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Veterans of Foreign Game Shows: The Allure of Noel Fielding 

Wednesday, Jul 23 2014
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Noel Fielding is deliciously bizarre. He's also hot. This combination makes him the Lord Byron of the absurd. He is one of the two stars of The Mighty Boosh, a British sketch comedy show that involves two weirdos who leave their apartment on adventures in a magic van. It's not that great, though. For really strange British comedy I prefer Peep Show or The League of Gentlemen. But my enthusiasm for Fielding has led me to watch all of them, and then of course to any stalker's paradise: YouTube. That is where I discovered Never Mind The Buzzcocks.

England has perfected the art of the comedy quiz show. Panels of guests maneuver their way through whatever the show's theme is, throwing zingers and wizbangs at one another and making cutting Cliff Richard allusions. (Many Americans don't know who he is, but he had a few hits over here, most notably "Devil Woman"). Buzzcocks is centered around pop and rock music trivia. A different star hosts each week and there are two teams of three, one led by Fielding and the other led by comedian Phill Jupitus. Guests are generally people no American has ever heard of, like B-variety TV stars or members of British boy bands. It doesn't matter though, because Jupitus and Fielding are the real stars and their witticisms carry the entire show. There are about four rounds of competition, the best of which is when two members of one team have to hum or sing the musical intro to a song and the other person has to guess. Seventy-five percent of the show is just everyone fucking around though, and it's hilarious.

The show is so successful that it has had 27 "series," which means that more than one runs a year. I'm proud to say I've sat through them all. Well, more like lay down through them all, because I play one on my smartphone every night before turning off the light to go to sleep. A pile of books gathers dust on my bedside table.

Sometimes Fielding dresses up like a girl, or a mouse, or a samurai. His hair is always a brunette version of the classic Rod Stewart cut, and he nervously runs his hands through it to tousle it back to optimum hipness. He has a big nose and alabaster skin. He hates Coldplay. I inherently feel jealousy towards anyone who gets to be on his team. I've seen pictures of him out on the town in London, hanging out with Courtney Love or Russell Brand. He's the bon vivant with the bon mot.

One YouTube video I found of him has him slinking out of Amy Winehouse's mansion with her, both of them appearing erratic and spaced out. She is indifferent to him, scurrying to her waiting limo, and he gracelessly leans in for a kiss and is rebuffed. It's as if they had gotten really loaded together and had sex the night before, culminating in the morning's awkwardness. We've all been there.

Imagine my surprise then when I saw Amy Winehouse on Buzzcocks. Fielding was gone that week, but the episode was rather haunting. The host for the week was comedian Simon Amstell, and he ribbed Winehouse to no end.

"Can I have a drink?" she asks, mid-show. Oh dear.

"No," says Amstell, pointing out that she's already sufficiently pickled. "Are you just going to drink yourself to death?" he quips. Later, when an allusion to her song "Rehab" comes up, and she adds the line, "No no no," Amstell says, "In retrospect, maybe that was a bad decision?" The audience is in stitches of course. Now that she is gone, it's pretty poignant. Despite her demons, she displays her heart on the episode, sticking up for other people who are being teased and yelping out in pain when talk of an animal being harmed comes up. It's a 20-minute microcosm of her.

Mostly, though, the show is just mindless random humor with jabs of sharp wit, God bless it. I wonder how such a show would go over in America? Guest hosts could be Patton Oswalt or Louis CK, with panelists like Jim Parsons or Betty White. We used to have game shows like this. What happened?

About The Author

Katy St. Clair

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