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My Arts: Steve Coogan

Could Steve Coogan be the next Doctor Who? He wouldn't mind. Meanwhile, he chats to Angie Sammons about other things that float his boat

Written by . Published on April 12th 2009.


My Arts: Steve Coogan

How friendly were you with Tony Wilson before you played him in 24 Hour Party People?
When he did Upfront with Lucy Meacock, about 15 or 16 years ago, I did about 12 shows as the resident comic doing a topical review of the week's news. So I got to know him quite well.

And you learned to do his voice during that time?
I could always do his voice from when he was a newscaster with Bob Greaves and Bob Smithies. And also when I was a kid he came around to my parents. My aunt was a make up artist at Granada and she had a party at my parents' house when she was 21, in 1976. And Tony Wilson came. I was in bed because I was only 11, but I remember getting up and peering through the bannisters and seeing him come in and thinking, oh God, there's Tony Wilson, he's famous. Then, weirdly, after 24-Hour Party People, he did a TV series about people from Manchester who had done well and he did a show on me. He went to my parents' house, in north Manchester and said: "I came to a party near here 20 years ago." And my mum said, "It wasn't near here it was right here." And he was like "I thought it looked familiar."

It's your birthday this week. What are you doing to celebrate the big four three?
I've got one day off from the tour, oddly enough, so I'll be going out with my brothers in Manchester.

The next day you've got Ipswich? Alan Partridge territory.
Yes. I know from last time I toured that the towns which don't really have a strong sense of their own cultural identity don't laugh as loudly. Ipswich, Southend, Watford...they are very polite... Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Glasgow, they take the roof off.

I bet in Hollywood you've never had to dwell too much on the Ipswich sense of humour.
No. You switch to a completely different mode. When you get there you have to rewrite your material wholesale. The whole rhythm of the comedy in this country is so un-American. It's so provincial. I mean that's what I love about it. A lot of my comedy owes a lot to Les Dawson's which was witty, droll, but also very working class. I've done a couple of films in America where the humour is so generic and will travel. Here the live show deliberately lacks a bit of subtlety. Mostly, it's just old fashioned gags, and I quite like going back to that after so many years of doing subtle, well observed comedy. You always want to do the thing that you are not doing, and I've been doing a lot of film and TV and so I just want to get back to basics.

Does a live audience not frighten you after all this time?
Course. But that's good. Keeps you on your toes, awake.. There are a handful of gags that don't fly. I did one last week that was met with stony silence. I was almost laughing when I delivered the line. It was almost the quietest non-sound that I have ever heard, and I could hear the the other writers sniggering in the wings.

You've come a long way since Alan Partridge in 2002. Revisiting all these old characters must be like going out with an ex-wife or something.
A bit. They sort of feel like family members who you have a connection to, but you don't want to see all the time.

Speaking of which, you are from a large Irish Catholic family. Did you ever do the whole Catholic guilt thing?
No. I think that's a cliché, a lazy, reactive kind of Catholicism. There's an intellectual strain of Catholicism, liberation theology, which is incredibly left wing, the Marxist school of Catholicism, which doesn't get talked about in the press a lot because it's not sexy, they don't understand it and they haven't got the brains to deal with it. So they trot out this thing about guilt. Sometimes feeling guilty...I don't know if it is necessarily a bad thing. For example, all the merchant bankers in the world right now should feel a bit guilty.

So, some My Arts questions: What are your three essential music albums of all time?
Revolver/The Beatles. The Queen Is Dead/The Smiths; Blue/Joni Mitchell

What was the last record you bought, or downloaded, or whatever?
Ha, I've only just started doing that. But the last record I actually bought was Home Before Dark, Neil Diamond's album produced by Rick Rubin.

What was the first live gig that you went to?
It would be The Smiths at the Free Trade Hall in 1983. Supported by the Red Guitars who I knew well because I had been an altar server at the wedding of the lead singer. I got a backstage pass and hung out with Sandie Shaw and Morrissey.

And the last?
Devo at the House of Blues in LA.

What newspapers/magazines do you read?
The Guardian, until it starts to irritate me, then The Independent and then The Times. Doing comedy, you have to be up to speed with pop culture, so I sometimes force myself to buy a tabloid, The Mirror. When I've been in America, I come back and I think “who are these people?” Like I didn't know who Gok Kwan was. Now there are three or four jokes about him in the show.

Would you go as far as celebrity magazines like Heat in your research?
No, it think they rot your brain. You can get sucked into them, like fast food.

...Giving you a knowledge you don't want?
Yes. When I come back from America, they are all talking about who is on Big Brother and I'm thinking, “You know what, I really don't give a shit.”

What was it like working with Larry David (Coogan played a psychiatrist in an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm)?
Good, a bit nerve-wracking. I had to audition, you know. I had to prove how funny I was in front of him. Then he gave me the part. He's very funny and knows what he's doing but it's very hard because it's all improvised. You have to be careful that you don't try too hard to be funny, because you can end up being very un-funny. Somebody told me afterwards that he'd had a lot of people fired because they were desperately trying to be really funny and impress him, and I was thinking, “Thank God I didn't know that.”

