Onion Talking: The Ambassador Of The Freaks
In part 1 of our exclusive interview with Noel Fielding he talked about his book of paintings Scribblings of a Madcap Shambleton, and his new TV show Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy. In part 2 we find out what’s really going on with the Boosh, what Noel thinks about the current state of British comedy, and what he makes of twitter. Plus a fairly major musical revelation! Velveteer Mog brings you the inside track:
I wasn’t planning to ask Noel Fielding about The Mighty Boosh. But then the conversation drifted towards the twitter-based petitions to ‘bring back the Boosh’ which are currently doing the rounds (which Noel was unaware of and, mercifully, we’ve finally stopped being spammed about!). He seems both touched and a little confused by the continued strength of feeling the series elicits from fans. “I’m surprised and shocked at how many people still come up to me about the Boosh going ‘Oh my god, I love the Boosh – it’s amazing!’. I love it, but it’s odd. I’m so chuffed that it’s been this timeless thing that doesn’t seem to have dated. I guess we tried to make it so it wouldn’t date, it’s not full of modern references and it’s not disposable. I guess it could have been from the 50s or it could have been from the future.”
When Noel talks about the Boosh and his partnership with Julian Barratt there’s a sense that he appreciates it was, and indeed is, something special: “I love the Boosh and I’ll always love the Boosh. I’m really proud of it. Julian’s one of the best performers around.”
But his unique attachment to it also means it’s not something he can take lightly – it’s too important for that. Everything has to be right for them to work together, and it wasn’t quite there when the two of them started to write a film last year. “When we came together to write a film we’d just written so much stuff together we just couldn’t face sitting in a room for another year writing. We both had to have a break…but we could easily write a film quite quickly. I think we will end up doing something together again – we’ve left it so long now we should probably leave it a bit longer and then come back and do something good. I don’t think we should try and hurry into it.” This need to keep the work that the two of them do together a cut above is also evident when Noel talks about the decision not to use Julian in Luxury Comedy, something which they both agreed on. “What me and Julian have is really special, so if I’d put him in it in a lesser way…” his voice trails off, then he adds emphatically, “He’s too good for that.”
Noel’s also aware that the two of them have different priorities now, with Julian understandably wanting to spend more time with his family. “He doesn’t want to be out on the road for hundred date tours, whereas it’s fine for me because I love that. But I think if you’ve got kids that’s the last thing you want to be doing.” Live gigs are something Noel relishes, and he refers to the joys of performing in front of a live audience several times during our interview: “It’s much more direct and immediate. You have an idea and you just do it, you have a thought and you can just say it. It’s happening there and then and it becomes special to that crowd because it’s just happening for that night. On the Boosh tour we improvised it to the point it couldn’t be stretched any more. By a hundred dates we literally didn’t know what else we could do!” I tell him that some of the more hardcore fans went to so many shows on the last tour that spotting the ad libs each night became something of a game. He finds this a hoot.
So how does Noel feel now about the world of the Boosh, the world that has occupied so much of his adult life? He speaks slightly hesitantly, as if realising his words will be poured over by fans eager to read that a new series is just around the corner, “I love the Boosh, but now when I think of Old Gregg or the Hitcher they’re like people I don’t hang around with any more, or like my friends from five years ago. I think ‘I like those guys but I haven’t really been in touch with them for a while – I need to ring Old Gregg.’ But I can’t – because what I think about now is Fantasy Man and New York Cop, my new characters (from Luxury Comedy).”
We talk about the enduring popularity of the Boosh characters that he and Julian created, and their more recent role as must-have Halloween costumes. “I think the fans and the public own them a bit more than we do now.” He says, “But they’re still special to us and they remind me of Julian and all the stuff we did together, which is really nice.” Then before anyone arrives at the wrong conclusion that their friendship is in the past, he jumps in to reassure, “We’re still mates. We live in the same block – I can see into his front room and he can see into my bedroom; I think he’s got a better deal!”
Noel recounts some heartwarming stories about the balcony-to-balcony communication they enjoy; the way he describes their living arrangement sounds a little like a modern-day Morcambe & Wise. He tells a wonderfully revealing story about a recent encounter they had while he was getting ready to go out: “It’s weird, I’ve been getting into jazz….and I’m not allowed to really. But I was listening to jazz and I saw Julian coming up the path where we live. I’m getting ready in my bedroom, dancing, thinking ‘He can’t ever know that I’m dancing to Miles Davies!’” Noel bursts into his distinctive laugh, perhaps tickled by the significance of this admission. “Aaah, The Jazz…” he sighs, ever so slightly Vince-like, “It gets all of us; you can run but you can’t hide.”
