Genius is an objective concept. What might seem like genius to one person may seem absolutely ridiculous to another. What might seem simplistic may be brilliant. What is absurd and what is genius can be blurred by perspective and not all of us agree on what is profound and what is nonsense.
Enter Karl Pilkington.
A friend at work told me about the show Idiot Abroad and frankly due to the title and my lack of interest in the concept I resisted watching it. I since have seen the show, The Ricky Gervais Show HBO episodes, and read two of Karl’s books. Despite what Ricky Gervais believes, I think Karl is a kind of genius (which according to Ricky makes me an idiot too…), but like Ricky…I can’t get enough of his peculiar form of brilliant insanity. I’ve included several of videos featuring Karl in this post. All are hilarious, but be aware there is some typical Ricky Gervais-language in them.
For those who don’t know him, Karl Pilkington was a radio producer on Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s radio show. They found his unique outlook and simplistic views on things to be so entertaining they have since put him in their podcasts and twice sent him around the world.
Ricky refers to Karl as a “moron, he is a round, empty-headed chimp-like, mank moron. Buffoon. Idiot…but absolutely lovable.” Stephen Merchant states Karl is, “Some kind of real-life Homer Simpson…small minded, petty, but at his core a good person.”
I find Karl to be rather more intellectual and philosophical than idiotic; albeit in quite an unconventional way. Karl can ponder the functions of the human mind, the future, and discuss the nature of virtual life vs. real life. At the same time he believes dolphins with rifles escaped during Hurricane Katrina; that longer days on Mars are the cause for Martian technological advancement; and that monkeys can steal cars, serve as doctors, and fly spaceships via training with a banana chute.
Hearing Karl’s unconventional and sometimes seemingly mad ideas (like population control could be accomplished by having old women give birth to the next generation right before they die) it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that he is an idiot as Ricky describes. To me, despite his sometimes pessimistic tendencies, he seems to think with a positive attitude, meaning when he finds a story that interests him he doesn’t come at it from a perspective of, “this can’t be true.” Instead he comes at it from the angle, “why can’t this be true?” He approaches the stories he reads with a certain level of naivety, accepting what is presented simply because he “read it.” This can lead him to very unusual conclusions, and it doesn’t help that even legitimate stories he reads get, as Karl would say, “bungled in” with other stories and facts (like Mt. Everest growing and a piano being found on top of it.) I find his willingness to accept unrealistic concepts as refreshing and creative (even if he doesn’t always see it as creativity). Also, as he says when he selects a dictionary as the book he’d most want to bring to a desert island, he isn’t always able to express his thoughts in the clearest way. I know I’ve been there, so I identify with him when he struggles to put his thoughts into words.
His views are also completely void of vitriol or malice. When he talks about unusual people (he calls them all “freaks”), other cultures, poetry, and vacationing in other countries he doesn’t express a hateful opinion just his honest one. I actually prefer his honest, yet sometimes ignorant, perspective far more than the crowd-pleasing, phony, politically correct beliefs we see from most pundits.
It’s like Karl lives in his own world, and that would be a fascinating place to be…
If you are unfamiliar with Karl, look him up on the internet and/or get a copy of The Ricky Gervais Show on podcast or video. Even if you don’t think he’s a modern day philosopher (as I do!) you’re bound to laugh at his antics.
My next post will be a review of the first season of Karl’s travel program, An Idiot Abroad. A terrific show that puts an unconventional man in unfamiliar surroundings and hilarity ensues. For now, enjoy this, one of my favorite videos!
And check out Karl’s official site here!