Noel Fielding and his pals may hang out in a coffee shop in the new series of his E4 show Luxury Comedy, but it’s about as far removed from sitcoms like Friends as you can imagine.
For starters, the funnyman’s café is perched on the edge of a volcano in Hawaii, half the action comes in the form of animated cartoons, and his gang includes a reincarnated Andy Warhol and a part-man, part-anteater named Smooth.
In episode one, we see the cast of 80s Hawaiian-based TV show Magnum, P.I. out to get Noel – because his coffee shop is built on sacred land, and the only man who can save the day is an internet sensation called Paul Panfer.
Think that sounds wacky? The first series in 2012 was even more experimental, with, Fielding points out, “the emphasis on ‘mental’”.
“We didn’t really want to get involved in a narrative [in series one], because I’d done that for Boosh. We just wanted to try lots of different stuff – different techniques and different characters,” says the star, who found fame as one half of surrealist double act The Mighty Boosh, alongside Julian Barratt.
“It was quite Marmite. You either loved it or hated it,” adds the 41-year-old.
Noel and his Luxury Comedy co-director and co-writer Nigel Coan have given more shape to the madness for the second instalment.
They’ve moved all of the action to just one place (the coffee shop), and only brought back the most successful characters, which also include a chocolate finger named Roy Circles and a manta ray called Tony.
“It’s still got the beautiful animation and the characters, but hopefully it’ll be more digestible and easier to understand,” says Noel.
The Londoner is also in a “much calmer, happier place” this time around.
He started writing series one after a 100-date Mighty Boosh tour, and has confessed that “for about a year afterwards, I thought I was still on tour, I was in a pretty crazy place”.
“I was feeling pretty mad, and I wanted to reflect that, and make something quite schizophrenic and dark. This series is a lot less dark. It’s a much happier show,” he adds.
A former art student, Noel met his Boosh co-star Julian at a stand-up gig in the late 90s.
They began performing together, landed the Perrier Award for best newcomers at the Edinburgh Fringe (where they flat-shared with Lee Mack and Simon Evans) and made a sketch show for Radio 4 before breaking into TV.
The Mighty Boosh, about the adventures of zookeeper friends Vince Noir (Noel) and Howard Moon (Julian), became a cult hit when it aired on BBC Three and BBC Two from 2004 to 2007. They enlisted family members and famous faces – from Roger Daltrey of The Who to Cars singer Gary Numan (“We didn’t use any extras, we just used all our friends”), and Noel was regularly snapped out and about with celebrity pals like Russell Brand and Courtney Love.
But the Boosh gang last appeared on stage together at a festival in California in 2013 and, earlier this year, Noel denied reports of a reunion film and tour.
“We could have kept doing The Mighty Boosh, but we’ve done that,” he says. “We did three series, a radio show, two big tours, a festival, a book. We’d done it.”
When he watches Boosh shows now, “I just go ‘Wow’”, he admits.
“It’s such an amazing document of that period of our lives,” he adds. “To have my parents, my brother and my friends in it, it sort of feels like some weird art project.”
The rest of the Fiedling clan – parents Dianne and Ray, and brother Michael – also appear in Luxury Comedy.
So what did they make of the show?
“My mum’s got quite a weird sense of humour, so she always laughs really loudly,” says Noel. “My dad’s much more likely to watch it and think about it and then go, ‘Yeah, I really liked this bit’, or, ‘I liked that bit’.”
Kasabian’s Serge Pizzorno provided the music for the new series, and some other well-known faces pop up, including The IT Crowd’s Richard Ayoade and Sightseers’ Steve Oram, who plays the show’s sole viewer, Terry.
“There are a lot of little self-deprecating in-jokes about how the first series was a bit weird, and we’ve only got one viewer. In the last episode, the ratings aren’t good enough, so we have to change the ratings by the end of the show or it will get cancelled...”
Whatever the show’s fate in real life, it’s clear that Fielding has enjoyed making the second batch of episodes. The important thing, he says, is to keep moving and keep learning. “I’m proud of [the new series]. I think we did a good job,” he says.