Fielding: The Ultimate Character
Two things you want to learn from an article on NOEL FIELDING: is he as nice as I think he is, and just how the hell does that brain of his work? In short, yes he’s utterly charming, and no, after 25 minutes his mental machinations remain a mystery, even to himself. Observe.
Years ago, Noel’s animator/artist friend Nigel Coan was at the beach when his son found a shell. “It looked like a face, and we were always laughing at it and going, ‘That’s ridiculous and quite beautiful’,” says Noel. “[Concurrently] I was taken with the idea of doing some silent comedy, something a bit more cartoony; I really like Jacques Tati and Buster Keaton. Nigel had the idea of using that shell as an almost CGI photographic face transplanted onto my head and we were like, ‘Is that going to work?’ Something about its deadness and stillness is really powerful... He’s like a horrific Mr Bean.”
And so we have Daddy Push - one of over 30 colourful characters in Fielding’s utterly bonkers new show, Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy - who grooves to spoken word Sherlock Holmes and makes origami push-up bras.
[Check out the Many Faces of Noel Fielding Gallery... We agonised for ages on the cover shot. Which pic would have you chosen for the cover?]
Birthed with long-term art school friend Nigel Coan - the director and creator of the show’s psychedelic animations - Luxury is Noel’s first outing since the cult-creating The Mighty Boosh with jazz fiend Julian Barratt. Part sketch show, part bizarre sitcom, the six half-hour episodes are insane, surreal and creepy. They are also inspired, strangely hilarious and unlike anything else.
“It’s like a fucked up children’s show,” Fielding purrs in that oh-so familiar voice. “We thought, let’s do a lot of ideas, and leave it quite loose and make it pretty random. 30 seconds or eight minutes - that’s fine, let’s allow ideas the time they deserve. And if they’re just a one-off that’s fine.”
But not even Noel was prepared for his own brain.
“Unfortunately, the thing with me is, I write in a certain way where I like to have a regular group of people for stuff that’s a bit more sitcom-y. There’s sketches where I play a version of myself with an Andy Warhol butler, so the show turned into a half-sketch half-sitcom hybrid which probably was slightly inelegant but we just thought, ‘Fuck it, let’s do everything’. It was like machinegun fire, just opening up the head, and there was a sort of punkness to that I really like, a purity. And it was a bit wonky in places but that’s what I needed to do after the Boosh. This was me going a bit crazy. Especially with the colours.”
Noel’s trademark husky Mutley-esque laugh permeates the entire chat. He becomes particularly chucklesome when recalling the ethos of the show and the pain he put Nigel through.
“We gave the music and the aesthetic as much attention. I probably made a mistake calling it Luxury Comedy!” he laughs. “It felt more like an art project. Aesthetically we wanted to make something that was beautiful but it was too much work for just two people; I think I nearly killed my best friend! People think the Daddy Push shell head is a mask, hilariously, but Nigel painstakingly creates that over the top of my own head and if I don’t keep still enough, it creates an extra week’s work for him. It’s a nightmare!
“Nigel’s brilliant, he came up with so many techniques,” Noel enthuses. “He trusted my comic instincts and I trusted his aesthetic. I ended up working with Sergio from Kasabian; we wrote the tunes together and took that really seriously as well. I think we tried to do too much. But Channel 4 are good; they gave me a second series almost straight away. They were happy for me to experiment and not many people are given that chance. It’s much harder now to get things made. The two people who commissioned my show are always joking about getting fired; it’s hilarious.”
Although there’s nothing set in stone, Noel intends to tour and include Australia. We workshop the idea of how Luxury Comedy the live show could work. “Maybe I could do it like one big costume that you get rid of, each layer revealing a new character? That would be amazing. And then the last one’s your own skin, and you dance about as a skeleton. [A:] ‘Have you seen Noel Fielding’s show? He tears his own skin off and becomes a skeleton.’ [B:] ‘I’ll have to check that out; is it funny?’ [A:] ‘No, it’s horrific...’”
For now we shall have to content ourselves with the first series and the prospect of a second. “I’m going to keep the successful characters, and come up with new ones,” he reveals. “I like Fantasy Man and the cop, and Dondylion. They’re the three main ones. And I like Daddy Push, actually, and Secret Peter. I mean, there was obviously,” he laughs the next words, “some ones which are just for myself, like Doorag and The Audience. You’ve got to do some stuff to keep people on their toes. I’ve got a new one that I’m pretty excited about called The Human Mistake who bores through the earth’s core into award ceremonies and then receives an award and says really inappropriate things; his speeches are always absolutely horrific; everyone pukes up or is absolutely disgusted and then he bores back through the earth. I’m pretty sure he’s going to be a winner!” he beams.
“I might involve a live audience as well. I’m getting excited. I feel like I can go back to narrative. We did so many stories for the Boosh I felt I couldn’t do when writing something on my own but I feel I can go back there, back to the narrative beast, which is a nightmare unto itself, a tapestry of madness, like a Japanese jigsaw. But it’s worth it in the end. Ahhhh comedy... What a weird thing to do.”
There’s a 3500-word transcribed version of this article that you can read by clicking here which I recommend you check out, as we got to talking about dying on stage, Chris Lilley, and how reality TV is like heroin. Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy is out August 22 from all your favourite purveyors of mirth.