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Beyond The Boosh: Noel Fielding's Luxury Comedy

by Luke Holland
26 January 2012 30 Comments

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...

E4's costume department was hit hardest in the budget cuts.

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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image descriptionCOMMENTS

DrRic 11:38 am, 26-Jan-2012

I really hope this dies on its arse. In fact, I hope its so badly received that it causes Horne and Corden to be reassessed as pretty decent. Yes, I am a bitter cynical fuck on the internet, spouting hate for the sake of it.

johnhalloween 11:53 am, 26-Jan-2012

Doctor I have an acute pain in me bollocks what do you think it could be?.... Oh wait it's you! Piss off.

Lee 11:53 am, 26-Jan-2012

I really like Noel Fielding. but when he isn't improvising he isn't funny. when he's on Buzzcocks it sort of just comes out of nowhere with the random anecdotes and strange backhanded compliments but whenever he appears to be trying he falls so flat.

lordhillwood 12:27 pm, 26-Jan-2012

this isnt funny , childish and looks like drug induced ramblings of theo walcott after too much chocolate the big question is how does he keep getting on tv when he has no talent, utter gash and a very dry one at that

Russ 12:46 pm, 26-Jan-2012

If The Scotsman hated it then it's probably brilliant.

JOHNLENNON 4:25 pm, 26-Jan-2012

Manbaby luv it.

FLaming8ball 4:28 pm, 26-Jan-2012

this is going to be awesome, great article. I think Hillwood (notice I've ignored his title...the ultimate snub) wasn't hugged as a child, and his life is as dry as the gash he keeps complaining about. of course its childish and drug-induced, I think you've missed the point. Its not aimed at old boys like you who like watching 'larkrise to candleford' or listening to the shipping forecast whilst they go to sleep ;)

Nigel 8:20 pm, 26-Jan-2012

#27 in a series of "They're a bit like buses, aren't they?" You don't hear hide nor hair about the Flumps for 20-odd years, then twice in one day. That Keaveney chappy on 6 Music mentioned them this morning, and now they're on here. Bloody love the Flumps, me.

ad 1:23 am, 27-Jan-2012

ive just read the scotsman review. there is this brilliant line: 'It’s not that I don’t “get” his humour – on the contrary, I understand perfectly well what he’s trying to achieve' hahahahahahaha. fuck off you protesting too much arse! 'on the contrary'!! oh contraire. no actually i REALLY doooooo get it. no really.

Louloupops 2:22 am, 27-Jan-2012

Amazing, loved it!! With hints of the boosh and guest appearances from the moon and pele, this has to be the best thing on the box! can't wait til next week :0)

Macauley 4:35 am, 27-Jan-2012

It was brilliant I got the swingball balls is the moon gonna been in every episode ?? :)

zarn 6:55 am, 27-Jan-2012

loved the boosh but this, well so far hasn't raised a smirk for me, will see how it goes over the next few... cough arse

Gripnik 7:14 am, 27-Jan-2012

I thought it was very poor and I was willing it to be good. In fact half way through I opted to scoop our cats shit and piss out of the litter tray instead. We use that fibrous stuff that collects the piss into large clumps that closely resemble apple crumble. Anyway dry wretching over a litter tray was preferable to watching the rest of Noel Fielding's show.

eli addio 1:17 pm, 27-Jan-2012

started to watch this but turned it off after only 10 minutes. the mans just not funny. think its a case of the 'kings new clothes'to be honest, he's absolutely crap.

nil satis 2:30 pm, 27-Jan-2012

it was shit. fielding needs shooting in the face. i imagine sixth formers enjoy this crap.

Katy 4:42 pm, 27-Jan-2012

Only funny bit was the weird cereal guy at the start. Then it went downhill. Into a valley. And drowned in desperation and shame.

www.thegreenwichbarber.com 2:44 pm, 28-Jan-2012

I've just watched it having never seen anything by Noel Fielding before. It reminded me of Vic Reeve's Big Night Out in a way. And as I loved Vic and Bob back in the day and I suppose the younger (I'm 42) generation will view this the same way? The US cop wasn't bad, made me smile a bit anyway. But I don't think I'd go out my way to watch it again.

