Full disclosure. I don’t like Steve Coogan.
However when the Guardian requested me to interview the controversial funnyman, I jumped on the probability – and never simply because I’ve been changed by a youthful presenter on the BBC’s journal present This Time, and have time on my arms.
I’ve organized to satisfy Coogan for lunch and let him choose the venue. It’s a measure of the person that he chooses a location minutes from his home and over two hours from mine. First impressions will not be good. I’m struck by how slight Coogan is. Though we glance related, Coogan cuts an altogether frailer determine – his shoulders noticeably narrower and he stands, what, two inches shorter than me? Then once more, that could be his posture, crumpled by years spent hunching over a laptop computer laptop or wanting down on folks (Coogan is leftwing). His head can be wider on the high than mine and his hair isn’t superb.
He’s sporting a cream shirt, below a thicker shirt or gentle jacket – a “shacket”, which I’ve to concede is an efficient phrase. I discover myself pondering of different composite garments – a hoodigan, trorts, a scat, jeggings, earlier than remembering jeggings exist already.
We peruse the menus. Is he happy I’m interviewing him for the Guardian and never, say, the Every day Mail?
“I don’t notably just like the Guardian or the Every day Mail,” he says. “There are writers on the Guardian I like. It’s simply their ‘witty’ columnists I discover profoundly unfunny.”
I’ll must take his phrase for it. I don’t really learn the Guardian, having by no means been capable of get previous the sheer smugness of its typeface.
“Is there something the Guardian doesn’t need us to speak about?” he asks.
I shake my head. “If you wish to specific an opinion, they’ve requested that you simply follow id politics and wild swimming. That’s their protected house, their consolation blanket.”
The waiter arrives. I order the meat burger, described on the menu because the “ham” burger [sic]. Coogan orders the plant-based burger. Is that this a metaphor for Coogan’s makes an attempt to appear like one thing he’s not? I ask him why he doesn’t order the meat burger, which is similar value and nicer.
Coogan shifts uncomfortably and adjustments the topic. “I’ve heard good issues about your stay exhibits,” he says, referring to my nationwide Stratagem tour, which has garnered extraordinarily heat responses. He’s making an attempt to butter me up by saying my present is improbable – the oldest trick within the e book – however my journalistic expertise imply I don’t take the bait. Moreover, I’ve a job to do. Like all journalists, my principal goal is to trick him into spilling one thing that may both get him cancelled or a daily column within the Every day Mail. So I repair him with a glare. Why does he bang on about press regulation? Absolutely the federal government ought to play no position within the regulation of the press?
Coogan rubs his eyes as if I’m the silly one. “Because the late, nice [ex-Sunday Times editor] Harold Evans – incessantly and rightly held aloft because the embodiment of campaigning moral journalism – as soon as stated: ‘The misrepresentation of Leveson’s principal proposal is staggering. To painting his principal proposal for statutory underpinning as state management is a gross distortion.’ Most journalists didn’t trouble to learn the Leveson proposal as a result of it was simpler to simply watch Newsnight to churn out their opinion items …”
This will likely rank as one of many unfunniest issues Coogan has ever stated.
“I’m speaking about impartial press regulation,” he drones. “Do we actually need folks like [ex-Daily Mail editor] Paul Dacre, who obtained gargantuan quantities of cash from the EEC for his nation property the place poshos and nouveaux pays to shoot something that strikes, whereas actively campaigning to get rid of the very establishment he’s taking cash from?”
It dawns on me Coogan is utilizing this whole train as a platform to air his demented views. “Have it your means,” I feel, and reel him in by questioning him over the latest criticism of Ken Loach, #MeToo – and the way he can reconcile the lurid tabloid tales from his tawdry previous. I additionally contact on his huge home – and whether or not he may very well be accused of champagne socialism.
Three completely positioned banana skins – on which he’ll certainly slip solely to land in a really massive cow pat, leaving him caked in cow shit and bits of banana.
I’m salivating on the prospect of bringing down this pompous arse. However as I lean ahead to feign curiosity in Coogan’s deranged ramblings, my elbow one way or the other rests on my Dictaphone, urgent the pause button, which means I fail to document any of his solutions.
A disgrace, as a result of virtually every thing he says for these 20 minutes is cancel gold mud.
We break up the invoice. The Guardian has given me a modest finances to cowl lunch however I’ve spent virtually all of it on egg sandwiches and crisps on the service station. I’ll be buggered if Coogan’s going to fill his face on my dime.
Later this 12 months, Coogan can be enjoying Sir Jimmy Savile in a BBC One drama, The Reckoning, in regards to the disgraced broadcaster and jogger. Most of us will discover a perverse enjoyment in watching Coogan drive his good title right into a wall by associating his model with Savile. Why on earth does he assume it smart to play such an odious man?
“It’s only a position,” he shrugs. “Dominic West performed Fred West, a a number of assassin. David Tennant performed Dennis Nilsen. He killed males and ate them. Nilsen, not Tennant, I imply.”
Coogan is presently starring in Channel 4’s Chivalry, a comedy-drama (or “dramedy” or “coma”), coping with submit #MeToo politics; one thing he has no proper to talk on. Final time I checked, he wasn’t even a lady. Perhaps he’s? It could clarify the frail physique, by which case I totally assist his proper to talk out.
“Don’t you are feeling such as you’re enjoying with hearth?” I ask. “I’ve had my automotive and hair egged for making #MeToo jokes prior to now.”
