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An Afternoon With Noel Fielding 

Wednesday, Mar 30 2016

Though outlandish costumes are an integral element in Noel Fielding's smash BBC 3 show The Mighty Boosh and his follow-up, Noel Fielding's Luxury Comedy, he's not hard to spot out in the wild. When he arrives at The Station in Jackson Square, there's no mistaking the comedian with the eyeliner, black feather-lined coat, and shag-glam black hair.

As soon as we start speaking, a stranger approaches. "I love your hair," she says, prompting Fielding to laugh and flash her a warm smile.

"I don't even think I've touched it today," he replies.

Fielding's look isn't the result of vanity, but rather the visual lens through which he approaches comedy. As a graduate of Croydon Art School in London, he says the space an art education offers allowed him to try his hand at photography and film, before he eventually discovered his passion for humor. But even as his comedy career took off, he never stopped drawing and painting. In 2015, he hosted an exhibition of his art at the Royal Albert Hall, and counts Ringo Starr among the collectors of his work.

Rendering comedy from a visual standpoint hasn't always worked to his advantage, however. He attributes the mixed success of Noel Fielding's Luxury Comedy — the show he co-created with artist Nigel Coan after The Mighty Boosh disbanded — to the fact that the two visually minded art students won complete creative control.

"I felt like we concentrated on what it was going to look like so much that we got sucked into the techniques of the animation, costumes, and makeup," he says. "There was almost like too much of that, and so the comedy got drowned out."

In fairness, Luxury Comedy wasn't the product of two kids fresh out of college with a big budget and a fractured vision. Speaking with Fielding, it's clear how intensely he thinks about the projects he pursues, and the myriad elements that go into them. Recalling a benefit dinner he attended, Fielding giddily relays his excitement at being sat next to original Monty Python member and animation legend Terry Gilliam.

The two became so immersed in their conversation that they failed to notice when one of The Kinks approached their table to say hi.

"We were having such a deep conversation about Don Quixote and all these crazy things, and bonding so much," Fielding recalls. "Ray Davies came over to say hello, and he just stood there, and neither of us noticed he was there, and we were just chatting away and then after a while he got bored and left."

Fielding says that when his girlfriend later chastised him for ignoring Davies, he was devastated. (He also admonishes himself for "name-dropping like a motherfucker," but Fielding has earned the right to rub elbows with luminaries like Gilliam and Davies. After all, The Mighty Boosh was a cult show that took the world by storm, incorporating surreal and absurd elements into narrative comedy.)

The show found many notable allies, including every member of Monty Python, who invited Fielding to do a bit as part of their reunion shows at London's O2 Arena in 2014. When the Boosh played The Bowery in New York and The Roxy in Los Angeles following the conclusion of their third and final series for BBC 3, they found Mike Myers pitching them movie ideas, Jack Black eager to produce something with them, and Robin Williams sharing his impressions of his favorite characters from the show. Fielding laments that the timing was wrong for all the offers they received.

"Unfortunately, when the Boosh came to America and it was at its height, we were disintegrating. We'd been at it for 15 years and we'd kind of had enough."

After their U.S. shows, The Mighty Boosh disbanded, with Fielding going on to Luxury Comedy and co-creator Julian Barratt taking on assorted small projects while mainly focusing on his family. While Fielding wouldn't say anything definite, he's very hopeful that a reunion is on the horizon.

"The magic thing that I have with Julian, I don't feel I'm going to find it ever again," he says. "So I feel like we should do something else."

In the interim, Fielding has created a new stage show, appropriately titled "An Evening with Noel Fielding," that's toured the world. In typical Fielding fashion, it features stand-up, various characters, a member of the audience being transported into an animation, and sketches. While Fielding originally imagined the show as a stand-up endeavor, he says he knew he could never do that exclusively.

"All my ideas, I want to see them," he says. "So it's not enough just to talk about them. In my show, in my stand-up, my wife's having an affair with a triangle — but I want to see that triangle and I want to know who he is, and I want to have an argument with him. I have to visualize these things for my own sanity. Otherwise, they don't feel complete."


About The Author

Zack Ruskin

Zack Ruskin

Zack was born in San Francisco and never found a reason to leave. He has written for Consequence of Sound, The Believer, The Millions, and The Rumpus. He is still in search of a Bort license plate.


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