ARE YOU REALLY NOEL FIELDING???
I wish I were him, of course, but alas, I’m a fan blog 🙂 x
I watched the last Big Fat Quiz and noticed comment like Claudia Winkleman turns into Noel Fielding. Do you believe that she can be as beautiful as him?
Claudia Winkleman turns into Noel Fielding??? This people are absolutely wrong. Most likely, it’s a misconception. Yeah, she looks good. But I don’t think she can be like Noel. That’s just impossible.
‘Noel and I have complete pay parity’: Bake Off’s Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig on their winning partnership
It was like we’d been handed the Crown Jewels and were about to throw them in the river.” Sandi Toksvig is reflecting on her and co-host Noel Fielding’s debut in the Great British Bake Off tent last year. “There were 40 executives watching us try to be funny.” She adopts the voice of a stuffed suit: “‘Is she going to wear that? Shouldn’t we cut his hair?’”
“Then they’d leave mumbling, ‘Well, that wasn’t the Bake Off way’,” chips in Fielding. Toksvig sighs: “There was a lot of, ‘That’s not the Bake Off way.’”
The cake-making contest’s controversial switch from BBC One to Channel 4 and the replacement of Mary Berry, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc was initially much-lamented. Yet the transition went surprisingly smoothly. Ratings didn’t reach the BBC’s 15 million peak but realistically were never going to. They settled at nine million, still mighty impressive, making it Channel 4’s biggest hit for five years.
And now, with a new series in the can (and beginning later this month), Toksvig, 60, and Fielding, 45, can afford to have a laugh at the expense of the naysayers.
“When they first announced we were doing it, I distanced myself and deliberately didn’t read any of the press reaction,” says Fielding, who up until Bake Off was best known as one half of the comedy duo The Mighty Boosh. “People were horrified by me. I didn’t realise exactly how horrified until afterwards. When we’d finished filming, I finally looked back at the coverage. There was a picture of me on the cover of one paper, looking like Tommy Lee from Mötley Crüe, with the headline, ‘Is THIS the new face of Bake Off?’. I’m glad I didn’t see any of that because I don’t think I would have been able to do it.”
In fact, Fielding and Toksvig, who arrived on set in episode one in a hot-air balloon, exhibited an instant rapport with one another.
“Everything was new for us: new show, new double act,” says Fielding. “We were just trying to find our way. I was so lucky. Sandi’s been doing this a long time but I’d never presented anything. Sandi did all the heavy lifting and trained me like a little apprentice.”
Toksvig adds with pride: “We had a few weird moments [recording the latest series] where Noel presented so brilliantly the entire crew broke into spontaneous applause. ‘Wow, that’s actual presenting! By Jove, we think he’s got it!’”
There was also undeniable chemistry between the pair and the judges, Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood (sole remaining member of the BBC line-up).
“We’re like a dysfunctional family,” says Toksvig. “It can sometimes seem on-camera that Prue’s the sensible one but not at all. She makes us weep with laughter.”
“Paul’s a real giggler too, like a naughty schoolboy,” says Fielding. “He arrives for work in some ridiculous vehicles. Me and Sandi go, ‘What even is that? A spaceship?’”
“He’s always roaring up to the tent on a massive motorbike when we’re in the middle of shooting,” chuckles Toksvig affectionately. “Vroom! Thanks, Paul. But he’s gentle, kind and fun to be with.”
I visited the set during recording and can confirm the foursome do seem to genuinely enjoy each other’s company. They rib each other like old friends and share a drink when the cameras are off.
Fielding happily admits he was the wild card of the quartet. “I don’t think anyone was shocked Sandi was doing it. They went, ‘Yep, that’s a good fit.’ I was an unknown quantity. People were like, ‘What’s he going to do? Throw cakes on the floor? Get in a fridge?’” He pauses and laughs. “Admittedly, I did do some of those things.”
Ah yes, Fridgegate. Fifty-five viewers complained to regulator Ofcom last September after Fielding hid inside one of the marquee’s Smeg refrigerators, warning that children would be at risk if they copied the stunt. “I was just mucking about to amuse the crew,” he admits ruefully.
“It’s this childish thing that comedians have: we don’t care about anyone else watching it later, we just think we’ve got to be funny in this room, right now. Can’t help it. We try to think about the show but actually, we’re just trying to make the camera boys or the bakers laugh.” Toksvig leaps to his defence: “There are nine cameras on us for 14 hours a day and for most of it, we’re improvising and fooling around. We do something we think is hilarious and it doesn’t go in. We do one stupid thing, like the fridge, and who knew it was going to be in?”
“It’d have to be a breathtakingly stupid child,” she adds. “And who has a totally empty fridge? But let’s not make light of it. Don’t climb into a fridge, that’s my advice.” As a new father to four-month-old Dalí (after the surrealist), Fielding looks suitably chastened: “I don’t want my child to get in a fridge, so I understand why it was a deal.” This year’s series, Toksvig assures me with utter conviction, is a step up: “Much better. Better bakers.”
“Not as in better skilled,” elaborates Fielding. “They’re just a brilliant bunch. We loved last year’s lot and were a bit worried this year’s wouldn’t live up to them. It turns out they’re like your children: you love them all.”
“We spend a lot of time with them and become very friendly, very fast,” adds Toksvig. “Even when they were stressed – there are some mishaps and proper, heaving sobs this year – there was so much laughter too. The atmosphere’s much more relaxed and it’s been even more fun for us.”
The heatwave has posed its challenges. “The last few weeks were almost unbearably boiling” says Toksvig. “There’s no air conditioning in the tent. You can’t even have a fan because the noise would interfere. And then we turn a dozen ovens on. Yay!”
“Sandi was wearing a hilariously big jumper on one of the hottest days,” sniggers Fielding. “Unlike me, she doesn’t care about what she’s wearing.”
Toksvig happily agrees: “Noel holds his hand under my chin and says, ‘Don’t look down but tell me what colour your clothes are.’ I never have any idea.”
Toksvig takes a pleasingly common sense approach to concerns about the obesity crisis: “Everything in moderation. Us Danes have amazing pastries but we’re not a fat nation. Just don’t eat 20 of them.”
How about the sugar tax?
“I think if you start asking us two about taxation policy, you’re on a hiding to nothing,” she laughs. Fielding adds: “I’ll just hide in a fridge.”
She’s equally forthright on the BBC’s gender pay gap brouhaha. “Noel and I have complete parity. We’re open and transparent about everything, which is the best way to avoid problems. This issue should have been dealt with long ago. I very much hope everyone will clean up their act. Sadly, I doubt it.”
Fielding, meanwhile, is still pondering the fact that the new soggy-bottomed series is the ninth. “Yikes, so it’s the 10th next year?” he muses, thinking aloud. “A decade of Bake Off. That’s a big thing.” There’s a brief pause before he decides: “We’ve got to spoil that for them.”
“Leave that with me,” replies Toksvig, pretending to make a note in her diary. “I’ve got it covered.” And then they’re off giggling again.
The Great British Bake Off returns to Channel 4 later this month