He thinks for a second. “Whereas some assume humour trivialises essential points, I feel it could possibly sugar the capsule and permits folks to confide in dialogue they wouldn’t in any other case have. It creates a safer house the place …”
I’m not even going to write down the remainder of the sentence. It’s absolute twaddle.
Coogan as soon as personally described me as a small-minded Little Englander; the apotheosis of every thing he loathed about England. I’m due to this fact shocked when he invitations me on to his house, a big nation pile with its personal bluebell meadow that he’s rewilding. Groan.
As he exhibits off his built-in espresso maker, I look spherical casually to see if he has any shit ornaments or one thing to slag off, however so much is much like my very own home. A Bafta trophy sits on a shelf. “Yeah, I’ve scooped seven or eight down the years, plus a number of nominations.”
His faux-casual boasting is painfully clear. The man in all probability has each award and nomination listed in a fucking ledger someplace.
“Then there’s the 2 Oscar nominations for Philomena again in 2014 – one for writing, one other for producing.”
“Besides it’s fairly a very long time because you’ve been nominated in both of these classes, isn’t it?” I needle.
On the desk sprawls a replica of at present’s Guardian. As is the left-leaning Guardian’s wont, they’re working a narrative about Boris Johnson’s lockdown events, after they may have been working tales about how he was getting on with the job.
Coogan chuckles a horrible chuckle. “The truth that these spineless Conservative MPs are caught between a rock and onerous place – uncertain whether or not to ditch or assist Boris to avoid wasting their pores and skin – is frankly scrumptious, and places a spring in my step each morning. I get a heat, fuzzy feeling simply interested by it.”
What an disagreeable man. Most of us get a heat, fuzzy feeling from roasting marshmallows over a hearth, watching a labrador chase a stick within the house counties or espying David Cameron nibble a few of Alex James’s cheese at a Chipping Norton fete. However not Coogan. He revels within the discomfort of his enemies. I really feel sorry for him. In reality, I don’t. I wish to give him a clout. If I did, it will get a good larger spherical of applause than these Hollywood liberals gave Will Smith.
“Why don’t you follow comedy?” I ask.
“Why don’t you follow broadcasting?” he counters. “You’re on tour pontificating about issues nothing about – life teaching or no matter.”
“I’m a broadcaster,” I reply. “Pontificating about issues we all know nothing about is what we do. Why do you assume all of us have podcasts?”
Moreover, life teaching is one thing I find out about. Stratagem (or New Methods of Considering in a Submit-Covid World) is a life-management system that improves the standard of individuals’s lives in affiliation with bet365 and P&O. Merely Google “optimistic opinions of Alan Partridge Stratagem” and also you’ll see reams of opinions extolling a completely pleasurable night the place I educate, inform and entertain (one thing the BBC used to do).
He wanders over to look out of the window at his large backyard. My probability to lob one other grenade. “Take a look at this place. You’re a champagne socialist!”
He shifts uncomfortably, hopping from one foot to the opposite – though he would possibly simply want the bathroom.
“I desire to think about myself as a Tennent’s Trotsky,” he grins, batting away my metaphorical grenade with a metaphorical badminton racket. It’s a lame joke, unfunny and weak, and clearly designed to deflect.
Coogan’s accent swerves between unreconstructed northern and reconstructed obtained pronunciation, from Hilda Ogden Mancunian to George Osborne, relying on whom he’s making an attempt to impress.
“Yeah, effectively, you by no means sound such as you’re from Norwich,” he counters. “I’ve actually by no means heard anybody from East Anglia with something like your accent.”
The 2 aren’t remotely comparable. A Norfolk accent is broadcasting anthrax, and left me with no selection however to make use of a dialect coach who skilled me to completely drop it, via intense tutoring and really small electrical shocks.
“Coogan, you haven’t answered the query.” I repeat in full: “Take a look at this place. You’re a champagne socialist!”
Coogan sits, head in his arms.
“Alan, what you don’t perceive is – I don’t have all of the solutions. I doubt issues. To jot down good drama, good comedy, it’s essential to embrace doubt and paradox. The reality comes from the battle of the human coronary heart. I’m inventive.”
The conceitedness! The one different individual I’ve heard describe themselves as inventive is my accountant and he’s in jail now.
“I’m simply making an attempt to determine issues out,” he continues. He seems to be near tears, so I am going over and maintain him in my arms.
“I don’t assume Little Englanders are all dangerous,” he murmurs. “They’ve group, an innate sense of decency.”
He holds my arms in his and kisses me. It’s full on. Tongues, noises, the lot.
After two or three minutes, I push him away. “What are you doing?!” I screech.
“I’m sorry. I can’t assist it.”
“Proper that’s it,” I sneer. “I’m going to inform everybody.”
Coogan has fallen for it hook, line and sinker. I flattered him and was form to him, realizing he’d attempt to kiss me. It’s the oldest journalistic trick within the e book.
“I’m sorry, I simply thought we had a connection.”
“I feel I’d higher go.”
“Sure. Sorry in regards to the kiss factor on the finish.”
As I drive again to East Anglia – Fleetwood Mac blaring over the automotive stereo – I can’t cease laughing. If solely Coogan was on social media, I may slag him off some extra and make an inference if he didn’t reply, simply as I’m certain this text will get slagged off within the feedback under. And though it pains me to confess it, he’s fairly an excellent kisser.
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