What word do you most like the sound of?
Jensen Interceptor. It's a car. I think I might buy one, just to be able to say “I drive a Jensen Interceptor” and then sell it again.

Did your Brendan (the ex-Top Gear presenter) teach you that one?
No, no. I know far more about cars than he does.

Which website do you visit most often?
This is very sad, but lots of used Mercedes and classic car websites. I find it very relaxing.

What was the best television show ever made?
The World At War was the most important TV series ever made because it was made in the mid 1970s, only 30 years after the end of the Second World War, so a lot of the people in it were telling stories first hand and were not particularly old. They were working in jobs, ex-Nazis, victims of the Holocaust... It had a freshness and will stand as a document when we're all dead. It will serve in a way that goes beyond entertainment. Something that serves humanity, I think.

What is your best film?
Kind Hearts and Coronets. I can quote long extracts. I like dark, twisted humour, done with a little bit of style. I like Dennis Price in it. He's a killer, but you are on his side.

What book in childhood made the biggest impression on you?
I liked Boys Own and Valiant kind of stuff which were all science fiction and set in the future. Everyone was obsessed with the year 2000, and thinking we'd all be having holidays on the Moon. I remember thinking, "in the year 2000 I'll be 36, so my life will be just about over."

Who or what makes you laugh?
The Mighty Boosh...Simon Peg. So does Ben Stiller.

Do you always watch comedy with your work head on, with a technical eye, or can you accept something as just funny without making any analysis?
Yes, you watch a joke and if it's funny, you think “I wish I'd thought of that.” And if it doesn't make you laugh, you think “I've still got a job then”. But the nicer one is the first of the two. I genuinely enjoy comedy if I don't know how to do it. Which is why I like the Boosh so much. I like it because I could never think of that. What I do live is not original, there's a bit of edge in it, but really it's just broad, knockabout stuff.

20081310Art2lg20081310Art2lgWhat single creative work has the biggest emotional effect on you.
I might be seen as a bit of a philistine with my musical tastes, but I really love everything by John Barry. It's got everything, part classical, part rock, Hammond organs, mandolins. So evocative and cinematic. And yet he's from Yorkshire, John Barry. He's got a strange accent: half Yorkshire-half LA

Which entertainment figures/creative types do you most admire?
Noel Edmonds, ha ha, joke. Paul Abbott, Russell T Davies. And Ben Stiller who strives to do everything well.

Speaking of Russell T, would you audition for the role of the next Doctor in Doctor Who, or say yes if they approached you?
Yes. But I'd have to go away and think about it for a little bit...

Really?
Well yes. I mean, you don't want to appear to be too keen.

*Steve Coogan appeared at the Liverpool Kings Dock Arena earlier this week and is currently on tour around the UK, including a raft of Manchester dates next month. You can buy tickets on 0844 8000 400

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27 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

DeadendersOctober 13th 2008.

.

ParkyOctober 13th 2008.

Good interview! I feel like I learned more than the Wossy rubbish he did.

The Macra TerrorOctober 13th 2008.

Morrissey's too young too.

Captain MainwaringOctober 13th 2008.

Don't tell him, Pike!

Zoë HerriottOctober 13th 2008.

Bah! Coogan's too young to be a proper Doctor Who! I reckon Richard Wilson would be the perfect Doctor, or perhaps Ian Carmichael or pipe-puffing Dennis Lill. They could restore the authority of The Doctor. It is impossible to take the eye-rolling, gurning and flippant estuarine wisecracks of David Tennant’s Doctor seriously.

silvertiaraOctober 13th 2008.

OOOOOOHHHH NOOOOOOO!not him as DR WHO! hes got tooo much Alan Partride in him now!

AnonymousOctober 13th 2008.

Well let's hope he makes a better Doctor Who than he does comedian after his disgraceful performance at the lpool Arena!!!

juddaOctober 13th 2008.

Dr Who??? you must be joking - the show at Liverpool was nothing but filthy laguage, how could he even contemplate being asked f to be Dr Who. Clean your act son or you'll soon be an 'as been'

DigOctober 13th 2008.

Excellent interview. More just like please! I think Philip Glenister should be the next Doctor in the style of Gene Hunt in a bizarre Life on Mars/Dr.Who crossover. Glenister as 70's cop Doc and Coogan as modern Doc.

Sarah JaneOctober 13th 2008.

At least Coogan is a Manc who can do different accents!

Herr BeadlezaboutOctober 13th 2008.

Yes that's right. Hitler was just the Jeremy beadle of his day and amazingly people believe it. You prick! Which are the hard to get books are they the one written by the criminal David Irving.There are lots of lies about the nazis but mainly it is about which of todays big busineses and royal families financed and supported them- and still would given the chance.

Cyber ControllerOctober 13th 2008.

