STEVE COOGAN DOESN'T like interviews. A week spent chasing him round the country. and a time is eventually fixed—up. Britain’s best known character comedian is yelling down his mobile phone; he's wrestling with his two-year-old daughter‘s nappy: he‘s onboard a ferry in the middle of the Irish sea. This is not going to be plain sailing.

liirst question: what poor bastards have provided the inspiration for such a motley crew of comic characters? ‘I guess.’ he begins

hesitantly. ‘they‘re an amalgam of lots of

people I know. I‘ve seen on television or just in the street . . .’ The line goes dead. A quick

14 THE usr 14— 28 May 1998

dash for I47] number not registered.

l‘ive minutes later he calls back. This time he doesn‘t even make it past the switchboard before his mobile gives up the ghost.

l’ast forward several hours. He‘s now safely docked in the limerald lsle. Again we‘re relying on his moby. ‘l'm fairly

observant.‘ he observes. ‘l‘m not afraid of

examining the minutiae of a character. the apparently boring superfluous detail which people find ftmny.

‘Pcople who annoy me are a great source of material.‘ continues (‘oogan. ‘Take Alan Partridge -- he‘s typical of that

Cast adrift: Coogan " characters appearing in the / live show include Tony Ferrino (main picture) and squabbling siblings Pauline and Paul Calf (left)

//. 1‘

irritating. inane. banal breed of TV presenter.

‘lle‘s the rather unfortunate side of us all. but he has humanity and an element of tragedy about him which people cmpathise with.‘

The phone cuts out. An hour or so later. he calls again. This time he‘s in a public phone box. somewhere in (‘ounty Cork. ‘or is it (‘ounty Wexford‘.". armed with a load of ‘lrish 5()ps‘.

‘Sorry about the delay.‘ he says. like a man who isn't sorry at all. ‘I just had to go and get a load of change. So. where were we‘."

We were talking Partridge. ‘1 like the licence that characters like Alan Partridge and Tony l‘errino give me. It‘s incredibly liberating to be able to say things that would be totally unacceptable for me to say as Steve (‘ooganf

And then. bag 0‘ shite. the line goes dead again. The call box number he gave is wrong. He doesn’t ring back.

The PR guy does. “God. you weren‘t asking him about the tabloids or anything. were you‘." lle’s referring to inky speculation a couple of years back concerning (‘oogan‘s alleged ‘sex-addiction‘. ‘l.isten we‘ll try and fix something tip again for tomorrow morning.’ comes the familiar promise.

And then. uh-lmuauul Thursday. 7pm. (‘oogan calls. What‘s more. he‘s at a mate‘s house with access to a phone of the reliable plug-in variety. ‘Sorry about yesterday. can we still do it‘.” he mutters.

(‘urrently in the midst of his first tour since l‘)‘)3. (‘oogan says he's glad to be getting back on the road. ‘I wanted to hear and smell an audience again. live gigs are pure adrenaline.’

He enjoys the direct feedback only a live