Inside the kaleidoscopic mind of Noel Fielding
Bridie Pearson-Jones talks to Noel Fielding about his new tour, how doing comedy is like having your teeth pulled out, and his dark psychedelic inspirations for his comedy.
The first thing that struck me when Noel Fielding gave me a call was his overwhelming energy and enthusiasm, not far from the man you see on Never Mind The Buzzcocks. “Is that Birdie?” he quips. “No,” I giggle, “it’s Bridie, but I get that a lot”. To my surprise, this excites him no end and he screams “Birdie, Birdie, she’s called Bridie…sorry, my girlfriend’s called Birdie and she was really annoyed it was your name too…anyway how are you, are you in Spain? Bet the weathers great there, its really moggy here, if I was doing the weather I’d say just don’t bother”.
Our whole interview continues at this mile-at-minute pace, Fielding was a hyped up ball of energy bouncing every answer back to me. It’s no surprise that Fielding is a jack-of-all-trades, regularly performing on TV, stage, and stand-up, even dabbling in animation, music and art. His favourite thing to-do? He tells me painting. “It’s really relaxing, comedy is hard. People really don’t appreciate how hard comedy is. Doing comedy is like having your wisdom teeth out, it’s scary. You know that feeling your get the month before the dentist? That’s what comedy’s like. TV is good too, but your don’t know what you’re making. You’re performing to no one, you never know if it’s any good, unless you look on the Internet. But that’s always dangerous; it’s not good for your health. But you can tell if people like you on stage.’
Fielding’s style of comedy is undoubtedly unique, often touted as an ‘enjoyable holiday from reality’ Fielding tells me he doesn’t like the word ‘surreal’ but prefers ‘magical or fantastical, because it [the comedy] has an internal logic’. He continues he wanted ‘[Noel Fielding’s] luxury [comedy] to be like a black acid nightmare. I wanted it to be kaleidoscopic, I was in a weird place, that’s what happens in your life, my comedy reflects where I am, I wanted a horrific psychedelic surge. But luxury was more than comedy, it was an art piece, a brain splurge, I wanted a charming magical story’.
Part of that ‘magical story’ was the iconic characters Fielding’s played, from exaggerated versions of himself, to Andy Warhol, to various anthropomorphic animals and imaginary creatures. His favourite to play? He can’t name one. ‘From the [Mighty] Boosh, I really like doing Tony Harrison ‘cause he’s like a Dad, he likes to take coach trips with his wife and listen to Fleetwod Mac’
He adds, he loves to play ‘Old Gregg too’ the hermaphroditic merman with a cannibalistic nature, as ‘he’s the most psychotic’. The character most like himself? ‘The Hitcher, he’s great to play too, as he’s a grand old cockney geezer who’s reasonable in his terror.’
And from the ‘Luxury’? Fielding tells me ‘I do like the Sandman, he’s vulnerable, insane, he’s Don Quixote. I like the Old Cop too, he’s got gravitas, he’s fat, he’s the completely opposite to me, he’s got that New York swagger’. ‘And then there’s Dondy Lion too, but he makes me feel ill to play, he’s so loose and gabber, I start to feel mad, like a lion in psycho ward’
A lot of Fielding’s characters, like Fielding himself have an iconic look. This year, Fielding was named in GQ’s prestigious ‘Top 50 best dressed men’.
‘My mum was really into clothes, but I was pretty chavvy from Croydon, until I went to art college. When I started art college I was surrounded by people who dressed incredibly, and loads made their own clothes [sic]. When the [Mighty] Boosh started, we thought it would be funny if Vince [Noir, Fielding’s character] was really eccentric, the problem was after a while I didn’t know where Vince stopped and Noel began, I loved wearing glitter catsuits, although I’m not thin enough for that anymore. In stand-up though you don’t want to be dressed like that, you need to be more neutral. Being eccentric’s fine in the double act, when I’m dressed as a monkey and Julian [Barrat] is dressed as a teabag, but in stand-up they [the audience] don’t want to see you ponce about, they want to see you sweat.”
Fielding grew to fame through a double act, and he thanks his Mighty Boosh co-star Julian Barratt for shaping his career. ‘Stand up’s okay, because I started out doing that, if I hadn’t met Julian I’d probably have ended up a bit like Eddie Izzard. The [Mighty] Boosh replaced my stand up, but I do like stand up, it’s pure, you make friends with the audience, in my new tour, I do some stuff with my brother [Michael Fielding], I’ve got some animation, and some audience involvement. It’s more like a play or a circus than stand-up, we spent 8 months writing it, I’m really excited.”
Aside from stand-up and the Might Boosh, Fielding’s most famous for being a team captain since 2009 on BBC2’s Never Mind the Buzzcocks. Recently, it was announced it was being axed after 18 years. “I’m gutted. I love Phil Jupitus, I’m good at the double act, I gravitate towards the double act, I work well with my brother, with Phil [Jupitus], with Julian [Barratt], with Russell [Brand], with Richard [Ayoade]. When there are two of you, you become and amalgamation [sic], it’s like the Marx brothers; I think they’re amazing, but Groucho Marx wouldn’t be anywhere near as funny alone. Being in a double act is something I really like. I’m really good mates with Phil, and I’ve learned a lot from him, he’s such an interesting character.” His favourite Buzzcocks moment? ‘Being spanked by Lorraine Kelley was pretty good. I was really hungover when we filmed that episode. Being hungover can really work for you in comedy, sometimes it’s rubbish, but that day it worked really well. I was loose, I had less inhabitations. I’m going to miss Buzzcocks, it’s a bit less agro and a bit more indy than other panel shows, it wasn’t just 6 men being brash, we had lots of women on, and lots of pop stars on. But it’s all good, everything must come to an end!”
Fielding’s big break came on BBC3, when he starred in the Mighty Boosh, now, BBC3 is closing ‘We’re in a massive transition, internet is where everything is going, and TV is suffering as a result, there’s just too many channels. If you miss a TV show, you can always get it back [sic]. There’s no panic like there use to be to get home and watch your programme. There are thousands of channels with nothing on, it’s all shit, there’s so much bad reality TV and celebrity driven stuff. We need channels like BBC2, BBC 3, BBC 4, because of BBC 3, BBC2 AND 4 have had more freedom, now they’re going to suffer. We’re in a funny period, they’ve not worked out a way of doing it yet, kids watch TV now on their laptops and phones, they don’t gather round the TV like they use to.
The Mighty Boosh is now a cult classic spawning books, radio shows, TV shows, and many live tours. It appears, the Boosh is done and dusted now, but a lot of the fandom speculate a movie, Fielding tells me the speculation isn’t completely fabricated. ‘I’d like to, we’d both like to, it would be a great full stop to the Boosh, I’d love to do 5 road movies, because in road movies your trapped, it creates a great dynamic. It’s just about getting the right time. Julian’s just started a movie, and I have an idea for a time travelling film, but never say never.
An Evening with Noel Fielding will take place in November and December this year, after, he’ll continue his tour abroad, going to the USA. Last time he went aboard, Fielding loved it “Australia knocked my socks off, the Boosh is very popular there, I wasn’t ready for that kind of reception that far from home. The gigs there are great, they sold out so quickly. I walked in thinking it’ll be fun, but I was really humbled by it. And New Zealand is so far away, the idea I have fans there is bizarre, I love performing in England too, as it’s where I’m from. The US is new territory from me, it’s gong to be interesting. I wonder what it’ll be like performing as New York cop in New York.