On "Having A Shocker On The Internet" & Not Being Rainn Wilson's Fave

24 November 2015 | 4:46 pm | Bryget Chrisfield

"He went, 'Yeah, alright. I do like Julian more."

More Noel Fielding More Noel Fielding

"Hey, it's Noel Fielding here." Everyone's (well, almost everyone’s) favourite stand-up comedian — and the genius co-writer/co-star of The Mighty Boosh (alongside comedy partner Julian Barratt), Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy and so much more — doesn’t require a conference call service; he places his own calls. 

Having attended opening night of An Evening With Noel Fielding at Hamer Hall (the crown jewel of last year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival, which extended to become four dates), it's pretty exciting to be given the opportunity to chat with Fielding about his upcoming DVD release, which was filmed at some of these shows. Once specific memories start filtering back in — particularly the moment when our Group Managing Editor, Andrew Mast, was interrogated by Fielding (in character as the trigger-happy New York cop, Sergeant Raymond Boombox) — aforementioned excitement levels multiply a thousandfold. So does Fielding remember approaching the gent he labelled "Hipster Santa"? Fielding guffaws, "Amazing!" And will this section make it on to the DVD's final cut? "I hope so. Hipster Santa. I don't know, I can't remember. I haven't seen the latest cut, but it's due to be finished so I should watch it again. But it's changed quite a lot of times in the edit so I'm not sure if it's still on there. I'm sure it will be. Hipster Santa sounds good."

"I might've just sorta wandered about and thought, 'Who looks like they might be quite funny?' Hipster Santa sounds like quite a good character." 

On how he singles out subjects/victims for audience participation during his shows, Fielding shares, "I might've just sorta wandered about and thought, 'Who looks like they might be quite funny?' Hipster Santa sounds like quite a good character." When told we thought he might have a few pre-prepared 'types' in his brainbox to look out for and target, Fielding enlightens, "No, I try not to do that 'cause I kind of feel like the audience can sense that. If it's really bad, and I'm not getting anything out of anyone, then I have a few up my sleeve that I could pull in just to get me going, you know? But I try not to use them if it's — sometimes the audience is really polite, like, I think we did one in, ah, where was it? In maybe Canberra, and they were quite polite so it's quite difficult 'cause they really don't wanna talk that much. You know, I'm going over to them, '[puts on Sergeant Raymond Boombox accent] Have you ever committed a crime?' And people are just like, 'No. Don't talk to me.' It's sort of better if they're a bit boisterous and they get involved, but obviously Australians are pretty gregarious so usually they're happy to get involved.  

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"Sometimes it goes really wrong. What was quite good at the end [of the show] — when we get someone up to save the show and we dress him up as a kind of knight and put him in an animation: I think it was better when it was a sort of dad, like, a guy going, 'I'm not happy about this, but I'll go along with it'. And then sometimes we'd get people who are quite keen and, you know, like trendy sort of drama students. They try to be funny and it's just awful! And you're like, 'Oh, don't go and do that!' It's much better when they look a bit awkward and you can kind of take the piss out of them a bit and then everyone's happy and you can move on. But, yeah! When they try to get involved and sort of, ugh! Do some weird sort of acting, [shudders] OH! It's not good," he laughs. You can almost always imagine Fielding smiling while he speaks in trademark polite, hushed tones — it's as if he's about to tell you the naughtiest secret ever.

The audience had to be warned about the filming in advance "for legal reasons". "You have to say to people, 'We're gonna film this so you can leave if you don't want that,' which is kind of a risky strategy 'cause it could just be empty when you come out there," Fielding chuckles. "But I think people are pretty media savvy these days; they don't really mind, most people are happy just to get involved. I mean, everyone's got phones, everyone's filming everything, everyone's taking pictures of themselves, you know? We're so media savvy compared to when I was young, which isn't that long ago; people didn't really have video cameras or they didn't really film themselves — there was not really Facebook or Twitter. People have got profiles now, haha. People are happy to speak in front of the camera or whatever. I think people just used to melt down, and go, 'Ooh-oh,' which — it's quite funny on quiz shows 'cause, like, you know, the quiz host will talk and ask people questions and half the time they could barely speak 'cause they were so shy, but nowadays people are quite sorta show-offy, aren't they? '[Puts on a gruff dad voice] The world's changed, in my lifetime...' The selfie generation. It's weird, isn't it? What's happened to us? I dunno. Selfie sticks. That's the end, isn't it?"

