Today is Richard Ayoade’s birthday. You might know him as the random British inclusion in The Watch, the filmmaker behind the Jesse Eisenberg doppelganger movie, The Double, and of course, he’s Moss from The IT Crowd — a character that Christopher Campbell once dressed up as for Halloween.
He’s also a great serving of comedic joy.
Ayoade wouldn’t agree. He self-deprecatingly says he’s “just terrible. At talking. With words.” But if Ayoade is not, by his estimation, an actor, he is certainly a man who can banter brilliantly and absurdly in ways that make every manner of words seem natural. Even better: he has his own much-needed spin on nostalgia, one that replicates old styles rather than old toys, and relishes in the remnants of real life rather than computer-crafted graphics, as these 8 examples reveal.
The IT Crowd
Ayoade broke into North American consciousness when he co-starred with Chris O’Dowd and Katherine Parkinson in The IT Crowd, the British antidote to The Big Bang Theory. He plays Moss, the typical super-smart uber-geek who contains all the usual staples from style a la mom, to a severe lack of social skills and yen for boardgaming. But, for all of his endearing obliviousness, Moss could be downright cunning if he so desired (especially when the black box that holds the Internet is involved), and downright dangerous when he desires a seat at the park.
His Moss was so utterly particular that when the show was remade for U.S. audiences, they didn’t bother to find a replacement, they hired Ayoade. The show, however, was a mess of repetition and extra slapstick, and was quickly killed after the pilot episode.
In Ayoade’s directorial debut, he adapts Joe Dunthorne’s “Submarine,” a coming-of-age story about an awkward teen’s first love and his transparent attempts to fix his parents’ struggling relationship. It’s a love story that is, at once, familiar and idiosyncratic as young Oliver Tate enters the world of romance. This isn’t a tale of stolen glances and pop culture banter, but of embracing strangeness, encapsulated when Tate tells his Jordana: “I thought it would be nice to get some mutual interests … now that we’ve had sex … other than spitting and setting things on fire.”
It’s fascinating to watch the many ways Ayoade’s nostalgia can manifest. In Submarine, it’s a mixture of ‘80s New Age tackiness, pre-smart phone communication, and Super 8 whimsy that meshes into a fun and cohesive whole.
AD/BC: A Rock Opera
In one of Ayoade’s first parodies, he and The IT Crowd’s Matt Berry collaboratively turned their sights toward 1970s rock operas about Jesus. Sadly, AD/BC isn’t a full musical, but it’s still worthy in all of its comic brevity on a tiny soundstage. It’s also, I’d dare say, more fun than the current religion-themed mega-hit, The Book of Mormon.
The Mighty Boosh
Considering the rock opera, it’s no surprise that Ayoade would collaborate as actor, writer and script editor on a show that sees two Brits cracking into spells, talking to apes, and sharing a flat with a carpet-riding shaman – while occasionally breaking out into song.
Ayoade plays Saboo, a member of the Board of Shaman, occasional DJ, and cohort of the bodiless alien Tony Harrison. Saboo’s generally the self-proclaimed “pretty good” (not awesome) square, if there is such in this absurd world, ranting about “the crunch” and trying to teach Naboo lessons time and time again. Unfortunately, however, he thinks Fleetwood Mac “are bullshit munchers.”