Although much-loved by fans, one of the downsides of the mainstream popularity of the Boosh is how it ultimately impacted on Noel’s ability to develop new material; audiences loved everything he did, regardless of what he did. He explains, “It makes it very hard to write stand-up because the people who know me from the Boosh laugh at everything, and they just want you to do Boosh stuff. You never get the chance to hone your stand-up because it never really gets put through the mill. Whereas comedians who aren’t known will tell a joke and people say ‘Yeah, that’s quite funny mate, but you might want to top that with another four jokes’. I started getting into that position with the Boosh where I couldn’t write anything, because as soon as I came out of a concert people would go ‘That’s amazing!’ and I’d think ‘Well, no. That’s not amazing’. It makes it very hard to write – it’s nicer if an audience gives you a fair review.”
This leads to a discussion about the set of challenges facing comedians who don’t have a public profile. He cites Paul Foot as a case in point (who Noel is a huge fan of, having worked with Foot on his 2010 Edinburgh Show, Ash in the Attic). “Paul Foot doesn’t compromise. He’s in the zone, so when he gets there it’ll be on his own terms. Exposure from telly would mean that he can do bigger gigs and more people would find out about him though.”
This is a topic that Noel has strong views about: “The problem is nowadays if you don’t do telly shows it’s hard to do proper live shows; there’s no way of penetrating the system any more – unfortunately that’s the way it is. It’s always the same people on these big, glossy stand-up shows and you just go ‘Are these the only people alive?’ No offence to any of these people, they’re all good comics but they’re very mainstream. Occasionally someone weird will get on and everyone watching it gets really upset. You need to have both – you want people who are doing really interesting stuff to be on television too, and yet there’s no forum for them at the moment, nowhere – it’s madness!” Noel suddenly catches himself getting on a soapbox and grins, “It’s not like I’m some ambassador for the struggling freaks! The problem is I get excited about these things, and then I just don’t have time to do anything about it.”
That said, he’s been toying with the beginnings of an idea for a TV series, along the lines of an alternative Michael McIntyre’s Roadshow. “I would possibly host it, and it would have all the freaks on it. It’d be very home-made and DIY, and in a small theatre.” The idea of Fielding as a kind of Michael McIntyre for the Dark Side sounds too good to be true – fans of interesting comedy can only hope it happens!
Noel is canny enough to appreciate that his media profile could provide a helpful platform for less well-known comics. The relatively mainstream awareness he enjoys comes in part from his three series as team captain on Never Mind the Buzzcocks, alongside Phill Jupitus. “Buzzcocks is a bit odd because it’s not my show. Phill’s really good to work with and I have a good laugh. I think my skill as a comedian is being able to work with a lot of different people, like Paul Foot, or Julian, or Phill Jupitus, or Russell Brand. I’m pretty good like that, socially, with people. I can get along with anyone and I can get the best out of people, I think.”
It’s one of the reasons why Noel’s keen to direct at some point, suggesting that he’d like to, “Write and direct a really insane film, but a funny one as well…like The Holy Mountain.” He’d also like to release a stand-up album. One can’t help but wonder when he’s going to find the time to get round to all of these things.
First, however, he’d like to take some time out to recharge his creative batteries, “After Luxury Comedy I might just run a way for three months somewhere – to try to get inspired again. When you make stuff you can’t just keep making stuff in Soho or in your house. You need a few months to just go around looking at horses or whatever, just flying kites. Do life stuff so you get some new ideas. Otherwise it’s all the same.” He smiles at the appealing, yet alien, notion of taking time off. Let’s hope he manages to get round to it one day.
With our interview nearing an end, I throw in a few quick-fire questions to wring every last drop of information out of our conversation:
If you were a pub what would you be called? “Floppy Hump.” he replies without pausing, referring to the title of one of his paintings. He toys with the idea of changing it to ‘Floppy Pump’, but then says “I’m terrible at puns, I don’t really understand how they work.” Floppy Hump it is then.
