The Mighty Boosh is on hiatus, and Never Mind The Buzzcocks is hardly ever on. Are you missing your fix of Noel Fielding's bizarre and wonderful comedy? Don't worry E4 are here to sort you out...
Aaah, to be allowed inside the mind of Noel Fielding, mercurial minstrel of the magical, coutured crow of the Dave-destined panel show. One imagines his psyche is a strange yet reassuring place, festooned with primary-hued Flumps and populated by kindergarten effigies of talking animals, frolicking and jabbering profanely between themselves, not particularly mindful of whether you’re paying them any attention or not.
In the years since he began performing in the late nineties, Fielding’s comedy has been his attempt to open a notional trapdoor in the side of his head, letting you peer, however briefly, into the LSD snowglobe within.
These efforts began to pay dividends when he met Julian Barrett, and in 1998 The Mighty Boosh was born, landing at an enduringly equidistant midpoint between Barratt’s deadpan, neuroti-gauche delivery and Fielding’s moreish penchant for amorphous whimsy. The two formed an unlikely symbiotic double-act which, over the course of a radio show, three series, two live tours and a band, amassed a legion of catchphrase-spouting disciples, each member of which proclaiming that they’d discovered the dittying duo first, whilst glumly bemoaning the noobs and plebs who’d only jumped on the bandwagon since the Boosh’s ‘Sex on Fire’ moment.
And to milk this ill-judged band analogy for all it’s worth, Noel is now primed to release his first solo album, free of the influence of a writing and performing partner, or (thankfully shedding band analogies, now) the panel show’s editorial scissors. The Boosh is on hiatus, leaving E4 only too happy to give Noel the money to try and bottle his ideas and get them up on screen, and Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy begins on the channel tonight at 10pm. Sabotage Times was invited along to a screening of the first two episodes, and– make no mistake – Fielding is about to confound dedicated friend and curmudgeonly foe alike.
The Boosh is on hiatus, leaving E4 only too happy to give Noel the money to try and bottle his ideas and get them up on screen, and Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy begins on the channel tonight at 10pm.
Not quite a sketch show (though it does contain sketches), certainly not situation comedy (yet it does, too, have elements of both of these), Luxury Comedy does, if nothing else, occupy a space all its own in the current TV schedules. The loose structure involves Fielding occupying a hand-painted jungle shack, with his (real world) brother Mike as his anteater butler, Andy Warhol (Tom Meeten, who appeared as Vince’s wannabe doppelganger in series 3 episode ‘The Power of the Crimp’) as his cleaner, and arty German Dolly (Dolly Wells) as his occasional houseguest. Indeed, every regular member of The Boosh alumni besides Barrett is involved (notably, Dave ‘Bollo’ Brown and the bellowing Rich Fulcher), easing the crossover for existing Boosh fans, making it feel more like a faithful continuance than apostasy.
These jungle scenes are liberally intercut with swirling character vignettes, and Fielding (in his considerable pre-release press tour) has hinted at the sheer volume of characters he’s coined for the series. Some are bewilderingly brilliant (Tony Reason, a drawling, record producing manta ray) others markedly less so (New York cop Sergeant Raymond Boombox, whose Bronx patios Fielding grasps like a recalcitrant bar of wet soap) while some are chin-fondlingly odd (Ghost of a Flea, a William Blake-referencing falsetto insect-man-hybrid-beast…thing).
Character-wise, it does occasionally smack of a formless tombola draw of arbitrary noun/adjective combinations (a games teacher who’s a chocolate finger, an inflated French cook with a waiter’s pepper mill for a nose), yet from the malaise a few highlights begin to protrude. An Adidas tracksuit-clad dancer with a shell for a head manages to be both hilarious and terrifying, while captive lion Dondylion’s descent from optimism to despair is black comedy at its blackest: imagine watching an episode of Jam by peering into one of Carlos Santana’s ears and out of the other, through his acid-picked brain, and you’re somewhere near.
An Adidas tracksuit-clad dancer with a shell for a head manages to be both hilarious and terrifying, while captive lion Dondylion’s descent from optimism to despair is black comedy at its blackest.
Stylistically, too, Luxury Comedy is an absolute treat. The visuals – beautifully animated hand-painted sets and painstakingly rendered characters – are the logical end point to the kernels of Poundland fantasy that the Boosh jerry-rigged into its appealingly wobbly aesthetic, while Pratchett-hatted Kasabian mage Sergio Pizzorno is deployed on clawingly-trendy musical duties.
The elephant-with-lies-for-knees-and-washing-machines-for-genitals in the room, ofcourse, is whether Luxury Comedy is funny enough to succeed, and the answer to this question is a tricky one to pin down. Certainly, the odd aforementioned character will elicit a straight-up, no-nonsense chuckle, irrespective of any pre-eroded, Pavlovian familiarity, yet other segments (at this early stage in its run, at least) are so pumped full of Dali-esque abstraction that they make the weirder moments of The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer (an obvious influence) look like the material jettisoned by Bob Hope for being too old-hat.
Without the steadying keel of Barrett, Fielding’s predilections are given opportunity to run amok, resulting in some gags falling a little flat (left floundering in dire need of that killer punchline) and others almost indiscernible as comedy at all.
Yet there’s something here – a sickly alchemy of Fielding’s charm mixed with that of his cohorts, ideas and intentions – that works, and it’s this that will, ultimately, see Luxury Comedy worm its way in to the hearts of those who persevere. There’s just enough of a foothold in the first two episodes for the willing to cling on to, in the process shedding those fairweather Boosh fans who only went along it because it’s seemed to be what everyone was doing at the time.
Those who hate it will really hate it (see The Scotsman’s scathing review for evidence), yet critics also hated The Office, The Fast Show and Fawlty Towers upon their release too, so, for all intents and purposes, feel free to exercise your right to both fuck and ignore them. Of course, you might hate Luxury Comedy regardless, and your reasons for doing so will be entirely just.
Yet those that don’t will soon treasure it, and in two series’ time, when there are johnny-come-lateleys bellowing Fantasy Man catchphrases in the street, those that choose to stick with it now will be the same people chuntering petulantly to their friends “Well, I’ve been into it since series one, you know…”
Yes, these people are cunts, but it’s good to be a cunt sometimes.
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