NOEL Fielding is perhaps best known to most people as his eccentric zoo-keeper alter ego Vince Noir from The Mighty Boosh. But as Kate Gould discovers, there is more to him than that.
pic credit: Dave Brown
I’D got a list of questions about a mile long for Noel Fielding - because let's face it, this is a man who has done so much in his career already - he's an award winning comedian, as well as an artist, musician, actor, DJ, performer, TV panellist.... the list goes on.
He's also a chatterbox and during our conversation regaled me with stories about growing up in and around South London, his encounters with giant spiders in Australia and how he hopes to make a film version of The Mighty Boosh.
The 42-year-old is charming and erudite and has a surreal wit. Chuckling at his own thoughts he also skips from one subject to another fairly rapidly and without warning, words tumbling out of his mouth, and has a stream of consciousness that is at times childlike.
In fact so at ease does he make me that half an hour in his company and I feel as though we have really bonded.
Over the past 15 years or so he has become a firm fixture and favourite on our TV screens and on stage appearing in shows such as Buzzcocks and The IT Crowd as well as his hugely successful The Mighty Boosh with Julian Barratt. This was initially done as a stand up routine at the 1998 Edinburgh Fringe Festival before becoming a radio show and then an acclaimed three-season TV series.
His credits also include co-presenting Comic Relief Does Top Of The Pops, the film Sweet, Bunny The Bull and Horrid Henry: The Movie, shows at the Edinburgh Festival and exhibitions of his art work.
As well as his comedy he is equally well known for his vibrant personality, his make up and clothes. But he admits it wasn’t always like this.
“Growing up I was a bit of a nerd playing football with white trainers in Croydon,” he chuckles. “I was also a bit shy and loved drawing.
“I used to drink at the Ship in Croydon and go to the Whitgift Centre and hang out there. It was weird as there wasn’t much to do. I went to the cinema a lot and the ice rink in Streatham.
“I remember the pub fondly though – I got beaten up there because I had make up on. A lot of my mates still live down there. I was quite an oik when I was growing up but then I went to art school and turned my back on that way of life.”
He will get the chance to revisit the town where he spent his formative years when he comes to the Fairfield Halls on Friday November 20.
He will be performing his show, An Evening With Noel Fielding, which is part of a month long tour and which includes stops at Bromley’s Churchill Theatre on November 18 and New Wimbledon Theatre on November 19.
It is the second leg of the UK tour after having taking it to Australia and New Zealand and he says he’s really looking forward to it.
“It’s basically an extra month of dates we didn’t get to do last time around,” he says by way of explanation. “A lot of people couldn’t get tickets and so we thought we’d do some more gigs.
“I took the show to Australia and New Zealand this year and have changed it a bit. We have been writing it for eight months, tidying it up, adding bits, taking bits out – it’s never finished!
“In Australia I did this joke about spiders and how huge they are and how much I hate them. In England if you see one inside the house you put a cup over it and put it out but in Australia you have to have a mixing bowl as they are so big.
"I put it out and it went down the sidewalk and hailed a cab. Next thing I know it picks me up from the airport….” He dissolves laughing.
“I always have another spin on a joke and keep adding to them – they are like Jenga jokes – it’s like a disease and you can’t stop,” he laughs before switching back to what’s in the UK show.
“It’s quite long,” he says. “There is stand up for about 40 minutes with a bit of live animation, music and some of the TV characters I’ve done. Then my brother Mike and mate Tom Meeten will come on before we have a break and then I play a New York cop who interrogates the audience.
“I get to see the audience up close which is good. My brother films it so everyone can see it. We get a volunteer from the audience so there is a lot that could go wrong,” he chuckles.
“I’m looking forward to coming to Fairfield Halls though. I saw a lot to see comedians like Rob Newman and David Baddiel there so I’ve got happy memories of Fairfield Halls. We went there with the first Boosh tour. There is quite a lot of wood panelling – it’s quite a grand room as I recall.
“For this show I got the main ideas down before I started writing and then worked with the director and Tom and we hammered it out. Some of it worked really well and some didn’t so we kept at it. The audience creates the show in the end as what they respond to ends up being kept and what they don’t gets removed.
“Their reaction is important – but they don’t get paid though. That would get messy in the end.”
What doesn’t get messy these days are the after show activities. In fact Noel says you are more likely to find him painting, meditating or playing tennis rather than partying all night. Indeed he says he started painting because he thought it would help him relax.
As a bonus he found he enjoyed it and recently staged an exhibition of his watercolours at the Royal Albert Hall.
“I had done a couple of exhibitions and wanted to do something different so started messing around with watercolours,” he says.
“It was the complete opposite to how I usually paint. It’s like the less you put on the more interesting it becomes. I sold quite a lot actually so I might do some more.
“I started painting to help me relax and then I started meditating as I thought it might calm me down. It really does help and gets rid of a layer of stress.
“I thought meditating would make me lose all my ideas but instead I have more. Ideas come from anything inside my head, from what I read or see on the TV and when I least expect it. I try not to watch rubbish and try and read interesting stuff that will allow my head to be full of great stuff. I listen to a lot of music too.
“My party days are over now though,” he adds laughing again.
“I’m in my 40s and can’t deal with the hangovers these days – you can’t get away with it and afterwards you never feel fine. It takes two days to get over one. I do go out but I can’t when I’m doing gigs. I play tennis and eat healthily.”
During our chat we spend a lot of time meandering around the subject of Cecil the Lion, who at the time of our conversation had not long since passed away having strayed into the path of an American dentist’s bullet.
It is something that Noel felt keenly and was still aggrieved about coming back to the subject several times during tour chat.
“Who would do that to a lion?” he asks. "If you kill a lion like Cecil that’s really bad. NASA should send that man to space on a one-way ticket – I think he must have lost a lot of clients over that.
“I think I will make all my shows a tribute to Cecil and we will have a minute’s silence,” he adds.
“I did a stand up once about a ghost lion who would try and calm me down. It was a bit of an Aslan thing. He used to give me a hug. That was weird.
“It split the crowd. But that’s the thing about stand up. The stuff I used to do years ago, I never wrote anything down properly. We’d just jot a few things down and go out and do it and then party afterwards.”
So what of the Boosh and will they ever come back I ask?
“Never say never,” says Noel. “Thing is, Julian and I were so bored of it at the end. It becomes difficult as you are stretched in every possible way.
"The only thing we didn’t ever do was a film so I would be up for it if we both had the time to do it. I think it would be great. I hate to think it would be the end of it as we were a great double act.
“But like unicorns these opportunities come round infrequently so we will have to see. Maybe now we’ve had a break from each other there is a slim chance.
“Maybe we could do a film about Cecil,” he muses. “Or maybe I’ll just have a pint in the Ship and then like a pirate, sail around the Fairfield Halls with Cecil and meditate. He will be the ghost of the show. It’s going to be great.”
An Evening With Noel Fielding is on at Bromley’s Churchill Theatre on November 18, New Wimbledon Theatre on November 19 and Fairfield Halls, Croydon on Friday November 20. Visit www.noelfielding.co.uk/tour/ for full listings.