With Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy set to launch this week, TVO’s editor in chief Paul Holmes takes a moment to reflect on why the show may be exactly what alternative comedy needs right now: a true alternative.
Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy is a show like no other you’ll see on television in 2012. It’s a show that has spent years gestating in the heads of its dual creators, Noel Fielding and Nigel Coan. It’s a show that combines live-action with animation in a crayola-drenched world filled with cartoon characatures that seem to have leapt straight out of the imagination of Fielding – as his longterm friend and colleague Dave Brown so eloquently put when talking to TVO last year – the show is a bit like downloading Noel’s brain.
More than a year in the actual, physical making, Luxury Comedy brings together a number of talents from that wider world of Booshdom we’ve been shouting about since our inception, and who we’ve all collectively been enjoying on stage and screen for the past fifteen years. Whilst its fair to say the show can never topple The Mighty Boosh in the hearts of many, the trick to watching Luxury Comedy is to block out all thoughts of that looming shadow of a cult classic and just enjoy the madness on its own terms.
Take for example, the character of Dondelion, images of which have been released to the press. On the surface, a cynical viewer may suggest he is a cast-off from the Boosh – a lost side-project from the days of the Zooniverse. They would be wrong. Dondelion, like every other character Noel and Nigel have created – and there are many – is a brand new beast, the only similarities being that he has come from the same brilliant mind that co-created all those Boosh characters of yesteryear.
We’ve been living with the pilot since the summer of last year now, when Noel and his team at Secret Peter kindly invited The Velvet Onion to visit the set and document our findings. It’s multi-coloured, surrealistic world admittedly took us all by surprise on first viewing, but whilst not everyone was immediately in hysterics, repeat viewings found the laughs increased and, amazingly, a whole new realm of quotes and catchphrases subconsciously crept into our everyday lexicon. We’ve been yelling “Fish Finger For Later” at one another since then, and random injections of “Paulsaid”, “LEEEGGGGOOOOHHHHH!” and rambling speeches about bikes, Gary Glitter and single baked beans have interjected our daily thoughts to the point where we started to wonder if we had developed a new form of madness. The show may be like downloading Noel’s brain, but more specifically it seems, for diehard fans that download will embed itself into the infrastructure of your mind’s root folders like a particularly shiny virus.
Now the show is set to launch at last with a large scale promotional campaign the likes of which we have never seen for previous shows we’ve featured. The attention that E4 have lavished on the show is totally justified, and whilst we fear that a selection of critics like the one in The Scotsman this weekend will rip the show to shreds, we know that deep down, this show will find its audience who will take it to heart and adore it for years to come, long after any possible bile from narrow-minded journalists has been forgotten.
And boy, do we need a show like Luxury Comedy at a time like this. Since the Boosh last aired in 2007, budget cuts and the rise of mainstream stand-up, alongside the bizarre revival of the traditional sitcom has seen tv execs take an increasingly bleak stance on anything that’s a little off-beat and unusual. Pilots have been stashed away in graveyard slots, filled with promise but never given a chance to shine. Cult shows have been dropped by eager commissioners keen to make their own mark and find the next smash hit that appeals to all the family as long as their brains are switched off before they notice the jokes are poor clones of what the classics were doing in the 1970s.
Some of our familiar faces have turned to the movies for fresh opportunities to tell the kind of stories they want to tell – with Richard Ayoade scoring a glorious goal with Submarine, and his fellow Darkplace alumni Matt Holness and Alice Lowe also working on bringing their unique visions to the big screen this year. Other comics have moved into serious acting roles to great acclaim – Sharon Horgan, Chris O’Dowd and Julian Barratt just three of them. And on the opposite end of the scale, in a small studio in north London – a pointy faced, big haired genius with charm by the bucketload has been crafting his masterpiece with a bunch of talented, trusting friends. My god, you’re going to love the results. You’ll fall in love with Tony Reason, Sgt Raymond Boombox, Andy Warhol (you’ll soon all be in love with Tom Meeten in general, we assure you) and the rest of the crazy characters in this zany new world.
And if for some reason the final product doesn’t give you the thrills you were looking for, at least be thankful that in this period of creative drought, some people at least, are still delivering fantastical goods.