How We Met: Dan Clark & Noel Fielding
'I used to say, "Dan, you're so funny at a party, you've got to try to get that into your comedy"'
Sunday 07 November 2010
Dan Clark, 34, is an actor, writer and comedian. He began his career as part of sketch group Electric Eel before becoming an acclaimed solo stand-up. On screen, he has appeared in shows including 'The Mighty Boosh' and 'My Family', and is best known for writing and starring in the BBC3 sitcom 'How Not to Live Your Life'. He lives in London
I think Noel will say we met in Edinburgh in 1998 but actually it was in 1997 when he'd just started doing stand-up and I saw him do a gig in a small room. I bumped into him in a bar a couple of nights later and said, "I really like your stuff." He was like, "Oh really..."
Back then, a lot of the sketch groups came from Oxbridge. Noel and Julian [Barratt] were a breath of fresh air, because they came from art school and music school respectively. It was nice to find people who didn't just talk about comedy; we'd talk about all sorts, get drunk and have fun.
I once had a review that stuck with me, which said: "[Dan] Clark is Noel Fielding without the clothes habit." That was kind of fair. I wouldn't wear furry yeti costumes, yet he pulls it off.
We knew each other socially for ages before he saw anything I did. I always remember thinking, "He's going to think I'm really mainstream," because what he did was quite surreal, whereas ours was more of a conventional sketch show. But actually he really liked it. What was quite funny about getting him [to do a cameo] on How Not to Live Your Life was that he's playing such a normal character – well, a guy in a suit and tie with a normal haircut.
When I first got to know Noel, he was basically teetotal. Then suddenly he was in a position of being able to do whatever he wanted and he became this party animal. Around five years ago, I had to say to him, "I've got to stop going out with you because it takes me four days to recover." He's not a caner any more, though. He'll ring me up and say, "Do you want to come and play tennis?" I'm not very good at sport, so I always pass.
I like that he doesn't rest on his laurels about what he does creatively. He wants to do a stand-up tour, but he doesn't want to do it until he's got [the material] really right, whereas some people would have done three tours by now, no matter whether they were good or not – I would. I admire him for still trying to sustain that level of quality even when he doesn't have to.
Noel Fielding, 37, is an artist and comedian, who started out as a stand-up before starring in and co-creating the surreal sitcom 'The Mighty Boosh' with his comedy partner Julian Barratt. He is also a team captain on the music quiz show 'Never Mind the Buzzcocks'. He lives in London
I think it was 1998 when we first met – we were both doing the Edinburgh festival. He was in a sketch troupe called Electric Eel with these guys called Cliff and Adam, and me and Julian were doing the Mighty Boosh. We'd meet in the bar after shows. Electric Eel were always getting their cocks out and throwing stuff at people – they were quite a raucous bunch, like the Bash Street Kids. They had a gang and we had a gang, and we used to get really over-excited when we got together. I always thought Dan looked like a wonky Don Johnson. The others used to take the piss out of me and Dan. They'd say, "You're not the funny ones, you're just the pretty boys," and we said, "Well, we're going to leave you lot and form our own little boy band." We were like two Mark Owens.
Me and Dan are both from south London, and he reminded me of my friends, as he took the piss a lot. There's quite a harsh sort of banter that goes on in south London. With a lot of comedians, you'd take the piss and they'd get upset, but me and Dan just connected like that.
Dan and Electric Eel got their own TV show early on in their careers [called The Estate Agents] and I don't think they were ready for it. It was a bit like The Young Ones. It didn't get re-commissioned, which was a shame, because I think they would have got it right. But I really admired the fact that Dan went, "Right I'm going to do stand-up, I'm going to work my way up again." And now he's on a third series with How Not to Live Your Life. Not many people come back from a disappointment like that.
I think it's been getting progressively better, too. I used to say, "Dan you're so funny in the bar, or at a party, you've got to try and get that into your comedy." His character's very recognisable, he's like a lot of your friends, who are quite funny and quite handsome but a bit idiotic. Dan is a bit of a doofus, too, but a charming one.
We often kiss as a joke. There's a slightly underlying homoerotic thing between us, but that's often thrust on us by our friends going, "Kiss!" and us going, "Maybe we will then." We also fantasise about being in a show together where we'll solve crimes. It will be a BBC drama on Saturday nights, like Dempsey & Makepeace, and me and Dan will be housewives' favourites. We'll just come in in stupid outfits and pretend to be policemen, or anything really – lifeboat people, train police, gamekeepers, park rangers. There won't be any content to the show, just lots of slow-motion shots of us with our hair blowing back.
The third series of 'How Not to Live Your Life' begins on BBC3 tomorrow at 10.30pm.
Noel Fielding's exhibition Bryan Ferry vs the Jelly Fox is at Gallery Maison Bertaux, 28 Greek Street, London W1, until 5 January
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