I love British comedy. No, not because of the funny accents, but because I find it to be – largely – the best kind of comedy, which is clever and subtle. Bawdy, over-the-top is good sometimes too, as in Apatow, but usually I like the humour that leaps out of the shear brilliance of the writing. But there is another kind of British comedy I see, so I’m going to share with you fellow Canadians Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy. It is kind of in your face, but in a good way.
I loved Noel Fielding the moment I discovered him while streaming his formerly cult comedy series The Mighty Boosh, which aired three seasons on BBC 3 (time slot notably 3am). If you don’t know who Noel is, Google him (I can only handle so much exposition when blog posting). Apart from his glam rock looks, he really is something to behold. His comedy style is what I like to call visual comedy – jokes being funny on a superficial level, but relying on the images that his words evoke to make you laugh. His art is joke twisting, and you can’t help but appreciate the world he creates (one, I imagine, having a jail specifically for rabid unicorns). This imaginativeness is, at times, something of genius. Fellow British comedian, Simon Amstell, put it best when he playfully attacked him about his “funny words” joke-style on BBC panel show Never Mind the Buzzcocks.
Usually joined creatively by his Boosh co-creator/writer/husband Julian Barratt (who is now doing posh avant-garde theatre), Noel went it alone for this new 30 min (or 22min, really) sketch series on E4, and it doesn’t disappoint. I’ve read the reviews and they are hot and cold. Like all creative endeavors, you have people who gulp the Kool-aid, and those that spit it out. This Kool-aid is definitely spiked, by the way. With acid. But from permed overeating cops, a curious Londoner with a shell for a head, a deranged clown who doubles as a mashed potato press, and a sting ray who produces music from a water tank hanging in a tree house in the middle of a jungle (see, I told you), the show is loaded with original characters and charm – all mostly played by Fielding. I should also mention the animation and art, which are pretty damn impressive (it helps that the director and co-creator is Nigel Coen who is an animator by trade and Fielding is an exhibited artist). There is music in the series too, which is catchy – “ooh yeah” – because it was written by Sergio from Kasabian. Yeah. (If you aren’t Googling already, my words must really be enchanting). The secret to the show is the absurdity, something that worked way back when for one of the biggest influences I see on the show’s style, Spike Milligan's Q series, and subsequently Monty Python. (But perhaps a comparison is fruitless because isn’t it true that Milligan influence everyone – at least indirectly, through his influence on Python who also influenced everyone?)
Fleshing out the cast of characters are Mike Fielding, Noel’s younger brother who became famous in the Boosh as Naboo the Enigma, Tom Meetan (Miranda, Saxondale, I.T. Crowd) who plays an automaton version of Andy Warhol who is also Noel’s (character, not Noel proper’s) house cleaner, and other usual players from the Boosh fellowship: Rich Fulcher (Snuff Box with Matt Berry, Upright Citizens Brigade), my great other love Richard Ayoade, who is most famous for playing Moss from I.T. Crowd, but is a whip-smart comedian having had a hand in such great shows like Garth Mereghi’s Dark Place, and more recently director of the Ben Stiller-produced, indie-feeling flick Submarine), and even Dan Clark (How Not to Live Your Life, and remember Johnny Two Hats from Boosh?) makes a one-off appearance as a tanned Miami Vice type. I might be crazy, but I think “God” in episode two is played by the great national treasure, Steve Coogan (aka, Alan Partridge, aka Paul/Pauline Calf, aka Saxondale, but we North Americans may know him as the delusional drama teacher in Hamlet 2, or the deranged British director from Tropic Thunder who gets his head blown off). Can anyone confirm that? (Update: Luxury Comedy editor Mark Everson has confirmed that it's Fielding, not Coogan.)
In any case, I’ve given you a million reasons to watch. So go forth. It does not air in Canada, but episodes are posted, in hi-def and in their entirety, by some very devoted fans with YouTube accounts.
Andrea Grassi is a writer and blogger based in Toronto. For more musings, click: agrassi.com