Comedian Steve Coogan has had more faces than Joan Collins — from chat show host Alan Partridge to Portuguese singer and love machine Tony Ferrino. Brian Donaldson gets him to drop the act.
oes Steve Coogan wake up in the morning and wonder who he is? Having created a plethora of living, breathing comedic characters in a relatively short space of time, the tendency to disappear into those monsters must be tough to avoid. From the rugged Calfs. Pauline and Paul; the chat show host from TV hell Alan Partridge; through to the jumped-up safety officer Ernest Moss, Coogan’s run of success has been faultless. Now he is unleashing his latest baby upon us, Portuguese Lothario and showman extraordinaire Tony Ferrino - think the love child of Engelbert Humperdinck and Julio lglesias.
‘The same way Alan Partridge is based on lots of people, Tony Ferrino is based on a few different people with some bits which aren’t like anyone else,’ offers Coogan. ‘He’s just a recipe cooked up and put in the oven and out he comes.’
How does he accommodate his own existence
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with such rich and painstaking inventions? ‘I don’t live them at all — that just makes good copy.’ insists Coogan. ‘Somebody like Barry Humphries, you can’t talk to him as anyone other than Dame Edna when he’s dressed up. When I’m backstage dressed up as Alan
‘I tend to hide away. You remember Tony Slattery was all over the place a few years ago and he got slagged off for that a bit, so I want to avoid that.’
Partridge or Tony Ferrino, I don’t say “ooh. don’t talk to me as Steve Coogan,” I talk as Steve Coogan until I walk out in front of the audience. I don’t method out in front of people.’
Coogan’s methods are simple. Gather together a trusty set of collaborators, thrash out a new persona and take it from there. ‘Lots of things come together to create the illusion,’ states Coogan. ‘l’ve got a make-up artist and a
wardrobe lady who I work with and they are the key to the character. I’ll talk to them about what his hair, complexion and clothes should be like. I’m a bit anal about the details of these things because I don’t like generalised comedy. I like being speciﬁc and it’s important to do a lot of background detail even though it may never be seen. It’s like an iceberg in that underneath the surface you’ve got all this other stuff which is necessary for its existence.’
Tony Ferrino — the man whose Portuguese fan club is twice the size of that nation’s population — was spawned on a tour bus with Henry Normal a couple of years ago. The result is an all- singing, all-dancing Christmas special and a neo-realist documentary, Tony Ferrino, Who And Why: A Quest, both to be broadcast by the BBC this month. And an album Man Stallion, to be released for Christmas.
‘The execution of the idea for the album is up there with The Rutles and Spinal Tap,’ notes Coogan. ‘I hope people appreciate it in the same