Interesting, Darlek that the rant above isn't your usual anti scouse-Hillsborough diatribe that you pour out on every story you can think of on here every weekend and which Confidentail systematically removes. But as for repressed rage, over to you. And I would imagine asexuality is your only option too.

peaceandloveOctober 13th 2008.

Bloody hell, scousekraut, you're not a bloomin' nazi are you?

DigOctober 13th 2008.

As good as Coogan is I had to ignore his ACC show for Michael McIntyre in The Phil. An extremely funny man. Coogan, Evans, Izzard, Kay watch your backs.

Worzel GummidgeOctober 13th 2008.

That will reverse the polarity of his neutron flow.

DarlekOctober 13th 2008.

There is an important point here surely. Dr. Who remains asexual - he has never openly expressed interest in any of the women he allows to be terrorised by the nightmarish creatures he meets.Why does he consistently pick on women as his main partners though? IS Davies working out some repressed mysogynistic rage from earlier years?Search the BBC website for criticism of Davies and you only find bland hagiography.

scousekrautOctober 13th 2008.

Well it is a nice interview but I must totally disagree with Coogan's comments about The World at War. As a child I learnt virtually nothing about the war. All the men in my family didn't like talking about it - having been in one or the other of them - and we hadn't reached the 20th century in history by the time I was 14 and gave it up.So when the World at War series appeared I watched every one avidly but even then I had my suspicions that is was incredibly one-sided.As everybody should know history is written by the winners and the losers get to say nothing. usually they are humiliated. The official history of the Nazi period is just one big lie followed by another one and the World at War nonsensical propaganda.I will leave it at that except to say that before you have an opinion on something as complicated as this do at least 200 hours research and especially read books that are difficult to get for the real truth has been deliberateley suppressed. And dont forget the Rothschilds.

Jamie McCrimmonOctober 13th 2008.

Clive Swift would make and good Doctor and he's a scouser too!

Jo.S.WirralOctober 13th 2008.

Interesting analysis of the Dr Who writer. His homosexuality has never been denied but why does he get such kicks from terrorising young boys?IT IS worth debating seriously.Lets hope some bright young student of media has a dissertation in them on this one.

TonyOctober 13th 2008.

I laughed out loud at the crack about the unfunny joke. "The quietest non-sound I have ever heard." It had me giggling for ages. Good interview. Genuinely funny man.

CybermanOctober 13th 2008.

Oh right, so you've got mental problems Cyberian, Knotonyournelly and all the other names you post under? Excellent!

Sarah JaneOctober 13th 2008.

Oh don't be silly! Coogan would be good. Much better than David "I'll even turn Gordon Brown into a scouser with my wooden performance" Morrissey, who these idiots at the BBC are allegedly lining up for the role. Coogan would be very acceptable.

cyberianOctober 13th 2008.

Dr Who remains quintessentially British. There has always been an uneasy paedophile quality to the Doctor and his penchant for underage girls. David Tennant portrays this shadowy slimeball, the doctor, even better than silveste Mccoy who was surely the epitome of how a child molester looks to normal people.Writer Davies, exposed as a homosexual, continues to infect his fantasies with morbid scenes of torture and fear.The new Dr Who should be someone like Mark Gatiss who could let Davies exorcise his gay lusts to the fullest extent.

Dave BellisOctober 13th 2008.

It's easy to have a go at just one bloke, especially when you call yourself "anonymous" isn't it? Very brave, as are all the oiks with their self righteous and equually anonymous indignation elsewhere

Rose TylerOctober 13th 2008.

They are all older than David Tennant. What's this obsession with an elderly Doctor Who who probably has prostate issues and gets up in the night. You want a Doctor Who with a bit of va-va-voom, not a crusty old git like Ian bloody Charmichael. Christ, thank God these decisions aren't left to ordinary people, which is why you get some bint winning the Nancy competition on the telly, when really it should have been the Irish chickeroo who people would have gone to see. There. Oh, and Coogan would be good driving a TARDIS about. Especially if he did it in the style of Norris McWhirter.

Rusty SpikeOctober 13th 2008.

Erm...seems Mr Coogan was bit duff at the Kings Dock gig. He's been lashed by the critics - and punters alike - for a 'piss-poor' performance which was apparently under rehearsed and a shambles.....Ooops. Its the old Ken Dodd remark writ large for the 21st Century when he said the most feared venue for comedians was the Glasgow Empire. Most would quake before going on stage there. Seems Mr Coogan was a tad nervous about the Dock gig...and then expected a Scouse audience to treat him kindly? Daft sod. In any case I saw the Probation Officer film and it was also crap.

DigOctober 13th 2008.

Coogan has been a class act for years, even if he is only remembered for Alan Partridge. A few films that didn't hit any dizzy heights haven't done him any harm, or favours. I think if he wants to remain on the public radar he needs to come up with a character to compete with Partridge as Saxondale didn't excite the masses. If not that then accept the inevitable and bring back a Partridge series and bring it to a conclusion one way or another a la The Office/ Blackadder.

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