"It was always niggling me," said Noel Fielding. "I've always wanted to do America."
And he is. The costar and cocreator of The Mighty Boosh, a truly bizarre and inspired British sitcom that achieved cult status over here, is doing his first American tour. The show, An Evening with Noel Fielding, is part of a specific tradition that exists in the UK of popular TV shows going on the road between seasons with elaborate stage productions.
The show he's bringing to Seattle on Friday night is built largely from characters created and performed during two seasons of Noel Fielding's Luxury Comedy, a Boosh follow-up that hasn't been widely seen in the United States. (Luxury consisted of disconnected vignettes that multiplied the surrealism of Boosh by a lot, while framing the mayhem with a structure that recalled Pee-wee's Playhouse.)
That lack of exposure doesn't seem to be a huge concern. Fielding's Seattle engagement sold out the day tickets went on sale, and the show was quickly moved from the Neptune to the larger Moore.
On the phone from Chicago, Fielding—who is exactly how you would want him to be on the phone: friendly, loopy, discursive, bemused, and gently funny—explained how he and his Mighty Boosh partner, Julian Barratt, never quite fulfilled their American ambitions. "We were going to do a big Boosh tour," he said, "but we'd just finished doing one in England. We were knackered. And Julian had two kids just as we were doing our third TV show. He had to film for two months, and we didn't have much of a break. Then we went on tour, and it was a hundred day tour, so it was long and it was arenas. And he was like, 'No. I can't go into America now.'
"We were quite good live, me and Julian. We started live. We always knew how to play a live crowd. When we did television, we enjoyed it, but we were saying, 'It'd be great to do a live show, wouldn't it?'"
He went on to contextualize the format of the stage show version of a TV series.
"Once you knew how to do the live medium," he said, "then you weren't just re-creating sketches from the telly if you actually were using theatrical techniques. It's a bit easier to play with a crowd, which means you're based in stand-up."
The Mighty Boosh proved to be hugely popular in the UK, both on-screen and onstage, which made the prospect of following it up a bit of a challenge.
"When I did Luxury," Fielding explained, "I basically did two series back-to-back, and I was sick of television. I did both in the summertime, so I missed the whole summer. Being in a black box, against the green screen, playing about 7,000 characters in this avant-garde experiment. When it came out, I went, 'Did anyone see that?' They all went, 'Yeah, that was frightening. When is there going to be another Boosh show?' I thought, 'Oh, fuck this. I need to go on tour.'"
And thus was born An Evening with Noel Fielding. But what should we expect from such an evening?
"There's a lot of stand-up," Fielding said. "Then some sketchy stuff and some animation. At one point, I go inside the animation, and at one point, we take a member of the audience and put them into the animation. It's a children's show. That's the concept."
Strong ticket sales aside, is Fielding concerned that some of the characters who turn up in the show—like the American policeman Sergeant Raymond Boombox or Fantasy Man—will be totally unfamiliar to audiences? (One Boosh staple, the Moon, does make an appearance.)
"I just thought there were a few characters that would work live," he explained. "Joey Ramone is in it, but it's just a Play-Doh version of Joey Ramone. You don't have to know who anyone is to enjoy the show. That was the rule."
So far, he said, his American audiences have been on board.
"I thought I'd have to change a lot, and I've not really had to change much. Comedy crowds around the world are savvy and smart. You don't have to change anything at all. Actually, if you try and change things, it feels a bit phony. They know that you're mucking about and you're not taking it seriously. There's something about being true to the Englishness as well, because that is the difference, and that's why they've come to see you."