This weekend sees Noel Fielding take on one of the biggest challenges he’s ever faced: a live dance-off on BBC1 show Let’s Dance in aid of Comic Relief.
Noel was kind enough to talk exclusively to The Velvet Onion this morning before another long slot of rehearsals.
The first part of our interview, which focuses on this weekend’s performance is below. Part two, in which Noel outlines a little about his plans for the future will follow over the weekend… for now, let’s dance!
Hi, Noel… thanks for talking to us today: we know you’re insanely busy!
Yeah I’m on my way to the studio now, actually – I’ve got to do the dress rehearsal today, which is a bit scary. It’s the first time everyone’s been all together and can see what you’ve been doing for the last two weeks. It’s quite hard to get to that level. I’ve sort of learned what I’ve got to do, but its getting all the bits to look good in the dance at the same time. You always lose one bit, so the middle bits good but the end’s wrong or something. It’s really hard to get everything good.
Obviously when I watch my dance teacher, who is amazing, and then I see myself in the mirror I just go: “OH MY GOD!” In my head, I thought I was doing what my dance teacher was doing, and when I saw myself I was like: “Not quite…” I guess it’d be like them trying to do stand-up. It’s a ridiculously hard thing to learn in such a short space of time, and I’ve never been so tired in all my life. I’m actually knackered all the time.
How did you end up getting involved? Did they ask you, or did you offer yourself up for exhaustion?
They asked me, of course. There’s no way I would have volunteered! [he laughs] Richard Curtis sent me a really long, three page email saying it’d be really good if I could do it. He’s been doing this stuff for twenty years now, so it was a really nice, really well constructed email. There was no way anyone could’ve read it and thought: “Nah, I’m not doing that.”
Then you realise just how much work everyone else is doing for it, and he’s been doing it for so long and still manages to write films and do stuff, so I said yes and then thought: “What have I said that for? What a dick!” It was ages ago when he asked, so you think it’ll be fine, but then as it got closer I thought: “Did I really say I was doing that? What an idiot.” But its fine… it’s been really fun actually.
You’ve done bits and bobs for Comic Relief before, haven’t you?
Yeah… I think me and Julian did a gig once in the middle of the night which was pretty hilariously bad. It was presented by Russell Brand, but by the time we went on it was about half three in the morning, and the people who were in the live audience had been there since about 10 o’clock and they were furious!
I actually wanted to do The Apprentice thing, because I love that show, and I thought that’d be fun but then they said they wanted me to do the dance instead. I think they’re running out of people! I guess there’s six people in each round so it must be quite hard to find people who will do it… so they asked me!
Were you given free rein to pick a dance routine?
That was the first thing I asked about when I went in for it. I did get to choose, so I went away and looked at what’s already been done, which is pretty much all of the most famous dance routines. The big stuff that’s left you look at and think there’s absolutely no way you can learn it in two weeks, so you have to go for something quite simple. I wanted something unusual, though, and I managed to find something… which I’m not allowed to say!
Total secrecy, eh?
Definitely. It’s hilarious when you’re doing press but you’re not allowed to tell people what you’re doing… it’s really odd. You want to say but you really can’t. But the thing I’ve managed to find I’m really excited about, and they were really excited about too, which is good. It’s quite unusual, and I’m not sure how it will go down, but I guess it doesn’t matter really!
Do you think you could go all the way?
I really don’t know. I’ve seen what Lulu’s doing, and it’s pretty amazing, and really mindblowing stuff. I guess it depends how it goes down on the night.
I’d love to get through to the final, just because it’d be fun to come and do it on the main night because it’s been quite a lot of work getting to this stage. I’ve kinda gotten into it now, so if it’s over on Saturday it’ll be like: “That was that. Bye!”
Have you started taking it seriously then?
I’m quite competitive so I have been a bit. I’m not sure how funny it is, but if I can do it well, it’ll be really good. We’ll see.
You’ve had to make a short intro film as well. Were you allowed to run with that a bit more?
They had a few ideas for me, but I just thought I’d like to write it myself. The thing is it’s for 7o’clock on BBC1, and I’ll never ever be on telly at that time again! [he bursts out laughing] That’s not my forum in any way! Even that was a medium I’m not used to… I feel like I’m dreaming in mainstream.
I managed to write something in there for my little niece to be in, because she loves dancing. She’s really excited because she gets to be a fairy. I thought of this idea where she teaches me how to dance, which should look very funny. That was really nice for her. She got to film for a day and dance for the camera, so she’s buzzing that she’s going to be on telly. She’s only seven so that’s probably mindblowing for her. But I’ve no idea what it looks like now, because obviously the production team have cut it together and put music to it and stuff.
I saw some of the other introductions last night, and they’re all pretty broad and quite cheesy, but it is that kind of timeslot. The show is kind of like being punched in the face with rainbows. It gave me a panic attack for about five minutes when I first watched it. But the people on it are so good… that teacher and the young girl from Waterloo Road were really funny, I thought, because they were such an unlikely double act and what they did was hilarious. Russell did really well too. He looked like The Fonz in that outfit. I’ve never really thought he looked like The Fonz before, but dressed as a woman I suddenly couldn’t think of anything else. It was quite disturbing what he did, but I think it was a good choice. Him pretending to be a sexy black woman… there’s a lot of stuff to do with that.
Are you in drag yourself?
[An enormous laugh jumps down the phone-line…]
Not right now, obviously!
I am, now.. of course! It’s weird, because I dressed up in such weird costumes in the Boosh that probably the weirdest thing I could’ve done was pick something really manly. That always freaks people out a bit more. I can’t say but you can probably guess…
Twitter is awash with rumours of you wearing a red dress…
I don’t know where that came from, actually! We haven’t had a dress rehearsal yet. I think someone just made that one up…
It’s a bit weird, because I have only seen glimpses of other people. Jared Christmas has got his kid coming in to watch him train, and she’s so cute, cos they wear the same tracksuit. One of the funniest things I’ve ever seen is him in a blue Adidas tracksuit and his tiny two-year old in the same outfit. It’s the best visual I’ve ever seen… it literally kills me every time. And I’ve met Lulu, who was really nice. I don’t know who else is doing it, actually.
There’s quite a varied mix of contestants really. They’ve got comics, tv presenters and popstars from the past.
It’s weird, because they treat it like a real competition. When you watch the show it’s all light-hearted, but when you train you’re all in separate rooms. They treat it like you’re gladiators or something. Some people take it really seriously and others just aren’t bothered. Apparently when Christopher Biggins did it, he did one rehearsal and thought it’d be alright. He was dressed like Danny from Grease, and just the visual of him in that outfit carried him through the whole show!
It’s going to be fun, though… and it’s quite good to do things in the mainstream every now and then… remind people you’re still there.