Do you have any other twitter accounts besides @noelfielding11? “No. I wish people would stop pretending to be me in a really unfunny way. It’s the worst thing for a comedian: the people who don’t like what you do anyway just hate you even more, and you’re thinking ‘It wasn’t even me.’” Noel has something of a love/hate relationship with twitter; he likes the speed and immediacy of it, and sees its potential as an interesting source of material: “People say really funny things. When I write a story I get 20 tweets for every line I write. It’s a bit like a party game, it’s really good fun if you just use it for that.”
What he struggles with, however, is how judgemental people can sometimes be online: “It’s insane, I said thank you to the people who came to one of the book signings and then all the people who couldn’t come got annoyed. It’s like saying thanks to someone who opens the door for you and then also having to say ‘Thanks to everyone who didn’t open the door because I know you’re really good people as well’. I can’t thank everyone. People said ‘But we’re you fans too’ and I thought ‘I know, but I’m just thanking the people who came to a book signing.’ It’s bizarre.”
And with that our conversation finally draws to a close. After a flurry of thank you’s Noel returns to the windowless edit suite next door to continue nurturing his latest creative baby, Luxury Comedy. Based on what we’ve seen of the show, what he’s said about it, and what his plans are beyond the series, fans of Noel’s work can look forwards to a busy, bountiful and quite possibly rather beautiful 2012.
A seriously big Velvet Onion thank you to Noel for finding the time in his busy schedule to talk to us.
Amazing interview! Thank you so much x
He’s such an inspiring person, I can’t even express how much.
The bit about his relationship with Julian was so sweet, it made me want to cry..
(“What me and Julian have is really special, so if I’d put him in it in a lesser way… He’s too good for that.”)
Thank you for this lovely interview! I can’t help but wish that we got the chance to see more of Julian, in either solo work or Boosh-related work, but nobody could fault him his reasons for staying out of the public eye for a bit.
I can’t wait for Luxury Comedy, and as long as interesting comedy is to be had(Mongrels!), I am happy to let the Boosh lie fallow.
Also, I’m just being nitpicky, but I think you mean “wring” every drop, not ring. Also on part one of the interview it’s “peals” of laughter, not “peels.” Unless you were going for the oniony pun. 😀 Peals means loud or ringing, and wring means squeeze and twist to force liquid out of something.
Ooh, loving your proof reading skills! Thanks, you get to the point when writing interviews up where you can’t see the wood for the trees. Consider it done.
Yay! It was kind of driving me bonkers, but I’m glad to be of service! 😀
Thanks for putting the twitter thing to rest. The people seriously debating whether these derivative, deeply unfunny twitter accounts were really Fielding trolling (as if he’s nothing better to do with his time!) were about to give me an aneurysm. Wonderful interview allround, cheers 🙂
Mog, you are my favourite person in the world – I love your writing. I say this to you all the time but I’m saying it publicly. xox
Fankya TVO once again for a great interview!
great interview!! You really cant help but love Noel, i’ve not met him but he seems so genuinely lovely to everyone! Really looking forward to seeing Luxury! it sounds like we’re in for a treat! A different flavoured treat but no less fabulous! Thank you for keeping us posted and updated! Please keep up the good work!
I think Noel’s right in a way. Success is too glossy and produced. At the same time, you can overwork yourself at achieving ‘brilliance.’ Over-egged, so to speak.There is a difference between working at being ‘brilliant’ and just ‘being,’in my view, i.e., I’m a big fan of Kate Bush, but so many artists/performers try too hard at being ‘kooky’ and Kate just IS. I love her, also I love Noel of course and The Boosh. Although,maybe he should relax a little. I also expressed my disappointment at not being able to see Noel for a booksigning, but I didn’t demand an apology or thank you – thought I’d add that in. Oops! I over-egged it!
In past non Velvet Onion Boosh interviews I’ve read, i got the impression that there was a possible chance of there being two Boosh films in future. Reading this interview I’m getting the impression that might not be the case. I did enjoy this inteview but I’m still feeling rather unsure where this leaves the Boosh.
Regardless, i love the Velvet Onion and I look forward to whats to come in future. ❤
I think what Noel’s saying is they did sit down to write a film but didn’t complete it because the timing wasn’t right at that stage. You’re right that he has said in other interviews that they’d started on 2 possible film routes. He says here that they could easily finish it off, but they want to wait until it feels right. At the moment there’s a lot of other stuff going on.
