‘Sorry, I’ve waffled on. I do apologise. I’m normally really kind of reserved on the phone and I won’t stop talking.’ Mike Fielding breaks off the friendly stream-of-consciousness burble about the triumphs and tribulations of his relatively new-found celebrity as Naboo, ‘freelance shaman’ and all-round mystical (and frequently mystifying) good egg on cult UK comedy The Mighty Boosh, and bursts into a fresh round of giggles.
Fielding laughs a lot. The whole of our conversation with the whey-faced 26-year-old, speaking to Time Out from his home in London, is peppered with giggles. He laughs when he tells us about reading the script for the first Boosh episode in Australia on Christmas Day eight years ago (‘Normally I’m having a proper English Christmas dinner and it was me having shrimps on the barbie, as it were’), chuckles when discussing the appeal of the show (‘people can kind of relate to the weirdness of it’) and positively hoots when we asked where all that weirdness comes from (‘Who knows? Just the minds of Noel and Julian’).
Noel and Julian are big brother Noel Fielding and his comedy partner Julian Barratt, who together created The Boosh a decade ago (Mike, incidentally, was the inspiration behind the name – a childhood friend of the brothers used to call his magnificently voluminous barnet his ‘mighty bush’, which, with the inflections of his Spanish accent, translated with winning comedy into ‘boosh’).
As alter-egos Vince Noir (Noel) and Howard Moon (Julian), the duo play an unlikely pair of surreal adventurers, joined in their escapades by, among others, Naboo the Enigma (to give Fielding’s character his full name).
Over the course of three on-screen series, the pair have played out a catalogue of surreal scenarios, kicking off with a boxing match with a killer kangaroo (a ‘Killeroo’) – resolved with the help of some timely magic dust from our turbaned hero – and rounded off with a murderous incident on a desert island that turns out to have been nowt more than a nasty hallucination, courtesy of some rancid coconuts. It is, as you may have gathered, a long way away from Friends.
Fielding Jr. joined this merry troupe while living Down Under – he’d gone out to Oz with The Boosh the year before and fallen in love with the place. Noel and Julian wrote the role expressly for him – hence the aforementioned Christmas-in-the-sun script-reading session. Does that mean Naboo’s an accurate reflection of what’s going in Fielding’s head? Does he indeed weave the magic and spells of a shaman? ‘Yeah, I was actually brainwashing [Noel] as he wrote the script,’ he laughs in reply, ‘sending him vibes over from Australia.’
Naboo got his debut in Autobush, their third stage show, which launched at the 2000 Melbourne International Comedy Festival, where they picked up the festival’s Barry Humphries Award. Naboo’s – and Fielding’s – comedic fate was sealed; he’s been plying his shamanic trade with the group ever since.
Autobush travelled to Edinburgh Fringe and beyond. Its success helped land the lads a slot on BBC radio, where they built themselves a steady coterie of fans until, in 2004, the show crossed over onto the small screen. There its fantastical appeal found a new and expanding audience.
Their fame, and collective influence, has continued to spread – just last month The Boosh hosted a one-day music and comedy festival at Hop Farm, on England’s south coast, headlining the event with their very own made-to-measure Boosh band.
It sounds, we say rather whimsically, like a lot of fun. It is, Fielding animatedly agrees. When they’re filming, every day is like a surprise. ‘I’d go in there and I wouldn’t know what to expect. It was like, “Oh my God, they’ve built a submarine!” or “Oh my God they’ve built a giant hat that you can get inside!” It’s like Alice in Wonderland,’ he giggles. ‘It’s amazing. I’m proud to be a part of it.’
Embodying what UK broadsheet The Times has called ‘psychedelic whimsy and a very English surrealism’, the show – and its cast – has been compared to every ‘zany’ comedy collective from Reeves & Mortimer to Monty Python. Part of their appeal, says Fielding, lies in the fact that there’s an almost childish innocence at the heart of the show: ‘There are so many comedies that only adults can watch, with swearing and all that, but [The Mighty Boosh] isn’t like that. It’s not harmful, it’s just childish fun. I think that’s what’s made it go a bit crazy. We’re all into strange things when we’re younger and it taps into that.’
It’s endearing, all this good humour. Fielding strikes you immediately as someone for whom cynicism remains a far-off, distant land. He is endlessly enthusiastic about his work – even when discussing Mighty Boosh Live, the tour that’s due to kick off in the UK next month and which, at a total of 84 shows performed with only one day off a week, promises to be, as commentators say of high-performance athletes’ training programmes, gruelling. ‘Yeah, apparently no other comedy show has had a schedule like this one so it’s going to be interesting,’ Fielding observes with wry understatement.
What better to prepare for such an onslaught, then, than what has to be fast becoming one of the sweetest deals currently on offer to the cherished few – the celebrity DJ slot in one of Dubai’s clubs? Like band members from Razorlight and Belle & Sebastian before him and a set from a sprinkling of Doves members to come, Fielding will be gracing a nightspot near you (in this case Chi) for an evening of electro house (and, depending on the age of the crowd and whether they’ll have heard of the likes of the Rolling Stones, maybe, he says, some ‘old stuff’).
It’s hard to be disparaging, however, when Fielding is just so darned excited about it all. (‘My agent phoned me and said, “Do you want to go to Dubai?”’ he enthuses. ‘I was like, “Yeah!”’) Not to mention, refreshingly honest: ‘I’m not Fat Boy Slim or anything,’ he jokes, ‘but it’s nice that people can come and meet Naboo and get photos and also listen to what music he plays and have a good night.’
So, do you play in character then? ‘No, no, but people kind of…’ he trails. ‘It’s weird. When people come and see me DJ [Fielding’s been playing one-off gigs for over a year] they’ll be like “Naboo!” and I just go with it. I don’t want go, “Well, actually, I do have a name.” I don’t want to be arrogant – I’m a nice person.’ We can only agree.
Mike Fielding plays Step On at Chi on August 15.