Karl Pilkington

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Karl Pilkington
Karl Pilkington 2008 cropped.jpg
Pilkington in 2008
Born (1972-09-23) 23 September 1972 (age 50)
Sale, England
Years active1998–present

Karl Pilkington (born 23 September 1972) is an English presenter, comedian, actor, voice-artist, producer and author.

After working with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant as producer on their XFM radio show, Pilkington became a co-host of The Ricky Gervais Show. He presented the Sky travel comedy series An Idiot Abroad and the Sky 1 travel comedy series The Moaning of Life. He made his acting debut in Gervais' comedy-drama series Derek and co-founded the television production company RiSK Productions alongside Gervais and Merchant. He also co-created, co-wrote, and starred in the comedy series Sick of It.

Early life[edit]

Pilkington was born on 23 September 1972[1] in Sale, Greater Manchester.[2] He grew up in the Racecourse Estate neighbourhood of Sale, and has an older sister and older brother. He has discussed having a close relationship with his parents, and has shared stories about his mother and father holding multiple jobs. However, he was never close to his siblings, which he attributed to being 10 years younger than them; he once said that it had been "years" since he had last talked to them.[3] He attended Ashton-on-Mersey School in Sale.[4] He said that he never liked school and struggled with the system, at some point losing all interest in it. He has claimed that he attended school only to sell items to his schoolmates, usually video games that he had purchased and made copies of. He said, "I wasn't going to school to learn, I was going to earn." At the age of 15, he dropped out of school to work as a cassette and disk printer through a Youth Training Scheme program.[5]


Early work[edit]

Pilkington moved to London to work as a producer at XFM, where he was later promoted to head of production.[6] While there, he unintentionally caused Gail Porter to leave the station in tears after only one show; he criticised her performance, which Pilkington defended as an attempt to encourage improvement.[7] After several years, he began work on The Ricky Gervais Show. Initially, Pilkington was solely the programme's producer and rarely spoke on-air, but as Gervais and Merchant began to frequently invite him to make cameo appearances, Pilkington's eccentric personality came to prominence and his popularity increased. He was eventually included as a main presenter on the broadcasts, with large amounts of airtime devoted to his controversial opinions on various subjects, often due to his misunderstanding of the stories. He created many features for the broadcasts, including Monkey News, Rockbusters, Educating Ricky and many others.[citation needed] Rockbusters, in particular, garnered the most attention, with regular emails being sent to the station from listeners in the hopes to win prizes. These prizes were often mundane and low quality and were often referred to as things Pilkington "picked up from around the office". In December 2005, Pilkington stood in for two BBC Radio 6 Music shows for Nemone, co-presenting with Russell Brand.[8]


Pilkington's presence on The Ricky Gervais Show podcasts significantly increased his fame. He has often been mentioned in interviews given by Gervais and is often the victim of Gervais' pranks and insults directed towards the spherical appearance of his bald head. After Pilkington said "I could eat a knob at night" on the podcast (in relation to I'm a Celebrity contestants eating a kangaroo penis), Gervais encouraged his listeners to sample the sound bite and mix it into dance music. The phrase spawned several dance music mixes, T-shirts and other merchandise. Many of Pilkington's quotes have since gained publicity, particularly on the Internet. Reuters described Pilkington as a "phenomenon" who had made "Internet history."[9]

On 23 November 2010, while appearing live on Richard Bacon's Radio 5 Live afternoon show, Gervais surprised Pilkington with an on-air phone call. This led to a conversation in which Pilkington, who claimed to have been interrupted while grouting his kitchen, claimed that he had not yet been paid for his work on An Idiot Abroad and concluded the interview with an improvised link into the hourly news.[10]

Pilkington has worked independently of Gervais and Merchant on several projects. He appeared as a guest on the shows Flipside TV and The Culture Show,[11] and appeared in several short films as part of the Channel 4 project 3 Minute Wonders.[citation needed]

Merchant and Gervais have repeatedly denied claims that Pilkington's persona is their creation. In an on-air response to similar claims made by Chris Campling during a broadcast on Xfm, Merchant stated that he would be "ashamed" if the radio show had been scripted, adding that "I would not have squandered a character that good on this poxy radio station."[12] Gervais concurred, pointing out that writing a single series' worth of six half-hour episodes of shows such as The Office and Extras consumed as long as a full year of their time. An interviewer for The Daily Telegraph concluded that Pilkington's behaviour is genuine.[13]

Television and DVD[edit]

Pilkington appeared in an interview titled Meet Karl Pilkington on Gervais's live standup comedy DVD Politics. The DVD of Gervais's film The Invention of Lying contains a special feature also called Meet Karl Pilkington[14] that documents his participation in the film as a non-speaking caveman in another special feature, The Dawn of Lying.[15][unreliable source?] He was given a small role in the final episode of Extras.

