way. They are, to some extent. the inspiration for this idea. The album is all quite lush with orchestral backing. It’s actually quite elaborate for what is basically ajoke.’
Jokes. impressions and pranks have been the staple ingredients of Coogan’s act from day one. Having won over school friends in Manchester with his uncanny knack for mimicry (‘that old chestnut’) he went to drama school believing that was the route to becoming part of the wave of comics which would follow in the footsteps of the pioneers of the so-called alternative comedy.
Now 30. Coogan’s first break came with television’s satirical puppet series Spitting Image providing the voices for. among others, Neil Kinnock and Mick Jagger before dreaming up his initial batch of detailed characters including the Calfs. There followed a Perrier Award- winning stint at the Edinburgh Festival in I992, spoof news programme The Day Today and the radio broadcast of Alan Partridge. A switch to BBC2 with Knowing Me, Knowing You brought critical acclaim and ratings glory. Favourable comparisons have been made to Peter Sellars and Tony Hancock and nothing appeared to be able to stop Coogan’s dramatic rise to stardom. The tabloids. however. had other ideas and the downside to this exposure came in the form of the sadly inevitable witch- hunt when his private affairs became all too public. ‘Sex Addicted Coogan Sees Shrink’ and ‘A-ha! Partridge Star Caught Cheating On His Pregnant Girlfriend’ screamed the headlines. His natural reaction was to reclaim that cherished privacy and interview-granting is now a less frequent activity.
‘I tend to hide away.’ reveals Coogan. ‘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. All the time I’m trying to comment on the media and I try my level best to resist becoming part of the world I seek to satirise. but inevitably i become part of it because any kind of maverick creativity eventually becomes absorbed and assimilated into that which it seeks to satirise.
‘I prefer to express myself through the work rather than explaining it. What I do should speak for itself and l’d much rather spend the time I spend talking about what l do, just doing what I do.’
What he is intent on doing is continually reinventing himself by introducing new characters and breathing new life into older ones he feels have a shelf life. Thankfully. this means another outing for his masterpiece. frustrated talk-show host Alan Partridge. Another series will be written in the new year.
‘lt will almost certainly not be Knowing Me, Knowing You,’ admits Coogan. ‘We’ve done a radio and TV series and Mrs Merton and other shows have come along. We feel that the ironic, knowing, post-modern awareness of television as a medium, and the deconstruction of television within itself and of itself, has been laboured to a certain extent. Put it this way,
‘When Richard Madeley starts saying “and on that bombshell” on This Morning it blows away any ironic content and it’s time to move on.’
when Richard Madeley starts saying ‘and on that bombshell‘ on This Morning it blows away any ironic content and it’s time to move on.’
Moving on also means we will see Steve Coogan taking on film roles. The Fix for the BBC’s Screen ()ne season will see him portray a tabloid hack (‘the ﬁrst of the muckrakers’) unscrupulously investigating football match rigging in the 60s. The allegorical tale will see Coogan’s character as symptomatic of the social changes which swept Britain in that period. From there he is starring with Sam Neill and Helena Bonham Carter in a darkly comic tale directed by Malcolm Mowbray and playing Mole in Terry Jones’s version of The Wind In The Willows.
This means a step back from the controls. allowing others to mould characterisation which. until now. has been Coogan’s sole preserve and fevered motivation. ‘ln some ways not having the same control was quite enjoyable and liberating.’ confesses Coogan. ‘All I had to do was worry about how I interpreted my part and occasionally make some suggestions to directors. In some ways it was a rest for me because usually I’m wearing four hats at once which I enjoy and get off on. but can also be tiring and time-consuming. This was like a holiday.’
For now you can sit back and savour the sleazy shenanigans of Tony Ferrino and the book of the bitter lives of Paul and Pauline Calf. ‘lt’s basically a very funny toilet book and toilet cassette.’ states Coogan. ‘You can sit on the toilet with your Walkman on and listen to the audio-book version if you so feel.’
STEVE COOGAN Famine
And on that bombshell. Coogan is off reinventing himself and reinvigorating the comedy world.
The Paul And Pauline Calf Book is published by Hodder & Stoughton at £9.99 and the
audiobook is released by Hodder Headline at £6.99. Steve Coogan is at Waterstone’s, l3 7 Dec,
Princes Street, noon— 1 pm.
WIII the real Steve Coogan stand «9?: Coogan as Coogan (top), Paullnnnd Paul (bottom), and tony Forrlno (opposite)
The List 29 Nov- l 2 Dec I99615