Steve Coogan has confessed that he has more in common with his most famous comic character – local radio DJ Alan Partridge – than he would like.
“Some of the things that Alan Partridge says; I think,” the comedian admitted at a launch for Partridge’s new Sky Atlantic show, adding: “But importantly, I edit those things. I exploit the weaknesses in my character and channel them into Alan.”
Coogan might “edit” his inner Partridge these days but he didn’t always. Recalling the fledgeling years of his fictional alter ego, who he invented two decades ago on Radio 4 comedy show On The Hour, he remembered: “Sometimes I would say something as me and Armando [Iannucci – Coogan’s writing partner] would say: ‘oh, just write that down, that’s really funny.’ But I wasn’t trying to be funny, I was just being me.”
The comedian isn’t the only one who’s learned to think before opening his mouth; Partridge has too. “Originally we made Alan too right-wing and bigoted, whereas I’ve found there’s more humour in making him attempt to be liberal,” Coogan explained. “He’s trying to move with the times so when he is misogynistic or racist, it’s not from intolerance; he’s trying to do the right thing.”
He’s also funnier than ever, as far as his creator is concerned: “Looking back at some of the old stuff, I actually thought it was quite crude and not particularly sophisticated…A lot we thought was funny then, I don’t think would pass muster now.”
“Mid Morning Matters” – Partridge’s hugely popular online series – “is some of the best stuff we’ve done, I think. Because the character is now known, people really pay attention to his expressions: what he does with his eyes and his face. So the way I perform the character has definitely changed. It’s become more and more subtle.”
So subtle, some members of the public occasionally get confused. “Lots of people do think he’s real because they call me Alan. I say ‘it’s Steve, actually’ and they go ‘yeah, all right Alan’.”
The new one-hour special Alan Partridge: Welcome to the Places of My Life will be broadcast tonight on Sky Atlantic – you can read an extended review of the show here. Another special, Alan Partridge on Open Books with Martin Bryce will be screened next Monday, and a re-edited version of Mid Morning Matters will follow.