In September 2010, Pilkington starred in An Idiot Abroad,[16] a light-hearted Sky1 travel documentary series produced by Gervais and Merchant in which he visits the New 7 Wonders of the World while participating in various activities along the way.[17] He wrote a book to accompany the series.[18]

The second series, subtitled The Bucket List, debuted on 23 September 2011 on Sky 1 and features Pilkington partaking in ultimate experiences from a list selected for him.[19] In June 2011, he won the Best Presenter award for An Idiot Abroad at the Factual Entertainment Awards.[20] The third series of the show, An Idiot Abroad: The Short Way Round, premiered in November 2012 and showed Pilkington and Warwick Davis travelling the Marco Polo route.[21][22]

He made his acting debut on 12 April 2012 in the Channel 4 comedy-drama Derek, portraying caretaker and bus driver Dougie. He left the show after the first episode of the second series. From 2013 to 2015, Pilkington starred in a two-series Sky 1 documentary called The Moaning of Life.[23] From 2018 to 2020, he co-wrote and starred in a Sky 1 scripted sitcom called Sick of It.[24][25] In 2022, Pilkington starred in the ITV drama The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe as DC Phil Bayley. Pilkington has also performed voice-over work for such clients as Sky TV, One Stop Office Shop, FreeView, Vodafone, HMV, Sony PSP, WHSmith, Wickes and Unilever.

Charity work[edit]

In 2014, Pilkington designed and signed his own card for the Thomas Coram Foundation for Children charity. The campaign was launched by crafting company Stampin' Up! UK; his card, along with those designed and signed by other celebrities, was auctioned on eBay in May 2014.[26]

Personal life[edit]

Pilkington resides in Sandbanks, Dorset.[27] He is in a long-term cohabiting relationship with his partner, Suzanne, whom he frequently mentions in his work.[28][29]

Pilkington supported Manchester City as a child, but has supported Manchester United since the 1990s.[30][31] In January 2020, he revealed on Sunday Brunch that he had been attempting to eat fewer animal products and described himself as a flexitarian.[32]



Year Title Role Notes
2009 The Invention of Lying Caveman Cameo, cut from final release.
2010 Cemetery Junction Extra
2012 Chingari English Reporter


Year Title Role Notes
2003 Flipside TV Himself
2006 3 Minute Wonder Segment: "Some Thoughts by Karl Pilkington"
2007 Comedy Lab Episode: "Karl Pilkington: Satisfied Fool"[33]
Extras Autograph Hunter Episode: "2007 Christmas Special"
Monkey Lovers (Documentary) Himself Voice
2010–2012 The Ricky Gervais Show
An Idiot Abroad
2012–2014 Derek Dougie
2013–2015 The Moaning of Life Himself
2018–2020 Sick of It Karl
2022 The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe DC Phil Bayley


Year Title Role
2001–2011 The Ricky Gervais Show Himself


Year Title ISBN
2006 The World of Karl Pilkington 978-0007240272
2007 Happyslapped by a Jellyfish 978-1405328470
2008 Karlology: What I've Learnt So Far[34] 978-1405333351
2010 An Idiot Abroad: The Travel Diaries of Karl Pilkington[35] 978-1847679260
2012 The Further Adventures of An Idiot Abroad[36] 978-0857867490
2013 The Moaning of Life: The Worldly Wisdom of Karl Pilkington[37] 978-1782111511
2016 More Moaning: The Enlightened One Returns 978-1782117315