Bean 4:07 pm, 28-Jan-2012

Loved it!! It was like watching a piece of artwork !! Colourful interesting and off the wall A step away from Boosh (loved that to bits too!!) Noel's comedy is like nothing else ever seen before and therefore the people who can't "get it " automatically say they hate it When the time it becomes widely accepted as cool,then these critics will claim they loved it from the start Noel Fielding is an artistic genius and like all artistic genius is berated for being different Look at Van Gogh for example Well I loved it !! Long live King Noel conqueror of the mundane!!!!

KK Akuoku 10:20 pm, 28-Jan-2012

Not exactly laugh-out-loud funny, but I'll take Luxury Comedy around for more than one go. The people who loathe this and say they like the Boosh can't appreciate full on visual chaos like this; they prefer a bit more rigid structure with their silliness. I'm not a total fan of this as of late, but it's certainly one hurdle over the 'hilarious, zany comedy' that's on offer in my country (The USA)

Ted Bismark 12:34 am, 30-Jan-2012

Fielding has, whilst promoting his Luxury Comedy show, referenced Spike Milligan, Peter Cook, and Monty Python, each of which is funny, clever, and touched with genius. Fielding's show differs subtly in three ways.

Phil 12:39 am, 30-Jan-2012

This was utter drivel and I can't believe he's shoe-horned his idiot brother into another show: he can't act, he's not funny and he can't even deliver lines. The rest of it was just desperately surreal for the sake of it without a trace of humour or entertainment.

www.thegreenwichbarber.com 3:00 pm, 31-Jan-2012

@Phil - I'm waiting for his sister Yvette to make an appearance.

Lucy 1:01 pm, 2-Feb-2012

Just not funny, painful to watch. Love him on NMTB though

Fin 2:59 am, 4-Feb-2012

The great surrealists have always been backed up by great talent i.e. Dali and Picasso could paint portraits as well as the grand masters. They chose to go down an abstract route but their underlying genius was undeniable. We now live in an age of Tracy Emin and Damien Hurst (forgive spelling if it's incorrect) were technical ability PLUS inspiration has been replaced by any fool idea that crosses your mind at any given time. The Saatchi brothers will pay top dollar for any Neanderthal daub flicked off the wrist from one of these minnows. Great art comes from those who know all the rules and then break them. Emin and Hurst were and still are too untalented to have ever learned the rules in the first place. OK I was side tracked there. Same rules apply though. Noel Fieldings Luxury Comedy reeks of desperation. It's a cry for help.

ben 6:03 pm, 10-Feb-2012

It's quite funny to see peoples reviews that are desperately trying to put a positive spin on this show. I don't like being mean about people but Noel Fielding must be bloody high in the Illuminati for this show to be kept on television. Maybe just slightly above Horne and Corden ( I cant even be bothered to check if I have spelled their names correctly).

Cantona7 9:39 pm, 10-Feb-2012

I've watched two episodes and haven't laughed once. Sorry, Noel, if you're reading this (I'm sure you're not). Comparisons with The Mighty Boosh are inevitable and, so far, Luxury Comedy falls very short. One of the Boosh's many charms was its warmth - this show hasn't got any. Noel's been in loads of great TV shows but this isn't one of them.

Vibes1980 11:13 pm, 17-Feb-2012

Terrible and just really unfunny, Always thought julian was the funniest in boosh, Now I know why...P.S. Noel looks like my mates wife.

Jake 7:58 am, 18-Feb-2012

@nil satis No, don't do that, i'm a 'sixth former' and i'd rather eat shite for a week than watch this. Not only is it not funny, it's painfully embarrassing to know that foreigners and older people view this as what 'our generation britain' watches. *smh*

pissypants 12:03 am, 14-Mar-2012

Watching on e4 now, car crash tv at its best, trying to hard its pathetic, hated mighty boosh too tbh i reckon people who enjoy this and tmb are only kidding themselves. I would rather get gang raped by aids ridden junkies whilst chewing shattered glass with no teeth than ever watch this fucking piss poor show again.

LoneWolf 6:14 pm, 15-Mar-2012

Loved the Boosh, this was crap though. I watched two episodes waiting for it to be funny but it fell woefully short. Don't bill something as 'comedy' if there's nothing comedic about the program, call it Noel Fielding's Avant-garde Snore-a-thon, with Extra Bright Colours

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