Noel Fielding is about to launch a new comedy series on E4, Luxury Comedy. Here the co-creator of The Mighty Boosh talks about bringing his own psychedelic brand of comedy to E4.
Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy is a seven-part comedy show quite unlike anything else on television. We caught up with Noel to find out more and, if anything, ended up even more confused about the show. One thing’s for certain, though: It won’t be boring. Noel Fielding doesn’t do boring!
Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy isn’t your bog-standard sketch show, is it?
[Laughs] Not really, no. It’s kind of like a hybrid. We didn’t want to make it just a sketch show, because I find them a bit cold. And because people know me from Boosh and Buzzcocks, I thought it’d be good if I played a sort of version of myself as well. So it’s all centred around a jungle hut where I live, and I’ve got my brother in it, playing my ant-eater butler, and Andy Warhol’s my cleaner, and then there’s a girl who’s just an annoying trendy who lives next door. I just wanted to get that sitcom element in as well, and then have the weird sketches in there, and try and link them all up in some way. So I guess it’s a bit more than a sketch show, but it’s not a full-on sitcom either. And it’s also a mixture of animation and film. It’s all over the shop, really.
How does the writing process work? Did you write it on your own?
I sort of came up with all the initial ideas, the characters and stuff. And then the guy that I wrote the show with, who’s a guy I went to art school with, Nigel Coan, he’s a director and an animator as well, he worked on the animations on the Boosh, so when it came to writing the scripts, we sort of wrote everything together, really. I had ideas for a lot of the characters already, but we wrote it together. And he’s directing it and animating it, and I’m in it, so it’s a joint thing, really. It’s much easier to write with two of you.
Why is that?
When you’re writing on your own, you sort of reach a dead end, and you’ve got to give it some space before you can come back to it and think of another idea. When there’s two of you, someone can just say one thing and it can fire you off in another direction.
Are you guys on the same wavelength? If you go to him and you say ‘My butler should be an ant-eater, and we could have a manta ray who used to work in the music industry,’ does he immediately know what you’re on about?
Yeah. 100 per cent. Because we went to art school together, we’ve known each other for 15 years, and we’ve always had the same sense of humour. We’ve lived together and been best mates for years. Me and Julian (from the Boosh) have got really similar senses of humour, but me and Nige have a really similar sense of humour. It’s really specific, it’s much more surreal and weird. Me and Julian were much more interested in story and plot, whereas this is much more what a show would be like if Salvador Dali had made it. What’s great about working with an animator is that I can say “Can a racing car come out of someone’s fringe and drive over their head?” and he’ll just go “Yeah, I can do that.”
It’s really useful. It helps to be able to know really quickly what we are and aren’t able to do. And he thinks visually, so he will often add visual jokes. I’m quite dialogue-heavy. So it works really well. There’s loads of visual stuff, there are a lot of scenes with no dialogue in them at all, and I’m really pleased with them. There’s science fiction slapstick, a cooking show that doesn’t have any talking, there’s a character who’s a freaky Mr Bean, with a shell for a head and an Adidas top on. He’s quite frightening.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Usually not other comedy. Nature. I love going to the zoo, often that really sparks me off, for some reason. The woods as well. I always love The Jungle Book, I reread it over and over again. And paintings. I like Henri Rousseau, and Dali. I like some really freaky films, like Jodorowsky’s films, stuff like The Holy Mountain. A writer called Richard Brautigan – he’s a lesser-known beat writer, he wrote a book called Trout Fishing in America. I really like his stuff. I dunno really, I just go about and gather up ideas as I go, and just scratch them down in a notepad.
It looks incredible – it’s a complete visual feast. Was that always the intention?
Yeah, totally. We’re both art students, and we wanted to make something that looked beautiful as well as being funny. But then we were really conscious of putting loads of jokes in it, so people wouldn’t just say “Oh, it looks really good, but it isn’t very funny.” That would be the worst thing. But we wanted to make something beautiful. People like Ardman and Disney still make really beautifully crafted stuff, but they have a lot of money. I’m really excited about it, I really love it, but I’ve been working on this for so long now, I’m not quite sure what it is that we’ve made. I’m looking forward to some feedback. It’s so experimental as well. Hopefully even if it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, they’ll appreciate the amount of craft that’s gone into it.
Your face is constantly a different colour in the show. How much time did you spend in make-up?