  1. ^ "The Ricky Gervais Show Series 2 Episode 34". The Ricky Gervais Show. 12 April 2003. XFM. Archived from the original on 15 November 2019. Transcript. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  2. ^ Wayne's World: Karl Pilkington on growing up in Trafford Archived 15 July 2021 at the Wayback Machine, Wayne Devlin, Messenger, 31 May 2018
  3. ^ The Complete Karl Pilkington on Family (A Compilation with Ricky Gervais & Steve Merchant), archived from the original on 17 November 2021, retrieved 18 April 2021
  4. ^ "Karl Pilkington: Ricky Gervais's extra pair of hands". The Independent. 17 September 2006. Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 1 September 2015.
  5. ^ #TSP055 - Karl Pilkington Podcast, archived from the original on 29 June 2020, retrieved 25 March 2021
  6. ^ "Tonight's TV: The Ricky Gervais Show (XFM)". the times.co.uk. Archived from the original on 17 October 2013. Retrieved 17 April 2010.
  7. ^ "Karl Pilkington: Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant Conned Me Into TV Show - On The Christian O'Connell Breakfast Show - Video". Absolute Radio. Archived from the original on 2 October 2013. Retrieved 26 August 2013.
  8. ^ "BBC 6 Music (2005-12)".
  9. ^ "Ricky Gervais... Obviously". Rickygervais.com. August 2004. Archived from the original on 28 January 2011. Retrieved 12 November 2010.
  10. ^ "Ricky Gervais makes a surprise call to Karl Pilkington". BBC News. 22 November 2010. Archived from the original on 7 April 2018. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  11. ^ "Releaselog | RLSLOG.net » The Culture Show S08E03 WS PDTV XviD-REMAX". RLSLOG.net. Archived from the original on 4 February 2008. Retrieved 18 March 2010.
  12. ^ Pilkington, K. (Producer) & Merchant, S., Gervais, R. (Presenters). (June 2005)
  13. ^ "The idiot philosopher". The Daily Telegraph. 17 September 2006. Archived from the original on 18 May 2012. Retrieved 28 May 2012.
  14. ^ White, Cindy (2 December 2009). "Invention of Lying Comes Clean – Ricky Gervais and Jennifer Garner gracing DVD and Blu-ray". IGN.com. Archived from the original on 3 July 2013. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
  15. ^ Gentry, Alexis (22 January 2010). "DVD Extras Better Than Movie on Invention of Lying Disc". voices.yahoo.com. Yahoo. Archived from the original on 15 June 2013.
  16. ^ "Sky1: An Idiot Abroad". Sky1.sky.com. 23 September 2011. Archived from the original on 5 September 2011. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
  17. ^ "An Idiot Abroad Official Site". Sky1.sky.com. 23 September 2011. Archived from the original on 5 September 2011. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
  18. ^ "An Idiot Abroad". London: Waterstones. 2 September 2010. Archived from the original on 30 September 2010. Retrieved 2 September 2010.
  19. ^ "An Idiot Abroad 2: About the Show – Sky1 HD". Sky1.sky.com. Archived from the original on 2 April 2012. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
  20. ^ Benzine, Adam. ""Deadliest Catch"," Amazing Race" win big at Factual Entertainment Awards » Realscreen". Archived from the original on 9 June 2011. Retrieved 13 June 2011.
  21. ^ "Idiot Abroad 3 in pre-production". Broadcast. 2 March 2012. Archived from the original on 2 October 2013. Retrieved 29 September 2013. Gervais set up Risk Productions along with Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington to make the second series following the success of the first Mentorn Media-produced series.
  22. ^ "The 'idiot' is back..." Chortle. 2 February 2011. Archived from the original on 8 November 2012. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
  23. ^ "Karl's mid-life crisis". Archived from the original on 19 January 2013. Retrieved 17 January 2013.
  24. ^ Brown, Brigid. "WATCH: 'Idiot Abroad' Star Karl Pilkington Writes and Stars in New Sitcom 'Sick of It'". BBC America. Archived from the original on 6 August 2021. Retrieved 6 August 2021.
  25. ^ Mitchell, Bea (21 September 2017). "Karl Pilkington Sky 1 Sitcom Sick of it". digitalspy.com. Archived from the original on 22 September 2017. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  26. ^ Rebecca Pocklington (6 May 2014). "Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston, Jo Brand and more celebrities design and sign cards for UK's first children's charity". Mirror Online. Archived from the original on 7 May 2014. Retrieved 7 May 2014.
  27. ^ "Dorset neighbourhood sees average house asking price rise by one of the highest in UK". uk.movies.yahoo.com. Retrieved 21 January 2023.
  28. ^ James Robertson (19 September 2013). "Karl Pilkington claims girlfriend won't be upset at being described as "plump" in new show The Moaning of Life". Mirror. Archived from the original on 27 December 2014. Retrieved 5 January 2015.
  29. ^ Danielle Paquette (28 January 2011). "'Idiot Abroad' unimpressed by world's wonders". CNN. Archived from the original on 6 January 2015. Retrieved 5 January 2015.
  30. ^ "Premier League predictions: Lawro v comedian Karl Pilkington". 30 September 2018. Archived from the original on 15 December 2018. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  31. ^ "Famous fan: Karl Pilkington - Official Manchester United Website". www.manutd.com. Archived from the original on 21 April 2018. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  32. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Karl Pilkington's Best Moanments | Sunday Brunch". YouTube.
  33. ^ "Comedy Lab - Episode Guide - All 4". www.channel4.com. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  34. ^ Pilkington, Karl. "Karlology page at". Waterstones.com. Archived from the original on 17 May 2011. Retrieved 18 March 2010.
  35. ^ "An Idiot Abroad: The Travel Diaries of Karl Pilkington page at". Waterstones.com. Archived from the original on 30 September 2010. Retrieved 11 October 2010.
  36. ^ "The Further Adventures of An Idiot Abroad by Karl Pilkington - Reviews, Discussion, Bookclubs, Lists". Goodreads.com. Archived from the original on 26 September 2013. Retrieved 26 August 2013.
  37. ^ "The Moaning of Life: The Worldly Wisdom of Karl Pilkington by Karl Pilkington — Reviews, Discussion, Bookclubs, Lists". Goodreads.com. Archived from the original on 25 October 2013. Retrieved 9 November 2013.

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