I believe I've mentioned that one of my persistent problems with profiling is that I don't know what anyone else looks like to a normal person, because I've never been one. I am occasionally reminded of this, usually with all the subtlety of a brick to the head. Moggie recently turned up this piece, by Amy Raphael for The Observer -- the Sunday Guardian, more or less -- as press for the third series of The Mighty Boosh, which was out late 2007-ish.

She's not particularly wrong in her observations, or at least no more factually wrong than any other entertainment reporter -- how she could talk to Fielding for any length of time and think he was from south London, I have no idea, do other people not hear the th->f bit everywhere? -- but her interpretations of a lot of their interactions are completely alien to me. I assume hers are more normal than mine, primarily because Fielding mentions that people tend to take Barratt as more aloof and sometimes abrasive than he actually is, at least at first. She seems to find them a bit mysterious, somewhat incomprehensible, and prone to speaking their own insular language amongst themselves before one of them emerges to give her answers in English.

I would like to state, for the record, that this particular slant on their relationship never occurred to me. Despite the fact that I personally pointed out that their interactions remind me a lot of those I see with identical twins, and that a lot of people find twins creepy for exactly this reason. I've always been struck by the opposite impression of the two of them when they do press together: that they are quite fearless and open with their reactions, particularly when asked about each other. They do have a lot of non-verbal back and forth between answers that doesn't always necessarily make it into words, but they make absolutely no attempt to hide any of it, and they agree to such an extent that if you can get reactions off one you've effectively gotten a read on them both. 

One thing I suspect is misinterpreted a lot is the fact that Fielding generally talks, and Barratt generally doesn't. (He does if beer is involved.) No one will tell me directly, of course, but I get the impression that a lot of people see this as the talky one running over the not-talky one constantly, and assume it breeds resentment, or some such thing. 

In fact, it's quite a common dyad, particularly among the "gifted & talented" crowd. One of the reasons the really smart kids have a hard time socially, especially early on, is that they have a very difficult time grasping that most people see a public demonstration of a skill they personally don't have as aggressive and socially threatening. Genius kids are just the opposite -- they get distressed if someone else demonstrates greater competence at some skill they've chosen to specialize in. People who do other things are awesome, and a lot of them consciously collect friends with heterogeneous skillsets. Which means that the ones who don't like talking purposely link up with the ones who do like talking, and they don't have to front when they don't want to. 

Barratt does admittedly look somewhat less than thrilled to be doing TV interviews most of the time, but it's not because Fielding bowls him over. That expression is, "Chat shows are tedious work. For best results please direct your questions to the one who's dressed like he actually wants your attention," and the non-verbal back and forth is not Fielding going "come on, aren't you going to say anything?" but rather, Fielding going "have I got it all or do you have something to add?" Usually the answer is no, and the interview continues without input from Barratt.

There are a couple of things that the two of them are very direct about, which many people -- entertainment people, to be sure, but also just ordinary people in conversation -- would not be. One is that they are not comfortable talking about their wives/girlfriends. Literally all I know about Fielding's girlfriend is that she exists, she has a name, and judging from photos she has the same fashion sense he does, but Barratt's de facto wife is also a comedian and has done many successful things which I have not seen. They have a pair of young children about which Barratt will sometimes talk in passing, but that article was actually the first time I've even seen their names. The reticence seems to stem from a feeling that it's not their place to monkey with the press standing of other humans, which sounds reasonable to me, and is not all that unusual for media personalities. 

The other thing they are very direct about is that they will talk about each other. If you were curious about what a "romantic friendship" looked like without all the Victorian trappings (or more modern hand-wringing about whether someone might -- horrors! -- mistake them for gay), that is pretty much it. The physicality I think is mostly because Fielding is a giant puppy dog who wants to share space with anyone he even remotely likes, but they do quite readily use the word 'love', along with words like 'respect' and 'understand' and 'chemistry', when asked for a description. If they were going to be insular and secretive about anything, one would think it would be about this, something which is obviously quite important to both of them and likely to not be completely comprehensible to outsiders.

I almost started to feel like I'm picking on the two of them, with all the rambling, but they do so very many things quite openly that most folks are very shy about letting other people see. Half the time, I don't think I could even find a better example, especially if I'm writing for people who want to learn what non-verbal communication is all about. 

Comments

  1. You're spot on about the gifted and talented dynamics. I have friends across the globe and across the range of social aptitude and artistic skill, and I brag about them the way most people brag about their children given half a chance.

    Barratt and Fielding remind me a lot of myself and my now-deceased best friend, who was a self-taught musician beyond compare with anyone else I've known. I even invoked the Victorian friendship model when interviewed about a portrait I did of her for a local exhibition: http://www.gayexpress.co.nz/2012/05/somewhere-under-the-rainbow/

    (A portrait to which she returned the favor, by the way, by writing a song about me, which no one to date has ever done. I mean, how do you compare to that? Sorry, it's only been six months since she died, and I'm obviously still processing it. I'm going to go be maudlin offline for a while.)

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