Although a lot of Boosh fans are looking forwards to the next time they work together, when creativity and human beings enter into the equation I guess it’s difficult to work to a pre-determined schedule.
Thanks for the wonderful interview velvet onion folk.
However, I really think ‘Noel Fielding: Ambassador for Struggling Freaks’ would be a great way to introduce yourself to people. It might catch on.
Great interview, thank you so much! And Noel is just so genuinely lovely and sweet. Can’t wait for Luxury Comedy! 😀 x x
Wow, what a refreshing interview! Thank you for providing us with fabulous insight on Boosh, Noel and his eccentric plans for the future. I think any respecting fan should appreciate that Boosh was something special, magic really, and that the end of the show really wasn’t an ending at all. Respectfully, perfection need not be strung out simply for the fans. Mr. Fielding is much more than Vince Noir and Julian has his fairy-tale family to cherish (I have a soft spot for his family structure, being a twin myself).
Boosh aside, I anxiously await Luxury Comedy and hope it will be easily accessible to the U.S. audience. I am on the edge of my seat in anticipation for a new world of characters. Fielding exudes a level of creativity that far surpasses any other comedian/artist/writer… “Scribblings” is evidence of his boundless imagination. Fielding deserves an extravagant vacation. Flying kites, looking at horses… who knows what other unique, whimsical ideas he could generate with some time to himself.
Thanks for addressing the Twitter issue… some fans get too carried away. May this be a slap on the wrist to anyone who considers themselves a fan and chooses to tweet as Noel. I will admit, I do follow Noel and don’t mind being woken up to “rainbow mince meat 5 incest 2”- his gift with words allows me to slip away, if only for a moment, from this chaotic lifestyle that is college.
Thanks again! Mog, you are an inspiration to moi, a lowly journalism student. I wonder if we would be so blessed as to get this kind of quality interview with Julian? The life of a father is well worth an article!
Thanks for your lovely positivity, Eeva! We’d love to interview Julian too! One day maybe….*hopes*
Great interview! Really can’t wait for 2012, Noel is such a brilliant man, I met him in manchester last weekend! x
This was a lovely interview. I continue to admire and appreciate Noel’s sense of integrity regarding his work, and I feel for him that he wants to please everybody (you can’t, but it’s nice he wants to try). He gives sooo much to the fans, and I hope he knows we appreciate it.
I’m kind of glad he plans to take time off. Work/life balance is sooo important! It just reminds me further what an amazing person he is, a source of inspiration, and what an intellectually creative and emotionally healthy place he seems to be in.
And as a New Yorker, I’m really looking forward to meeting New York Cop! Thanks for a wonderful and insightful piece.
What a wonderful interview. Noel comes across as such a generous man – thanks, Mog! Like everyone else, I’m really looking forward to Luxury Comedy, and as much as I miss the Boosh I completely appreciate his need to wind down a little. I think that whenever the Boosh returns, the fans will welcome it back with open arms, however it comes.
On another note, is anybody else having problems with email alerts? I didn’t get any updates via my hotmail today (15th) – is it just me?
It’s not just you, some of us at TVO are having problems too! It’s really annoying and we’ve contacted support to see if they know anything. Hopefully things will go back to normal soon! x
Great, thank you so much. 🙂
Hi! Has the email notifications started working for you again? If not, try unsubscribing and resubscribing (turning it on and off again ;)). x
the second part is just as great as the first well done tvo!!! 😀
Fantasy man and New York cop sound really intruiging characters. Can’t wait to meet them! Great interview btw – well written and tons of meaty metaphorical morsels to get our teeth into. It’s interesting how he describes Old Gregg and the original Boosh characters as old friends he used to hang out with. I guess when you are occupied writing dialogue for these characters day in, day out they become a large part of your internal landscape. I can understand why he had to move on though – his imagination is prolific and he had to “give birth”(inside his head!) to new characters and ideas which is great for us as it never gets jaded! Maybe the Boosh film will materialise yet! Still I respect the fact that they would not turn out sub-standard material just for the sake of it! I can’t wait to see the trailer they produce for Luxury Comedy. I read somewhere that it incorporates “green screen” – though I have absolutely no idea what that is!