"The selfie generation. It's weird, isn't it? What's happened to us? I dunno. Selfie sticks. That's the end, isn't it?"

Once Fielding gets going, he's off on a rapidfire roll and often emphasises multiple words within a single sentence. "Basically there's, like, 700,000 pictures of me, in selfies, with my eyes half shut or looking really cross-eyed and just looking ridiculous!" he despairs. "And [with] the person next to me just looking amazing and immaculate 'cause obviously it's their phone, their selfie — they're not gonna put the best picture of you, they're gonna put the best picture of them. So at the moment I'm having a shocker on the internet; there's so many bad pictures of me on the internet I've just given up."

We recently saw a picture of Fielding on Twitter posing with Rainn Wilson and need to find out more. "I was in LA," Fielding elaborates. "It was quite embarrassing for him, actually, because he'd sent a message to one of my friends — Omid Djalili who's a comedian and an actor, and they'd done something together. And Omid said, 'Oh can you tell Julian that Rainn loves him,' and I was like, 'What am I? Chopped liver?' [Laughs]... So I saw him in LA and he came up and he said, 'Oh, can I get a picture of you? I love you,' and I went, 'Yeah, but you like Julian more, don't you?' And he was like, 'Who told you that?' And I was like, 'My friend Omid,' and he went, 'Yeah, alright. I do like Julian more,' haha, but he was all embarrassed. Yeah, it was quite nice." On Wilson, Fielding extols, "I think he's amazing! He's quite similar to Julian as well, so I think maybe they would cancel each out and it would be weird."

Wilson may prefer Barratt, but Fielding recalls Robin Williams was a rabid fan of The Mighty Boosh (himself included). "I met him, actually. He came to The Roxy to watch The Boosh do a gig there and he was so nice. And he came backstage, and he was so psyched, and he was just brilliant... Then I think in Rolling Stone he said that we were his favourite British comedians, and on a big chat show in England; so he was always bigging us up, which was really nice, you know? 'Cause when you're that big and then you say, 'Oh, yeah, I love The Mighty Boosh,' it's quite a powerful thing."

When asked whether he used to watch Mork & Mindy, Fielding gushes, "I was absolutely obsessed with it. That was my favourite show when I was a kid!... It's weird, because it was on in Australia when I was touring there, and I hadn't really seen it since I was a kid, and it was quite sinister because by then you knew what's happened and you're like, 'Oh, wow! He killed himself'. So it was like a bittersweet thing 'cause you thought, 'Oh, great! Mork & Mindy!' but then you sorta went, 'Oh, no, he killed himself! That's weird. He couldn't get his head 'round it'. It made that seem really odd. I dunno, it made you watch it slightly differently, like, you were going, 'Oh, no! Maybe it was a bit much, maybe he was really struggling with...' — yeah, 'cause he was so sort of quick and funny, and lots of different voices, and kind of quite insane, you know, as a character — as a comic character. But then you start going, 'Oh, no! Maybe he was not having a good time,' 'cause really you wanna think that comedians are having a good time.

"I still imagine that Richard Pryor's always having a good time, and Robin Williams and Steve Martin, because they just look like they are on stage."

If you haven't yet seen Fielding's starring role in Kasabian's Vlad The Impaler video, it's high time you checked it out. And while you're there, Google a few of the live performances he did, in character, with the band. "That was really good fun — like a medieval Bez," Fielding recalls, comparing his cameos to the Happy Mondays maraca player, dancer and mascot. "I used to throw decapitated heads that I'd made into the crowd. But the last time I did it I was in Paris with them and I said, 'Look, I don't have my Vlad outfit — I don't have the cape, or the impaler or the make-up — so don't bring me on'. And obviously they did and I had to just go on in my normal clothes... I was just watching from the side of the stage and Tom [Meighan, lead singer] called me up and I was like, 'NOOOooooooo!' I was really drunk so I think I managed to pull it off. Just."  

