Noel Fielding: back from The Mighty Boosh to take America's comedy scene

Fielding found mainstream fame in the UK as part of surrealist duo The Mighty Boosh, but didn’t crack the US. Will he find a home with Tim and Eric fans?

Noel Fielding is exhausted and he’s only one day into the start of the North American tour. The tour started in Boston, a city he has never visited before and was shocked to find it bitingly cold in March. Fielding hates the cold. “I like Boston, but it’s freezing,” he said. “My knees have gone numb!” Then riffing off of his own joke in a laconic flow of slightly surreal comedy that would be instantly familiar to fans of his show, The Mighty Boosh, Fielding launches into a freestyle joke about how to make the most of the cold weather. “I think I’m not going to make my fortune from comedy, I may try my hand at making knee warmers instead.”

While Fielding jokes about struggling to find success in comedy, he knows that in the UK at least, success was in his grasp thanks to the hard work he and co-founder Julian Barratt put into The Mighty Boosh. Their stage show-turned-radio-show-turned-TV series brought them mainstream fame in their home country. “In England we did all right, got to the top, had a little bask in the glory and then slipped down the other side,” said Fielding.

After a final tour in 2008 that saw the duo play Wembley Arena, among other huge venues, they decided not to try and make it in America. “We were knackered and the idea of trying to make it again, but in a different country, we were both like, ‘maybe’,” said Fielding, stretching out the word “maybe” into three syllables.

While the Boosh decided not to take the charge to the US, they managed to find a cult following here anyway, thanks to syndication of their surrealist show on Adult Swim and BBC America. Fielding has since gone on to a regular slot on the music quiz show Never Mind the Buzzcocks (which was axed last year), as well as on his own brilliantly weird, genre-defying half-hour show called Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy. Fans of shows like Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job!, Wonder Showzen and Annoying Orange may track down Fielding’s body of work on YouTube, but he still remains a cult figure in the US, which he’s OK with. “I think you can make a decent living as a cult figure like Tim and Eric,” said Fielding. “The Boosh was cult, but then it crossed over a bit, which we needed it to, because we were working on it full time and it needed to go mainstream so we could keep making material.”

Despite his success, Fielding still wanted to tour America. “I always had a sort of niggling regret that we didn’t come do stuff in America,” he said. Now, he’s finally bringing his show An Evening with Noel Fielding to select cities in the US and Canada in a run of shows at smaller theaters, many of which have already sold out. “I’d rather do smaller theaters, because it’s more fun for the audience and more fun for me,” said Fielding. “I like to build up demand. I’ll probably come up and do another show, build an audience, and then just before I die I’ll have a huge audience. Like Eddie Izzard.”

Fielding realizes that he might need to translate some of his jokes for American audiences and is making adjustments to the show as he goes, but there’s little chance he is going to be mistaken for a Jersey comic doing a set at New York’s Comedy Cellar any time soon. “When people come to see you, they know what you do. That’s what they want,” said Fielding. “They want it to be quite English, they don’t want to watch an English bloke trying to fit in. They want it to be quintessentially English in the way that Ricky Gervais is rude to people at the Golden Globes.”

The show includes Fielding’s phantasmagoric version of standup, including a bit about his wife having an affair with a triangle, a dream about turning into an herbal teabag, a Claymation Joey Ramone and David Bowie, music by Kasabian, and some familiar faces from the Boosh, including the moon and his brother, Mike Fielding, who played Naboo. “I get kidnapped from my own show and come out as various characters looking for me, like as a New York cop interrogating people and bringing someone up on stage,” said Fielding. During their NYC show Fielding and his cohorts were having so much fun they ended up staying on stage for over two hours. “There’s a lot in it, really,” said Fielding, in an understatement.

While Fielding is excited to bring his show to the US, he doesn’t know what the response will be. “I don’t know what people will make of it really. My stuff is surreal and timeless and unusual so it doesn’t matter too much where you are from culturally,” he says, noting that he hopes audiences don’t end up throwing stuff at him “like carrots and cream pies”. He pauses for a minute and adds, “That’s the fun of the fair, though, right? You’ll just have to come and see for yourself.”

  • Noel Fielding plays Toronto on Wednesday, then the tour continues. Details here.

Contributor

Melissa Locker

The GuardianTramp

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