Noel Fielding, award-winning art director?
Twenty years ago, he was set to seize the title. I know, I taught him advertising at Bucks College. Now famed for Never Mind The Buzzcocks and being one half of the comedy duo The Mighty Boosch yet back in the 90s Noel wasn’t just a bright spark, he was spontaneously combusting.
From the start, I could see he was an original, a one-off – just like the very best ads. His work was raw, fresh and exciting. Thankfully, he didn’t know the meaning of the word "safe".
That was the problem. It needed a brave client to run one of Noel’s brilliantly bizarre ideas.
Yet, I had no intention of reining him in. Who cared if his ideas were off-the-wall? Not me. It was my job to teach him advertising but it was my duty to get the hell out of the way and let him fly.
I wasn’t the only one who knew Noel was special. John Fairbanks, the college principal, also had him earmarked as one-to-watch and it seemed, one to listen to.
After my first term, I was summoned to John’s office.
"Noel says we should keep you on."
"‘Noel?" I asked, confused.
"Noel Fielding, he thinks you’re great."
He was a first year student yet already, his opinion counted. Even then, the Boosch was mighty.
When Noel discovered that as well as being a lecturer and copywriter at London’s top agencies, I also wrote and performed sketches, he asked for the inside track on the comedy circuit.
With his rock-star looks, affable nature and ability to conjure up new worlds out of nowhere, he was keen to follow in Eddie’s Izzard’s stiletto shoes. In preparation, he once wore a pair of heels to college. Luckily, it wasn’t the same day as he mounted a pogo stick and bounced into class claiming to be Jesus Christ.
After that, he was unstoppable, less of an adman, more of a madcap man.
A few years later, I sat in the front row at The Hen and Chickens in Islington, a venue renowned for showcasing new talent. As the house lights dimmed, there was Noel where he belonged, in the spotlight.
He invited me to his West End debut at Her Majesty’s Theatre. The place was packed with fans loving every idiosyncratic moment.
Noel is a stand-up with standout in spades but I’d still give anything to see what he’d do with a brief for soap powder. I imagine it would feature a spotless unicorn.
Joan Ellis’ first novel, I am Ella, Buy Me, is out now