"I used to throw decapitated heads that I'd made into the crowd."

Fielding is "good friends with Serge" Pizzorno, Kasabian's guitarist. "I'm actually in Serge's house now." We resist the urge to ask Fielding to put Pizzorno on the line, instead commenting on the similarities in their appearances. So who had the haircut first? "Me, obviously, 'cause I'm much older than him," Fielding reveals. "He's like my younger, taller, better lookin' brother." They borrow each other's clothes "a bit", but Fielding says this is limited by the fact that Pizzorno's "quite lanky". "I'm like a hobbit, so..."

Don't tell us middle-aged spread is kicking in! Is Fielding getting a bit of a fat gut? He laughs, "No, but I'm not as thin as I used to be, which is annoying." He plays tennis a bit, hates the thought of the gym ("it's too boring") and admits, "I'm quite lucky, I've got quite a fast metabolism. I think that's doing stand-up, you know? It's just fear, basically [laughs]; that keeps you thin. When you do stand-up you just live in a perpetual state of fear, that's all you do. It's like, 'Oh my god! Fear. Fear. Fear. I'm gonna die. I've gotta do a gig to 20,000, what am I gonna do?' It's a nightmare. So you just sort of, yeah! You're just sort of panicking and that's what keeps the weight down." He dreads the idea of a healthy eating plan, as well. "I'll have to start eating broccoli, but you know what? There's something really boring about people who are thin, who really watch their diet. You just go, 'It's so boring!' 'Cause, you know, people like Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood and David Bowie — I don't know about David Bowie — but you kinda know those people eat shepherd's pie, drink Coca Cola, drink beer; they don't watch what they eat! But they're just thin and that's what's amazing about them. You know that Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards are not eating broccoli and going to a gym — that would kind of ruin it, wouldn't it? They've never been to sleep, that's why they're so thin. Ever! Hahaha."

This scribe's favourite sketch from An Evening With Noel Fielding sees him playing a herbal teabag. "I just wanted something I thought would have a broad appeal, but would still be quite weird and would translate to other countries around the world," Fielding illuminates on the origins of this character. "I dunno, I just thought teabags. I used to have a routine about biscuits — all different kinds of biscuits, 'cause that was quite a big thing in England — but it doesn't really happen anymore. People used to have, like, biscuit tins with lots of different types of biscuits, but it doesn't really happen now — it's only biscuits out of packets. And then I thought what is there that — teabags was just crying out for me, all the different kinds, and I thought, 'I've gotta do this'. And it just kept getting bigger and bigger. It was getting longer and longer and I was having real trouble gettin' it down. It started out, it was, like, three or four minutes, then it was, like, six, then it was, like, eight minutes, then it was, like, 12 minutes and I was like, 'This whole show is just gonna be teabags if I'm not careful'. So I did enjoy that and I felt like that might be quite a good thing. When I had the idea, I was like, 'If I could get this right, I think this'll have quite a broad appeal'."

There's also an ongoing thread throughout the show during which Fielding reminds us he's 40 years old (he's now 42), usually while acting like a complete galah. So how's he going with the whole getting older thing these days? "I hate it. I just think it's amazing when you're 27 — that's the best age. If you could just stay 27, I'd be happy with that. It's just great! You don't have to worry about anything... I remember going out, like, ten nights in a row when I was 27 and being basically fine after that. Just put Sister Act 2 on, cry for an hour and then you're fine — you're good to go!" Our discussion turns to facing the fact that some shops or clothing labels may no longer be suitable for your age and Fielding muses, "I used to think — really sort of instantly — that if you were slightly famous then maybe that gave you a green card where you could carry on being a bit hip for a bit longer, haha, but now I'm not sure." We reckon that's entirely correct and that celebrities are somehow granted a licence to be flamboyant 'til the grave. Fielding laughs, "I hope so."

Contemplating the age divide, Fielding points out, "I remember on Twitter somebody tried to be really mean to me and they said, '[Puts on geeky voice] Er, who likes Noel Fielding anyway other than 17-year-old girls and arts students'. And I just thought, 'Best demographic in the world, you idiot', hahaha."    

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