‘At one point, I play a herbal tea bag’ - An interview with surreal comic Noel Fielding ahead of Friday’s Corn Exchange show

Noel Fielding

Noel Fielding - Credit: Archant

Noel Fielding’s first solo tour in five years makes a highly-anticipated stop at the Cambridge Corn Exchange this week. Here, the Cambs Times speaks to the king of surreal comedy about what people can expect from his new show.

The comedian’s loyal fanbase has grown and grown thanks to his work on ‘The Mighty Boosh’, ‘Never Mind the Buzzcocks’ and his own surreal series ‘Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy’. And with his new, simply titled show, ‘An Evening with Noel Fielding’, he hopes to build it even more.

“You’d be a fool to miss out,” Noel enthuses. “Come along, bring your nan. Fancy dress optional,” he says of the new show, which blends stand-up, animation, music and special appearances (from his best-loved characters The Moon, The Dark Side of the Moon and Fantasy Man) in a typically quirky way.

Described by critics as charismatic, comic, charming and compelling, while his friend Phil Jupitus calls him “a Gothic George Best”, Noel Fielding is a household name in comedy.

“The great thing about live comedy is that it cuts out the middle men - all those TV producers and directors. It takes out everything that gets in the way, so it’s just you and the audience. It’s a really pure set-up.”

Because it’s so deeply original and innovative, Noel’s comedy can divide people. But he thinks the infectious nature of his stand-up show can help to win over the agnostics. “Some people might think they’re allergic to you, but if they come to a live show and see everyone is laughing, it’s hard to say that it’s not funny.

“As a stand-up, you spend all day being nervous. But as soon as you step onto the stage and get the first laugh, it’s magic time. It’s like being in a dream. It’s a real buzz.”

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He says of the new show, “the first half is set in a cabaret club. Then I get kidnapped from my own show, and in the second half the rest of the characters have to find me. I’ll be playing other characters during the second half. It becomes like a play. It’s a sort of farce.”

Of the themes addressed in ‘An Evening With’, Noel says, “I touch on turning 40 and my Peter Pan complex. Because I’m now 40, I try to do a bleak bit, but of course it soon becomes completely fantastical. I attempt to go gritty, but I can’t help going fantasy.”

As an example, Noel says he has been working up the character of Chicken Man. “He’s like a figure from a Jodorowsky Spaghetti Western. He’s half man, half chicken. He has to fight a bandit, and he’s got tourettes. He keeps flipping in and out of madness.”

Noel’s comedy is always richly imaginative, but he says the self-indulgence of hit could only exist on television.

“Doing stand-up, you’re edited by the audience. If you take too mad a line, you’ll lose people. But on the other hand, if something is getting big laughs, it’ll never leave the show.”

Noel adds, “there are certain things that you just know will work. At one point, I play a herbal tea bag. I knew that would strike a chord because everyone has tea.”

The comedian attempts to sum up the style of the show. “It’s so abstract. It’s like you turn the radio dial, and something random comes on. You’re not quite sure what it is, but you warm to it.”

So what does the comic hope that audiences will take away from ‘An Evening with Noel Fielding’? “I hope they laugh their heads off. I’ve always been very concerned not to sell people short. But the only danger is that the show ends up as long as the film Gandhi!”

The only drawback about touring, Noel says, is that, “You’re buzzing with adrenaline when you come off stage. You have to do something with that, and it’s very hard not to go and get drunk. In the old days, we’d give the Rolling Stones a run for their money with our after-show behaviour.

“But now I’m in my forties, I have to find new ways to calm myself down. Like Mick Jagger, I’ll have to get fit. After the show, we used to go drinking. This time we’ll have to go to mazes and local markets and drink peppermint tea.”

‘An Evening with Noel Fielding’ comes to the Cambridge Corn Exchange tomorrow evening, December 4, from 8pm.

Tickets, which cost £27.50 (including £2.50 booking fee) are available from www.cambridgelivetrust.co.uk