It can’t have escaped your attention that our very own Noel Fielding is the new co-host of The Great British Bake Off, which returned to TV screens this week, introducing the comedian to a whole new audience.
Of course, one glimpse at a tabloid may lead you to believe that Noel’s been awfully quiet since the last major projects wound up for The Mighty Boosh, but as we’ve been here documenting everything in the interim, we thought this was as good a time as any to revisit some of what’s been keeping Noel busy before sticky buns, jam tarts, and preposterously decorated sponge cakes.
So if you’re enjoying Noel Fielding on The Great British Bake Off, and you’re wondering what you may have missed since the Future Sailors left port oh so-long-ago, here’s a handy summary of just how old we’re all starting to feel, and and overview of some great projects you may want to investigate between each instalment in the big tent…
2009: Future Sailors dock, bullfighting and Buzzcocks, and plans are made for a Booshy future…
Earth. Two-thousand and… nine. The Mighty Boosh, fresh from the third series of their tv adventures in late 2007, have been out on the road since September. Over 90 dates across the UK, many of which sold out months in advance, have left the Boosh drained, but triumphant.
A whole evening of programming was shown in their honour on BBC Three over Christmas 2008, an album of songs from the show is planned for recording in Kentish Town before mixing at Electric Ladyland Studios, and the offers are in for a big budget film. In time, the Boosh will surprise everyone by going on an indefinite hiatus, but right now, the vibe is that, after a breather, they’ll be back.
As such, Noel becomes a recurring face on British television, presenting for Comic Relief and then taking over Bill Bailey’s now fully vacant Team Captain slot on Never Mind the Buzzcocks. It’s a role that Fielding loves, often remarking that it’s the first time he’s had a proper job, and his tenure at the captain on the right hand side will last until the show is axed in 2015.
Later that year, Fielding joins regular collaborators Simon Farnaby, Julian Barratt, Richard Ayoade and Rich Fulcher in Boosh director Paul King‘s criminally underrated debut film, Bunny and the Bull. King, who would later go on to make Paddington in a similar visual style, wrote and directed the film, in which Edward Hogg plays Stephen, a mild-mannered OCD suffering singleton dragged on a holiday around Europe with his so-called best friend, Bunny. Fielding’s role is that of Javier – brother of love interest Eloisa, bar owner and failed matador, who promises to teach Farnaby’s Bunny how to fight a bull.
2010: Stealth, Foot, Zappa and the Jellyfox…
With the Boosh still taking time out, much of 2010 is devoted to two-pronged activity on the Fielding front: with a return to solo stand-up material, and his increasingly noteworthy art exhibitions.
The former is teased with a number of secret appearances, dubbed Stealth Fielding by the then brand new TVO, before appearances at Teenage Cancer Trust gigs, and the prestigious Just For Laughs festival in Montreal. It’s not just Noel’s stand-up that’s on his mind either: his support for fellow-comedian Paul Foot sees Fielding direct the comic’s successful 2010 Edinburgh show Ash in the Attic.
But it’s his exhibition at Gallery Maison Bertaux that causes the most excitement for Fielding Fanatics: with Noel’s paintings taking over every nook and cranny of the building… that is, the ones not occupied by his Nigel Coan & Ivanah Zorn animated collaboration The Jellyfox, or the bed-sized tribute to Bryan Ferry that occupies a healthy amount of table space in the building’s basement.
It’s a fascinating love-letter to the fantasy realms within Noel’s mind, and paves the way for his own television show in the months to come – but more on that later…
Elsewhere, the comic shares his passion for Dali’s surrealism with Alastair Sooke for BBC series Modern Masters, contributes to talking book Sum: Tales from the Afterlives, and joins Julia Davis in lo-budget indie comedy Come on Eileen which eventually emerged on DVD the following year. And the Boosh are still around, too – first with an ill-fated iPhone app, The Mighty Decider, and later with a Boost Band guest slot at Dweezil Zappa’s Camden Roundhouse gig in November.
2011: Scribblings in Luxury and Wuthering Heights with Kate…
“I’ll never ever be on telly at that time again!” exclaims Noel in an exclusive TVO interview during rehearsals for Let’s Dance for Comic Relief, which he’s about to storm as Kate Bush. “That’s not my forum in any way!” If only we knew then what we know now, eh?
