AN IDIOT ABROAD – Karl Pilkington wins over my heart

I was initially introduced to Karl Pilkington one Saturday night at the end of 2010, when I was on the phone to my boyfriend in the early stages of our endearing romance. He was heartily laughing at a show on SBS 1 and suggested I flip the channel immediately to be involved in the hilarity. I could hear an all familiar high pitched laugh emanating from his television through the phone and I knew instinctively that it was my beloved comedian de force, Ricky Gervais. Flipping the channel, I was met by a cartoon version of Gervais, Stephen Merchant and oddly enough, a bald and awkward character named, Karl Pilkington. This was the televisual version of Gervais and Merchant’s radio show on Xfm London, which aired on HBO in the States and Channel 4 in the UK.

Quite frankly, I couldn’t get enough of Pilkington. Coupled with the childishly hilarious and cheekily clever Gervais and the slightly stoic and understated comedy of Merchant ‘the googly eyed freak’, throwing Pilkington into the mix was nothing short of brilliant. Karl, as I shall refer to him (even his name is monotone) used to be the producer of The Gervais Show on Xfm until Gervais got him in front of a mic to co- present back in 2001. Karl was, and is, basically Gervais’ little monkey man, with the perfectly rounded head, that he can sit there and poke a stick at, much for his own amusement. The fact that he actually unleashed Karl onto the world is nothing short of a blessing. Karl is so unique in that he is such a narrow minded idiot at times, not really wanting to leave the secluded comfort of his Manchester home or his girlfriend of over a decade. He believes any monkey themed story he hears, once decided not to go on a date with a sick girl in case she died on him, would turn down a trip to the moon because he wouldn’t be able to get out and have a wander around, bitches and moans about the delivery of washing machines and only eats his meat and five veg – that his girlfriend cooks. In saying that, he voices opinions that are better left in the cornices of our minds and is completely unbeknowst and somewhat innocent when it comes to making slightly racist comments. He is very polite and slow to anger, but quick to run off an hide. The man is an enigma.

Slowly but surely, despite all of this, the idiot savant began to win me over. I just never knew what he was going to say or do next. He genuinely made me laugh and continues to do so. Actually, come to think of it, I’ve never even seen Karl crack a proper smile. Ever.

According to Gervais, Karl is, ‘a moron. A completely round, empty headed, part chimp manc.’ And as Merchant explains, ‘he’d have been happier in Medieval times in a village where you didn’t travel beyond the local community.’

These threee men (I’m not sure I can refer to Karl as a comedian, he is naturally strange and comedic without even meaning to be) play off each other so well. However, Gervais and Merchant do gang up on Karl constantly, so it’s more like a playground wind up when you think about it. And this is displayed oh- so- eloquently in the their latest venture, Sky1’s ‘An Idiot Abroad’.

Gervais and Merchant had concocted an idea that strikes at the very heart of Karl’s own personal comfort and eating practices, whilst striking at my own funny bone, and that of everyone around the world. Basically, they have made (note: not asked) Karl get on a plane and check out the Seven Wonders of the World. What ensues is the most hilarious sequence of events I have ever had the pleasure of viewing or indeed reading.

From the rubbish at the Great Pyramids in Egypt, “Ya don’t see tha’ on the brochure, do ya? Shitty old nappy whizzin’ through the air. They tend to leave tha’ out”; the eating habits of the Chinese [in reference to a girl eating a scorpion on a stick], “Where do ya draw the line between food and insect? When she gets up in the mornin’ and there’s a spider in the bath, what does she do? ‘Oh good, I’ll leave the croissant for tomorrow, I’ll eat that now’?” and so many more I’ll have to compile a new post just to house them all.

Having watched many of the episodes on-line of ‘An Idiot Abroad’, I then decided to read the book. Dead set the funniest thing in print that I have ever held in my hands. Reading Karl’s travel diary and indeed thought process on paper is priceless (well, $39.99 from Borders). I was laughing out loud literally, at nearly every entry. Including phone discussions with Gervais and Merchant, as well as photos and hand drawn pictures done by Karl, I would highly recommend this book as the perfect accompaniment to the DVD of the series or even as a good read when you’re feeling low. Guaranteed cheer- me- up book within the first paragraph.

I’m quite excited by the amount of attention Karl is now getting from the ‘Idiot Abroad’ series. Initally, I was upset that I would have to share him with others (besides my boyfriend and a few other witty friends that were already onto him), but just as Gervais and Merchant realised, Karl cannot be confined, he needs to be able to spread his little wings and offer up his idiocy worldwide.

Jump on the Karl bandwagon. It’s rickety and hasn’t been serviced in a while, but it’s a tremendously funny ride and will get you from A to B, groans and all. 🙂

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