Actually that was a nightmare, because my face started to collapse after about a month. The make-up girl we used on the Boosh, and she’s absolutely amazing. In the pilot, I just did all the make-up myself, with children’s face paints. It was a terrible idea – my face just started crumbling. But she’s really good at giving you creams and oils and stuff. And when your face has had enough, she’ll send you for a facial massage and say “He needs a couple of days to recuperate.” I was turning into Lon Chaney – every day was a different character. Some days it was three different characters. I’m covered in paint, then I have lots of stuff stuck on, and wigs and so on.
And it was really hot when we were filming. Everyone else was outside enjoying the sun between takes, and I was dressed as a lion with prosthetic stuff all over my head, going “What am I doing?” And they were like “Well, you wrote it!”
Did it get confusing, playing so many different characters?
[Laughs] Yeah. All the sketchy characters I played in one chunk over six weeks. It was three different characters every day. Then we went to the studio to do the hut stuff, where I was sort of playing a version of myself, and on the first day, Nige went “What are you doing?” And I said “I don’tknow.” He said “You’re doing something weird. Just be yourself.” And I went “Which one am I again?” I’d slightly gone insane. I’d been doing the weird voices for so long that I’d forgotten what I was. I erased my own personality. It was well weird.
You’ve had Sergio Pizzorno (of Kasabian) involved on the music side as well, haven’t you?
Yeah, that was amazing. It was such good timing. I met him and we’d become mates, and I did the Vlad the Impaler video, and it just all happened pretty naturally. Then this came along, and I wanted to do some music, but I can play some bass badly and sing, and that’s about it, so I knew I’d need someone else to collaborate with. So I asked Serge and he said yes. And it was pretty easy. I’d go up to his house in Leicester, and we’d always manage to get a song in a couple of hours. It was really good fun. We had so much material, we decided it had to go out as an album. Now we’ve formed a band called The Loose Tapestries, and we’re threatening to do gigs. We’ve signed a deal to put it out as an album.
You’ve mentioned your brother is co-starring in the series. What’s that like?
[Laughs] It’s the only time I get to see him. He lives in Southwold, and I live in North London, and we don’t get to see each other enough. I think Mike’s hilarious. He’s just really natural. He’s not from an acting background, so he just does stuff how he would do it. It really cracks me up. But I would choose him anyway, just so we got to hang out. We love doing stuff together. My mum and dad love it.
What does he do when he’s not working with you?
He’s writing something, actually, with a friend of his who does comedy as well. And he’s DJ-ing all over the place. Russia and America and Australia and stuff. He turned into a bit of a superstar DJ after the Boosh. He initially got booked as Naboo [his Boosh character] as a celebrity DJ, but then he started taking it seriously, got good at it, and then started getting booked by everyone, and doing massive gigs. He did a gig with Fatboy Slim in Brighton, and he’s travelling the world. I’m pretty sure he was earning a lot more money than all of us, and just getting flown around. He had oysters on his rider and stuff, it was hilarious. He was living the dream for a bit.
It sounds like you’ve really enjoyed the process of making Luxury Comedy, is that right?
Yeah, totally! The thing with me and Julian is we had 13 years together doing stuff, it was like a marriage. We did need a break, and I started working on this, and he started doing his other stuff, and before you know it, you’ve been working for 18 months to two years on something. But I do want to work with Julian again in the future, definitely.
Having worked so closely with Julian in the past, does it feel like added pressure that this will be seen as your solo stuff?
Yeah, a little bit. I read a comment on Twitter the other day that really made me laugh. A girl said “Noel Fielding’s trailers for Luxury Comedy are cracking me up, but I’ve got a feeling it’s not actually going to be that funny.” I just thought “You’ve only seen one trailer, and you loved it, but you still don’t think the show’s going to be any good.” I think there’s an element of people who loved the Boosh and don’t want to see us doing anything separate. There’s quite a lot of baggage when you do something separate. There’s people who never quite manage to disconnect themselves from a double act. It’s a bit like if you’re in a band. It can be done though. I think I’ve made it different enough from the Boosh. I’m really proud of it.
You clearly love what you do. What are the best and worst things about your job?
The best things are creatively I get to do whatever I want, and get paid for it. That’s the dream. You only have to go and do a job you don’t enjoy to really appreciate how easy you have it. I’m really, really fortunate. The weird thing is the longer you do it, the more people know who you are, so there’s always a flip side.
Are you uncomfortable with that?
No, not really, I don’t mind people coming up to me at all. But there’s always some weird element, like I’ve been in the tabloids and stuff, caught up in a few things that were a bit unsavoury. It’s not so much you that’s bothered, it’s just if it affects your friends or family. It’s yin and yang, for every good thing that happens, there has to be some weird stuff. But I’ve been so lucky, really.
Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy starts Thursday 26th January, 10pm, on E4