Review: A Night with Noel Fielding (and friends and family!)
Here's your Big Fat Quiz for 2016: How will America receive Noel Fielding without all the trappings of Hollywood that preceded Russell Brand's arrival upon our shores and our comedy venues?
Before you answer.
Fielding and Brand teamed up multiple times on British television for The Big Fat Quiz of the Year specials over the past decade, and whether you consider them "Goth Detectives" or magical comedy fairies, elves or rapscallions, the fact of the matter is that when Brand showed up in the United States for his first stand-up tour in 2008, he was hot off of a scene-stealing performance on the big-screen in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and about to host the MTV Video Music Awards.
Never mind the buzz, cocks, because Noel Fielding also made his American touring debut this month with a run at the same Gramercy Theatre where Brand had bandied about years before.
You needn't have been an ex-pat to catch up on Fielding's comedy exploits, as the Internet has brought his varied projects -- from The Mighty Boosh to Noel Fielding's Luxury Comedy and panel shows such as Never Mind the Buzzcocks and guest shots in The IT Crowd to audiences far and wide. Although it certainly will make you appreciate his touring production, An Evening with Noel Fielding, a lot more if you've seen him before.
Or at least come with a healthy heaping sense of whimsy.
To wit, several characters from Fielding's Luxury Comedy series appear live or animated for your enjoyment. Among them: The Moon, Joey Ramone, Sgt. Raymond Boombox, Fantasy Man and Hawkeye.
Oh yes, as Fielding's site for the tour testifies: "There will also be muscular support from special guests including Mike Fielding." Noel's little brother personifies Hawkeye and other characters, and Rich Fulcher appeared on the New York City dates, too.
Noel Fielding opens the show telling tall tales about how, now in his 40s, he feels more like "a day-old helium balloon." Not quite up as he once was, but not quite done floating on air. He catches himself walking with his hands behind his back and cannot figure out why. He bemoans his slowing metabolism, as well as his slowing recovery from hangovers, comparing his liver to Chewbacca. Could be worse. He could be a monkey in Costa Rica. As he observed there: "Monkeys are scared of applause. Opposite of comedians, I suppose."
Fielding isn't scared of applause, of aging, or even his appendage-less statue he has onstage with him that he calls Messi after the famous footballer.
As he explains to his audiences here in America, Fielding grew up with a bit of a culture clash, describing his upbringing as "a chav who went to art school."
Instead of becoming a hooligan, he became a humorist.
"What is you?" people ask Fielding. "I look like a hairdresser, Morrissey or a trendy art teacher. I know! I made a mistake."
Noel Fielding definitely chose wisely when he chose whimsy.
When he chose comedy, Fielding realized he found the "massive loophole!" in the societal need to grow up. Because now, even in his 40s, he can share his dreams of life as tea bag, his nightmares of understudy Antonio Banderas as Zorro criticizing or even taking over his show, and the animated tales of plasticine punk and rock gods. When an animated David Bowie appears on the screen behind Fielding, the comedian pauses to reflect on Bowie's recent death, and finally admits: "You know, I've been ripping him off for 10 years." Fielding has lines just for himself, lines just for his longtime fans, and even a Trump reference or two. Something for everyone; even the day-old helium balloons out there.
There is an intermission, with a second-half built upon the conceit that Fielding has been kidnapped. That not only gives his understudy a chance to shine, but also Sgt. Boombox to handle the case, and find both witnesses and accomplices in the audience to come to the rescue.
Fielding and Fulcher particularly enjoyed ribbing each other in NYC about whether they stayed or strayed from their scripts.
And Fielding could poke fun at his own foibles, when at least once, he found he'd ad-libbed too much with one of his animated supporters.
"Note to self: don't do improvisations with the animations," Fielding paused to say. "They will not go with you on flights of fantasy!"
Will you go with Fielding on this flight of fantasy?
March 29 - April 1 & 2 / LOS ANGELES / THE HENRY FONDA THEATRE
April 5 & 6 / SAN FRANCISCO / THE REGENCY
April 7 / PORTLAND / REVOLUTION HALL
April 8 / SEATTLE / THE MOORE THEATRE
April 9 / VANCOUVER / THE VOGUE