Alan Partridge was born as a spoof of British broadcasting personalities in 1991, when he made his debut as a hapless sports presenter on BBC Radio 4’s comedy show On the Hour. He later had a spin as a chat show host in Knowing Me Knowing You before being consigned to regional radio in Norwich in I’m Alan Partridge.
Steve Coogan’s persona has generated memes, many catchphrases, created books, stage plays, a film, a podcast, novels – you name it, he’s done it. And he’s not simply one of the greatest comedic figures in British history: he’s a genuine national treasure.
Even three decades later, your father, uncle, and celebrities left, right, and centre are (lovingly) accused of impersonating Alan Partridge (see, for example, Brandon Flowers of The Killers at Glastonbury). Naturally, certain stars are blamed more than others for Partridge’s origin.
According to Steve, 57, ‘nearly every prominent television presenter these days says something a bit Alan Partridge.’ And, no, despite earlier claiming that Partridge is ‘near’ to receiving a ‘infusion’ of Richard Madeley and Piers Morgan, he is not modelled on the current Good Morning Britain host.
Steve, however, does concede that there’s a touch of Partridge to Richard. ‘Does he say some things that are a bit like Alan Partridge? Yes. Do certain sports presenters say things a bit like Alan Partridge? Of course.
‘Almost every major television presenter these days say something a bit Alan Partridge. There’s even that website, Accidental Partridge. So loads of people are guilty of sounding like Alan Partridge. It’’s a reciprocal thing; it’s symbiotic. People out there sound like Alan and Alan sounds like them.
‘I’m not quite sure which came first the chicken or the egg. But, no, it’s not based on Richard Madeley. That’s not true at all. He’s an amalgam of people. Certainly, he says stuff sometimes where I think, “You can’t really satirize that.” But a lot of people do. A lot of those LBC presenters do, apart from James O’Brien. He gets a free pass, he doesn’t sound like all the other ones do.’ Aha.
In fact, Partridge is closer to Steve than you might have thought – or at least thought he’d admit to. ‘Alan is kind of an extension of me. If you had a Venn diagram, the Alan Partridge circle will overlap the Steve Coogan circle,’ he explains.
‘I do Alan Partridge things all the time.’
It’s had no effect on Steve’s career, which ranges from Michael Winterbottom’s 24 Hour Party People to Tropic Thunder. Philomena, in which he acted and produced, received Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.
He hasn’t just been swallowed into the Hollywood machine, though, and has maintained a significant TV presence, with roles in the #MeToo comedy Chivalry and the impending and contentious drama The Reckoning, in which he plays Jimmy Savile.
But that doesn’t mean he’s immune from being a bit Partridge. It’s got to the point now, Steve confesses, where the character’s other writers Rob and Neil Gibbons just jot down the stuff he spurts out and use it as Partridge material. But he’s only slightly miffed he’s become an inspiration. ‘Maybe 30 years ago I’d have been annoyed about that, but now I just accept [it]. I mean I try to be positive about the dysfunctional side of my personality. I use it to pay my mortgage. That’s quite good.’
Very good? Aside from Steve’s home payments, Partridge boasts two Baftas, is admired by worldwide comic talents such as Ben Stiller and Will Ferrell, and is still going strong. Partridge, like every other celebrity worth their salt, has started podcasting. And Steve favours it, characterising it as allowing for “sinewy microscopic detail.”It also appears to draw the most ardent Partridge fans: the ‘purists’.
From the Oasthouse has been a smashing success and is now in its third season. Partridge’s regular shambolic existence is covered, including his new relationship, his ambition to become Norwich’s car laureate, and becoming a grandfather, among other milestones.
Partridge’s enduring success, Steve says, is because he’s like a ‘Trojan horse.’ ‘He can talk in a funny way – in a funny, safe way – about modern culture wars, sexual politics, gender identity in a way that is intelligent.
’The only general rule about the humour is we punch up, we don’t punch down. We don’t make fun of vulnerable people. We only make fun of powerful people and call them to account.’
Among Partridge’s targets are, of course, his rival British broadcasters. ‘We have a go at Noel Edmonds quite regularly,’ Steve admits, listing them off. ‘Eamonn Holmes. I have nothing against Eamonn Holmes, he’s just quite funny. Kirstie Allsopp, we like to have a go at her. I don’t know why.’
Steve even agreed with Partridge on Holly Willoughby‘s much derided comeback to This Morning. The presenter, who was dressed entirely in white, opened her statement with the words ‘Are you OK?’ as she addressed her former colleague and friend Phillip Schofield‘s departure from ITV for the first time. Jennifer Aniston‘s role on The Morning Show was compared negatively.
For Partridge, however, her comeback monologue was a solid eight and a half out of ten. ‘The content was bang on target, but some of the syntax could have been better.’ Well, Partridge, there is a spot going on This Morning…
To the relief of everyone everywhere, though, Steve says Partridge is not going anywhere. ‘I’m afraid you’re stuck with Alan until one of us dies, either I’ll die first or Alan will.’
‘I’m not sure which,’ he adds.
From the Oasthouse is available to listen exclusively on Audible.
Source My Celebrity Life.