Thrust into the mainstream in a red dress, sometimes carried off by his very own Heathcliffe (a dashing Julian Barratt, no less), Noel makes it to the final of Let’s Dance with his rendition of Wuthering Heights, losing out to Charlie Baker and James Thornton. This performance naturally catches the eye of the secretive singer-songwriter, who immediately casts Noel in the video for her comeback single Deeper Understanding alongside Robbie Coltrane.
The latter half of the year, however, is spent focusing once more on his visual art. This time, it’s down to a book: The Scribblings of a Madcap Shambleton. Made in collaboration with fellow Booshy Dave Brown, the book also features contributions from readers of The Velvet Onion, who have their faces scribbled all over in the name of art, and TVO is also on hand to document the UK book signing tour, with the Manchester signing event in particular lasting an incredible eight hours (not to mention the many hours of queuing beforehand for those desperate to get a chance to meet their heroes).
But before that, Noel’s rather busy elsewhere. Tucked away in his own studio in North London, Noel and his regular collaborator Nigel Coan have been cooking up a treat: an entire series entitled Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy. Featuring a bevy of TVO regulars, we naturally get our Oniony selves along to see some of the filming take place, and the level of detail that has gone into the project is mind blowing.
2012: Luxury is Loose, and Fielding goes to Oz…
January sees the television launch of Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy which delights many fans, but divides critics and wider audiences. A surrealist, childlike fantasy series, the show pays little heed to narrative conformity, and whilst understandably its obtrusive nature didn’t appeal to everyone, those who bought into its world found much to admire. A second series is commissioned, and a soundtrack album made by Noel with Kasabian’s Sergio Pizzorno, is released to cult acclaim.
The show does well in Australia, where Fielding is experiencing a surge in popularity, so he pops over to Oz during the summer for a string of dates which sends Aussie fans wild. But otherwise, the year is a quiet one for Fielding – with only Buzzcocks and Big Fat Quiz keeping him in the public eye as he begins to forge ahead with a second series of Luxury Comedy which will directly address some of the concerns people had about the first run.
2013: More Luxury and a Booshy get-together…
Luxury Comedy is Noel’s main focus in 2013, with the second series filming across the Summer at London’s Three Mills Studios. TVO is there for a chunk of filming, and sees a refreshed, revitalised team going all out for laughs without losing any of the detail that had made the first series such a visual treat.
The big news to the public, however, is the return of The Mighty Boosh – albiet only on a temporary basis – first as guests of rock singer Beck in July, and later with an appearance at Tenacious D’s Festival Supreme in California during October.
Prior to this, the Boosh warm up their cockles with a string of intimate London dates, though sadly this is, to date, the final time a Boosh show hit the stage, and it remains to be seen if they’ll ever return once more.
Alongside appearances in The IT Crowd finale, Gadget Man and a forward for Gus the Fox, this year also sees Fielding reunite with Russell Brand to perform a Goth Detectives live show for Teenage Cancer Trust. And as he turns 40, Fielding catches up with The Velvet Onion for an in-depth video interview in which he answers fan questions and teases the next season of Luxury Comedy. Now, about that….
2014: An Evening with Noel, Painted Hawaii sinks, and the Mail get their knickers in a twist…
Ever the reliable source of information, The Daily Mail kickstarts the year with a story proclaiming that the Boosh are back. As we investigate, Noel and fellow Boosh members deny the story, and our resulting summary is touted around the world’s press as a ‘statement’. Oo-er.
In the end, Noel is too busy setting off on his own UK tour, fresh from the release of Luxury Comedy 2 in August. With TVO hosting an exclusive pre-sale for tickets, An Evening With Noel Fielding receives extremely positive reviews across the Autumn, and will eventually tour the US and Australia for good measure in the years to come. Fielding is accompanied on his travels by none other than his brother, Mike Fielding, and (for the UK jaunt at least), Tom Meeten.
However, the reaction to Luxury Comedy 2 is still divided, and audiences don’t tune in in large enough numbers to see a third series comissioned. But again, those who did bother to watch it fell in love with the show and its off-kilter charms. Instead, it’s his solo tour and a final stint on Never Mind the Buzzcocks which keep Noel in the public eye at the end of the year.
