Thursday, July 31, 2014

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy' Season Two Premieres Today! Took Them Long Enough

Not for the last time, I'm jealous of people in England.  Why this time, you say?  Because I know it's going to take me at least a day or two to find some bootleg copy of the first episode of Noel Fielding's breakout sketch comedy, Luxury Comedy.  I guess I should count myself lucky that England's copyright laws on Youtube are a little more lax than ours here in the US, and at the very least it will be posted by one of my lovely friends back in Blighty within a week.  It's little consolation, however, since I know one of the most fun, weird and artistic shows ever to be created will be starting on BBC's E4 network in just a few short hours.

Why am I writing about a TV show on a blog that is so hopelessly dedicated to underground music and street art that Google AdSense just laughs at me every time I submit my requests for sponsorship?  Simply put, Luxury Comedy is so bright, odd, multi-layered and surreal that there really isn't any disputing that it is, in fact, art posing as comedy - or vice versa.  Need more convincing?  Well here we go.

Most of you may remember Noel Fielding from the cult hit TV show The Mighty Boosh, which he developed with fellow comedian Julian Barratt.  "The Boosh" ran on television from 2004-2007 and was developed from a stage show Fielding and Barratt created in 1998.  There were also a number of live tours, a book and numerous Comic Con appearances in the meantime.  To this day, Barratt and Fielding threaten more reunions every once in a while, which keeps their rabid cult following on pins and needles.  Despite no new episodes being made since 2007, fans are still clamouring for more, but in the meantime Noel has Luxury Comedy, roles in a number of other English TV shows, and, of course, his art.

Fielding grew up in the cutting-edge music and art world in the Westminster area of London with two "quite cool" parents and attended both Croydon Art College and Buckinghamshire New University, obtaining a BA in graphic design.  Artistically, Fielding leans toward the surreal, as is quickly exemplified in The Mighty Boosh and in Luxury Comedy.  He's not bad, either.  He's had a couple of well-received exhibitions in London: Psychedelic Dreams of the Jelly Fox and Bryan Ferry vs. The Jelly Fox.  The elusive and fun "Jelly Fox" character was also a skit in Luxury Comedy, in which Fielding's paintings were animated in a pseudo-stop animation style, and the skit now plays on a loop in a gallery in London.  Fielding also penned an art book with fellow comedian and Boosh cast member Dave Brown called Scribblings of a Madcap Shambleton.

Fielding's painting appears in Luxury Comedy in more literal ways, in an interlude skit where he paints a "Foulmouthed Cuckoobarrow Slotted into the Top Pocket of a Wallaby," and that piece is hung next to a portrait of Andre the Giant clearly also painted by Fielding, though a weird character named Doo-Rag claims a 5-year-old named Sam took credit for painting it.  Lost yet?  The video won't help:

The artistic aesthetic of Luxury Comedy can also be attributed partially to Noel, and also to his writing partner Nigel Coan, who also worked on The Boosh.  Coan is credited with designing the set and much of the animation, and had a heavy hand in the overall feel of the show.

Aside from the art, the crazy writing and the surreal sketches, the other outstanding feature of Luxury Comedy is the characters.  There are probably at least a hundred of them, most played by Fielding himself.  Many of Noel's friends are also featured in these wacky vignettes: Rich Fulcher from The Mighty Boosh, The IT Crowd's Richard Ayoade, and Noel's own brother Michael who played the mystic Naboo in The Boosh all feature in the show, playing all sorts of characters from a hundred year old man who summons some sort of ripped flea creature from the netherworld to celebrate his birthday to a hammerhead shark music producer.  Music is also heavily featured in the show, with Sergio Pizzorno from Kasabian helping with the soundtrack, and an entire episode centered around the debate between Brian Eno and Bryan Ferry.

I will tell you this, in case you haven't already guessed: season one of Luxury Comedy is a total mindfuck.  Even for me, it took some getting used to, and I had to take breaks from the complete lack of any connection with reality that goes on for 22 minutes in each episode.  That said, once you do get used to it, it's a beautifully written piece of work and the stories and sketches are amazingly well-thought out and, well, artistic.  Unfettered by the story line and grounding straightman force of Julian Barratt's character in The Boosh, Fielding was free to run wild with his imagination, and he certainly did that.  I'm going to make a lot of enemies saying this, but I honestly think it was better than The Mighty Boosh.

Season two has been long anticipated over the past two years, and I have a suspicion a lot of that time was spent convincing the BBC to do a second season, as the format sounds like it's changed quite a bit.  Luxury Comedy will now take place in a coffee shop in Hawaii on the edge of a volcano, and will have a more continuous storyline rather than being free-form sketches.  I'm interested to see what Fielding will do with this new format, though I wonder if the last two years and the process of getting to this point has made him question whether he went too far in the last season.  If I could, I would assure him he didn't.  "...In the second series I have been looking for ways to make it more accessible without losing the original trains of thought," said Fielding in an interview with The Independent.  Feh.  Give me surreal, I can take it.  
I'm going into season two with an open mind, however, and if you haven't seen season one, now's the time to start binge watching, and keep your mind open as well.  All seven episodes are available to stream on Youtube.  Then when season two makes its way to us poor unfortunate souls in the US, it will be an easier pill to swallow - or a jagged one - it's too early to tell.  What is certain is we will still be subjected to some form of psychotropic spectacle, courtesy of this artist, comedian, rabid music fan, Madcap Shambleton, Noel Fielding.

1 comment:

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