Tag Archives: Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy

Personification of inanimate objects a common factor in classic British comedy TV shows?

I noted in a previous post that there are many surreal or psychedelic elements in the rather amazing British TV series Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy that seem to hint that various types of synaesthesia, including the personification of inanimate objects, could have been an inspiration in the making of the show. I have also noted that I seem to have an attraction to genres in the arts that appear to be inspired by or incorporate synaesthesia, including Symbolist art and other art of the fin de siecle era, psychedelic music from the 1960s to the present, from all corners of the world, and Fielding’s psychedelic TV series. The other night the kids and I were watching a repeat of the classic 1980s British comedy TV series The Young Ones, and I noticed that like Fielding’s show, it features quite a few characters that are personified inanimate objects. The episode we saw featured a speaking stairway banister and a fridge full of speaking and rotting vegetables, including a bad tomato singing the blues. I’ve realized that there are heaps of similarities between The Young Ones and Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy, including the fact that they are favourites of mine, and are both surreal and thus reject and make a joke of the notion of realism in a TV drama. Both shows are very self-referential in a way that was quite a new and interesting thing back in the 1980s, and The Young Ones was probably was inspired by ideas of deconstruction, semiotics and postmodernism which were very much in fashion in academia in the 1980s. One point of difference between the shows is the extraordinary saturation of colour in Fielding’s show, which might be there because the show is more of a creation of one person than the 1980s TV series, and thus possibly is more a reflection of  a hyper-colour-conscious imagination or thoughts of one creator. I am merely speculating here.

I’m not sure what to make of the personification of objects in these TV shows. I guess it is obvious that characters that are objects are unique to these shows among adult TV shows because other TV series for adults are anchored to the notion of realism, while these shows are free to include features that can’t be real. But why would you want to have talking objects in a show? I think they are included because they add to the unsettling nature of the shows. Both series were clearly made with the aim of challenging the viewer in various ways. Even though I am a synesthete who experiences personified letters of the alphabet and numbers, even I felt unsettled and irritated by the singing tomato in The Young One’s, when I first watched the series in the 1980s. Back then I had no idea that I was a synaesthete and had never even heard of the term synaesthesia. I only knew that in the back of my mind I felt that letters and numbers had essential traits such as colours and genders, but in the front of my mind I knew that such ideas made no sense at all, and I had no idea where my fanciful ideas had come from, except that I knew that they had somehow come from my childhood. I thought of my synaesthesia as an odd and embarrassing feature of my childhood which I wished to forget, rather like thumb-sucking, bed-wetting or reliance on a teddy-bear. Coloured numbers were a silly, patently irrational and childish thing, never to be mentioned ever again. I tried to forget, and the associations dropped out of my conscious experience, to a degree that when I discovered the concept of synaesthesia as a fascinated mother and housewife in her late 30s, my documenting of my many synaesthesia associations and experiences often felt like remembering things from my long-ago childhood. Maybe this is why, when I quite excitedly watched the funny and anarchic new British TV series The Young Ones, as a marginally-interested student of cinema theory and semiotics in a university English department in her 20s, the singing tomatoes bit was the one bit that left me feeling very irritated more than amused or interested.

The Young Ones Interesting part 1 of 3. YouTubehttp://youtu.be/QMb4NogC4us

A transcript of an episode of The Young Ones featuring some personified inaninmate objects: http://www.4q.dk/theyoungones-05-interesting.php

A very lippy gash, things with personalities, animals who are people and a man who is a lion….very strange

How many personified inanimate objects can you count in the TV show linked to below; Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy? There’s the screwed-up chocolate stick soldier/teacher, the French signer made of croissants, the verbally abusive wound in the arm of Sgt Raymond Boombox (my personal favourite), the misunderstood mountains who go tisk tisk, the thing with a conch shell for a head, etc. And how many animals can you count that behave like people? There’s a  ruthless and deadly WWI flying ace dolphin, Dondylion, his disturbing animal companion, a spoon snake, and no doubt many more. There even seems to be an example of a real person being seen as having the characteristics of an animal; “David Lee Roth, King of the Lions”. I can see that – Roth (lead singer of Van Halen) did once have a mane and had a King of the Jungle sort of attitude, with great physical confidence. He was on the prowl. He was covered in fur.

What is psychedelia? What is psychedelic television? If it is a creative collision of concepts that shouldn’t but do go together, presented in a surreal, striking and colourful visual style, then Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy must be the only example of the genre that I’m aware of. That’s interesting – synaesthesia is also a collision of concepts that shouldn’t but do go together, and it is often very colourful, surreal and striking, and most types of synaesthesia seem to involve the sense of vision. There’s a belief that synaesthesia and creativity are linked. Psychedelic television and synaesthesia appear to have a collection of characteristics in common. What are we to make of this? The hyper-awareness of colour manifested in this television series is equal to the hyper-awareness of colour that I found in the autobiography of the synaesthete author Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory. Colour doesn’t mean this much to non-synaesthetes, not quite.

I’m reminded of the most psychedelic neuroscience journal paper that I’ve read this year – the one comparing auras in mysticism and synaesthesia, by Spanish researchers, which was published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition. These researchers described a number of most interesting synaesthetes who had some interesting types of synaesthesia, including one person who experiences people-animal synaesthesia, in which a person might be seen by the synaesthete as having “the face of a bird of lion”. What’s the betting that this synaesthete would see in an instant David Lee Roth’s lion-like characteristics? I don’t know how anyone could miss it really. Does one need to be a synaesthete to see how much some people resemble animals? Noses can be beaks, people can be pigs and some of us do look horsey, or bug-eyed.

After very much enjoying the whole first series of Noel Fielding’s extraordinary TV series, (and keenly anticipating the next one), I can’t help feeling that personification and personality-related synaesthesia in general must have been one of the main ingredients that went into the creation of this strange psychedelic treat. The personification of inanimate objects and other forms of fusion or confusion of supposedly different states of being are themes that pop up constantly in this TV series. So many aspects of the series remind me of synaesthesia, in its various forms. Is it the creation of a synaesthete mind? What goes on inside Noel Fielding’s brain? Many people have wondered.

Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy http://youtu.be/u-HaEEv2p_o

E.G. Milán, O. Iborra, M. Hochel, M.A. Rodríguez Artacho, L.C. Delgado-Pastor, E. Salazar, A. González-Hernández Auras in mysticism and synaesthesia: A comparison. Consciousness and Cognition.  Volume 21 Issue 1, March 2012, Pages 258–268. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053810011002868  (This paper is clearly a translation and difficult reading in parts)

Van Halen Panama http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-NshzYK9y0