if Milk got you high?” They right themselves. And I wanted to get experts in these respective fields. Real experts. They could talk about it in a realistic way. And sometimes they’re really on board with it. And sometimes they just call you out. And it’s funny either way.
There was this one doctor while we were examining if sneezing were racist, he not only agreed with the fact that it might be possible, he went on to explain sneezing could make you have orgasms and all of these other things. It was a gift. He went with the flow.
He went ahead and put quotation marks around Questionable for you.
You can watch the digital series Questionable Science right now right here thanks to Comedy Central. Follow Professor Rich as he delves deeper into fringe science. Now currently in season 2.