Several of my previous posts have exposed my enjoyment of all things Karl Pilkington. I think the man is a perfect mixture of creativity-LACK of creativity, over-complexity, and simplicity all rolled into one. I started with Idiot Abroad Series 1, watched Series 2 and 3, have read his books, watched the HBO animated Ricky Gervais Show, and have since listened to all the old XFM radio broadcasts that started his association with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. For a few posts I thought I would review everything Karl-related I’ve read, watched, and listened to in case others are interested in what else Karl can offer besides being annoyed around the world. I’ll start from the beginning!
The Ricky Gervais Show on XFM
Hearing Ricky discuss the conditions of broadcasting on XFM you’d think they were producing a show out of someone’s garden shed. Despite the supposed conditions, this show produced countless terrific moments and truly introduced the world to Karl Pilkington. This show, more than any of the other shows Ricky, Stephen, and Karl have done, feels like a true, unedited chat between three mates sat in a room for long stretches at a time. In fact many of the topics, conversation, and features show up again in the podcasts. There are lots of terrific moments and segments in this show, but here are the best reasons to listen in:
1.) Karl: Just experience how strange Karl sees and thinks of things. Some great moments include Karl Getting his GCSE results (I won’t ruin it. It’s worth the surprise), his desire to “educate Ricky” with pun-entitled facts, and his various misunderstandings of what he’s heard, read, or seen are always hilarious.
2.) Karl’s Observations: Karl has a unique view of the world and can often focus on something you would never give second thought to. For example Ricky told him a story of a chimpanzee son that got into an argument with his chimpanzee father and ran away. Karl’s response was, “What were they arguing about?” Some of his observations are even stranger, such as Chinese people not aging well, or his theoretical plan on how to shorten the queue for those attending the visitation of the Queen Mother.
3.) Monkey News: This feature carried over into the later podcasts, but this is where it got its start. Not only does it include the classics of the monkey who robbed a bank, the one who drove a car into Spain, and one who got a job in a hair salon; but it also includes the “Victorian Ape Woman,” a monkey porn film maker, and a chimp who got arrested in Russia for vagrancy. While the stories themselves are hilariously unlikely, almost as good are Ricky’s explosive reactions to them usually ending with the show’s unofficial catch phrase “You’re an idiot! Play a record!”
4.) White Van Karl: This concept was taken from the Sun newspaper that went to various “working class” individuals (who drove white work vans) and asked them their opinions on the week’s news. Stephen turned it around to ask Karl what he thought of the news. Some of the best are thoughts on celebrities coming out, Zoe Harris (Karl’s childhood girlfriend, he put a hole in her dress and dumped her), and (maybe my favorite moment of all time) the cloning of “man-moths.”
5.) Rockbusters: Ricky and Stephen truly seemed to dislike this contest (Karl gives a “cryptic clue” that relates to the name of a band and the initials of the band, the listeners email answers to win lousy prizes, i.e. “exploding pet,” the band has the initials “AK,” the answer was “Atomic Kitten”) but some of his clues were absolutely brilliant. And most of the bad ones made for such hysterical moments they were worth it. The best ones include “She has her husband’s gloves and a pair of her own,” band “HH,” answer “Herman’s Hermits;” “Do you think your kid will get that strawberry for me?” band “WP,” answer “Wilson Pickett;” and “the Scottish fellas can’t get into their emails,” initials “KL,” answer “Kenny Loggins.” The worst ones: “The people from the East Midlands swear a lot;” band “TTD,” answer “‘Tourette’s’ Trent D’arby,” “Why are the Jamaican fellas twirling fish around their heads?” band, “DS,” answer the “‘De-trout’ Spinners,” and finally “a couple of people were arguing at the fruits and vegetables in the supermarket,” band “B,” answer “Banana-drama.”
6.) Ricky and Stephen Stories: It’s important to remember whose show it is. Ricky and Stephen have moments of pure comic gold as well. Ricky’s training in boxing and Stephen’s terrific story of being tricked into picking up a pig after a party to impress a girl, then crying in the backseat after he got the car stuck and another guy had to move it. It’s hard not to laugh at all of them.
7.) Karl’s Childhood: Ricky and Stephen often comment that Karl grew up in a fairy tale. Not in a good way, more like he grew up in a land filled with strange, mystical beings. The magpie he tamed as a pet, the two boys at his school with big heads and webbed hands, the woman with a head “like a sack of potatoes,” the family with the horse in the house. It’d all be too much to believe except I don’t think Karl possesses the guile and wherewithal to lie…
And that’s just for starters. There are also the shows where Karl is out and Claire Sturgess serves as producer. She does an excellent job and is more like a “regular” producer. Letting the show-runners talk and only adding comments occasionally. It provides an example of what the program would be like without Karl…and it’s still funny! Just not as…odd.
There are also several uncomfortable moments in the show, like all good friends Ricky, Stephen, and Karl have arguments. They pick on and at one another (Karl at Stephen being very tall, with big “goggy” eyes, and unfortunate luck with women; Stephen on Karl being stupid, lazy, and with a head like an orange; Ricky…constantly picking on both…all the time…for everything.) It can get too far and, in fact, the end of Series 2 Karl says he’s tired of working with the two of them and doesn’t want to come back for Series 3 (he does…negotiated an extra day off, for which Ricky and Stephen brutally mock him).
Not every show is equally strong, but when it is good it is some of the best humor you’ll ever experience. If you like the podcasts and/or Idiot Abroad check them out. Almost all of them (I listened to 97 episodes) are on YouTube and are well worth the time!