With a new Alan Partridge book set to join the other celebrity hardbacks on supermarket bookshelves this Christmas, the North Norfolk Digital DJ is as in demand as ever. But the sometime chat show host and lover of Jet from Gladiators isn’t Steve Coogan’s only comic creation.
We’ve taken a look at some characters that may not be as quotable as Partridge, but are every bit as funny:
- Duncan Thickett
- Gareth Cheeseman
- Paul Calf
- Tommy Saxondale
Duncan Thickett is one of Coogan’s earliest characters, appearing as far back as the late 1980s in his early stand-up shows as a panicky comedian and teller of very bad jokes. Thickett was something of a raconteur who would tell very bad stories without an amusing payoff. While Thickett’s lines may not have been funny in and of themselves, Coogan’s depiction of a desperate performer, constantly looking for audience approval, was. Some critics believe this character was a thinly-disguised pastiche of the “wacky” comedians of the time like Timmy Mallett.
A one-off character in an episode of the short-lived series Coogan’s Run, Gareth Cheeseman was a self-centred, egotistic salesman and all-in-all, something of a proto-Partridge. Cheeseman sells computer hardware, and during the episode stays at a low-budget hotel ahead of a conference. He is obsessed with his Ford Probe company car and Hugo Boss suit, which he is frequently at pains to talk mention to other characters. It has been suggested that the Ford Probe’s lack of success in the UK was down to Gareth Cheeseman.
Paul Calf is another early creation, and Coogan based this character on the student-hating regulars of Manchester pubs in the 1990s. Calf began life as “Duncan Disorderly” in early stand-up routines, before coming to prominence with appearances on the Channel 4 show Saturday Zoo, hosted by Jonathan Ross. Foul-mouthed and bleach-mulleted, Calf always carries a pint in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Coogan also portrays his sister, Pauline Calf on stage.
Middle-aged pest controller Tommy Saxondale is one of Coogan’s more self-aware characters, but he still manages to put his foot in it and alienate people. Saxondale considers himself a maverick and free-thinker who still rages against “the man” decades on from his days as a roadie. This raging leads to him attending anger management classes. Much of the humour comes from the way Saxondale interacts with others, including his middle-class executive neighbour Jonathan, his impressionable young assistant and lodger Raymond, and his arty girlfriend Magz.
And an honorary mention for outstanding performance…Tony Wilson
Coogan portrayed the impresario Tony Wilson in Michael Winterbottom’s acclaimed docudrama about the Manchester music scene of the 1980s and ’90s, 24 Hour Party People. Wilson (Coogan) narrates the tale, often breaking the fourth wall to address the audience directly, as the story moves from the birth of punk through to new wave and finally the rave scene. His remarkable performance as Wilson manages to be simultaneously sincere and ironic, and he has gone on record to say that this is the performance he is most proud of.