Noel also turns up briefly in HBO series Doll & Em (from his Luxury Comedy co-star Dolly Wells), walks the catwalk at London Fashion Week, and shoots his part in fantasy film Set the Thames on Fire alongside Sally Phillips.
2015: He Wore Dreams Around Unkind Faces, Australian Audiences, and saying Aaaaaaaah…
With the end of both of Noel’s regular TV gigs, 2015 sees Fielding take a step back from the limelight, allowing the artist to chose his projects with greater precision than before. The first fruits of this come in the form of a new exhibition of his art, this time of watercolours, at the Royal Albert Hall, which later transfers to Harrogate Theatre and Gallery Maison Bertaux to great acclaim.
Elsewhere, Fielding releases the second Loose Tapestries album with Sergio Pizzorno, as well as a Christmas single featuring none other than Idris Elba. He reunites with Richard Ayoade for a fresh take on Big Fat Quiz, befriends Canadian comics The Trailer Park Boys leading to an appearance on their podcast with his brother Mike, and of course, takes his 2014 live show on tour to Australia.
Most excitingly of all for TVO, he reunites with Julian Barratt, Tom Meeten and many an Onion regular for Steve Oram’s directorial debut, Aaaaaaaah! The film, in which two male rivals compete for dominance of a household, contains no spoken dialogue: humanity having descended to communication similar to that of apes once more, and it’s a stark, often brutal piece that is equal parts bitter social commentary as it is surreal satire.
2016: Noel goes Stateside, and gets ready to bake…
An Audience with Noel Fielding crosses over to the US, with Tom Meeten replaced by none other than Rich Fulcher – with Mike Fielding along for the ride, this is the closest thing to a ‘Boosh Show’ since 2013. Elsewhere, there are yet more fevered rumours, as Radio Times falsely reports that the Boosh are returning soon, causing Julian Barratt to respond to the wave of negativity that unfolded when TVO suggested this was merely clickbait, by confirming this explicity. As ever, the Boosh consider options for their return, but for now it’ll have to wait…
…not least because whilst Julian was busy making Flowers for Channel 4 and later the film Mindhorn with Simon Farnaby, Noel is announced as the new host of The Great British Bake Off! And while fans wait patiently to see what it’ll be like, they can catch Noel in new indie-film Brakes from Mercedes Grower, in the Trailer Park Boys UK special, dressed as Michael Jackson to Mike Fielding’s Bubbles in a video for Sean Ono Lennon, or working alongside his comedy idol Eric Idle in The Entire Universe.
2017: King of Tasks, Myths and Fantasy, and the Baking begins…
The biggest news for Fielding fans this year pre-Bake Off is his turn on Dave panel show Taskmaster which (spoiler alert) he wins the fourth series of in the Spring. Before this in March, die-hard Kasabian fans are also awarded a third Fielding cameo via the music video to new single You’re in Love with a Psycho.
Elsewhere, Noel filmd a non-broadcast pilot with Richard Herring (Everything Happens For No Reason) which remains an open possibility for the future as far as we’re aware, joins Jonathan Ross for a Comic Relief special, performs a cameo in the next series of Upstart Crow, and most excitingly of all, films an edition of Urban Myths alongside David Suchet and Paul Kaye as the legendary Alice Cooper, set for transmission this Autumn. He also joins the voice cast for new Matt Groening fantasy animation Disenchantment alongside Matt Berry, Rich Fulcher and Lucy Montgomery.
But for now, it’s The Great British Bake Off that’s thrusting Noel centre stage, and it remains to be seen how audiences will take to his unique charms over the course of the series (we’re delighted to report that the reviews of episode 1 from critics and fans alike are very positive). We’re sure that, from all we’ve seen over the last two decades, Noel will be on fine form, and who knows, maybe this will lead to bigger and better things for Mr Fielding? Maybe this might even pave the way for that Boosh reunion, or a brand new show of Noel’s own imagining once more?
Whatever happens, we’re right behind him. Noel has always given The Velvet Onion his support, and we’re eternally grateful to him for his kindness and loyalty. We can’t wait to see what he does next, but whatever it is, we know he’ll approach it with the same positive energy he brings to everything he touches, and we’ll be there to tell you all about it as long as we can be. Stay peeled!