Coogan in character as Alan Partridge at a 2011 book-signing event
|First appearance||Radio: On the Hour (9 August 1991)
Television: The Day Today (19 January 1994)
|Created by||Steve Coogan
|Portrayed by||Steve Coogan|
|Occupation||Radio and television presenter|
Alan Gordon Partridge is a fictional character portrayed by English actor and comedian Steve Coogan. A parody of British television personalities, Partridge is a tactless and inept television and radio presenter who often insults his guests and whose inflated sense of celebrity drives him to treachery and shameless self-promotion. Coogan described Partridge as a Little Englander, with right-wing values and poor taste.
Partridge was created by Coogan and Armando Iannucci for the 1991 BBC Radio 4 comedy programme On the Hour, a spoof of British current affairs broadcasting, as the show's sports presenter. In 1992, Partridge hosted a spin-off Radio 4 spoof chat show, Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge. On the Hour transferred to television as The Day Today in 1994, followed by Knowing Me, Knowing You later that year. In 1997, Coogan starred as Partridge in a BBC sitcom, I'm Alan Partridge, written by Coogan, Iannucci and Peter Baynham, following Partridge's life working for a small radio station and living in a roadside hotel. It earned two BAFTAs and was followed by a second series in 2002.
Partridge returned in 2010 with a series of shorts, Mid Morning Matters with Alan Partridge, written by Coogan with Rob and Neil Gibbons, who have cowritten every Partridge product since. It was followed by a bestselling spoof autobiography, I, Partridge: We Need to Talk About Alan (2011), a successful feature film, Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013), several TV specials, and a second series of Mid Morning Matters (2016).
Critics have praised Alan Partridge's complexity, realism and pathos. Vanity Fair called him a British "national treasure" and the Guardian described him as "one of the greatest and most beloved comic creations of the last few decades". The character has been credited with influencing cringe comedies such as The Inbetweeners, Nighty Night and Peep Show. According to Den of Geek, Partridge has so influenced British culture that "Partridgisms" have become everyday vernacular.
- 1 History
- 2 Character
- 3 Reception and influence
- 4 Appearances
- 5 References
- 6 External links
1991–1995: On The Hour, Knowing Me, Knowing You and move to television
Alan Partridge was created for the 1991 BBC Radio 4 comedy programme On The Hour, a spoof of British current affairs broadcasting, as the show's hapless sports presenter. He is portrayed by Steve Coogan, who had performed a similar character for a BBC college radio station at university. On The Hour writers Armando Iannucci, Patrick Marber, Richard Herring and Stewart Lee wrote much of Partridge's first material, although Herring credits the creation to Coogan and Iannucci. Iannucci asked Coogan to do a voice for a generic sports reporter; according to Iannucci, "Someone said, 'He's an Alan!' and someone else said, 'He's a Partridge!' Within minutes we knew where he lived, we'd worked out his back story, what his aspirations were." Coogan said Partridge was originally a "one-note, sketchy character" and "freak show", but became "more and more refined as sort of a dysfunctional alter ego" over the years.
Following On the Hour, Partridge presented six episodes of a spoof Radio 4 chat show, Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge, broadcast on 1 December 1992. The series saw Partridge annoy and offend his guests, and coined the character's catchphrase, "Aha!" In 1994, On the Hour transferred to television as The Day Today, in which Partridge reprised his role as sports reporter. Later the same year, Knowing Me, Knowing You transferred to television; the series ends with Partridge accidentally shooting a guest and attacking a BBC commissioning editor, ending his television career. It was nominated for the 1995 BAFTA for Light Entertainment Performance. The BBC broadcast a Christmas special, Knowing Me, Knowing Yule, in December 1995.
1997–2010: I'm Alan Partridge and further appearances
In 1997, Coogan starred in a sitcom, I'm Alan Partridge, written by Coogan, Iannucci and Peter Baynham. The sitcom follows Partridge after he has been left by his wife and dropped from the BBC; he lives in a roadside hotel, presents a graveyard slot on local Norwich radio, and desperately pitches ideas for new television shows. Iannucci said the writers used the sitcom as "a kind of social X-ray of male middle-aged Middle England." It won the 1998 BAFTA awards for Comedy Performance and Comedy Programme or Series.
In 1999, Partridge appeared on the BBC telethon Children in Need, performing a medley of Kate Bush songs. The BBC broadcast a second series of I'm Alan Partridge in 2002, following Partridge's life in a static caravan with his new Ukrainian girlfriend after recovering from a mental breakdown. In March 2003, the BBC broadcast a mockumentary, Anglian Lives: Alan Partridge, about Partridge's life and career. In 2008, Coogan performed a tour, "Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge and other Less Successful Characters", featuring Partridge as a life coach.
2010–2013: Comeback, memoir, and feature film
After a hiatus, Partridge returned in 2010 in a series of YouTube shorts, Mid Morning Matters with Alan Partridge, as the host of a digital radio show with co-presenter Sidekick Simon (Tim Key). Coogan wrote the shorts with brothers Neil and Rob Gibbons, who submitted scripts to his company Baby Cow Productions; the Gibbons have co-written every Partridge project since. According to Neil, Coogan "invited us in, our sensibilities chimed, and before we knew it, Mid Morning Matters was up and running. We wrote it as if it was our baby, and though there was a sense that we were standing on the shoulders of giants, I think we were like two pairs of fresh eyes, and Steve seemed to fall in love with the character all over again." Coogan said they chose the web format because "it was a bit underground, a low-key environment in which to test the character out again. And the response was so good, we realised there was more fuel in the tank." The shorts were later broadcast by Sky Atlantic.
In 2011, a spoof autobiography, I, Partridge: We Need to Talk About Alan, written by Coogan, Iannucci and the Gibbons brothers, was published in the UK. An audiobook version recorded by Coogan as Partridge was released on CD and downloadable audio formats. In the book, Partridge recounts his childhood and career, attempts to settle scores with people he feels have wronged him, and dispenses wisdom such as his assertion that Wikipedia has made university education "all but pointless". Coogan appeared as Partridge to promote I, Partridge on The Jonathan Ross Show and BBC Radio 5 Live. It received positive reviews and became a bestseller.
On 25 June 2012, Partridge presented a one-hour Sky special, Alan Partridge: Welcome to the Places of My Life, taking the viewer on a tour of Partridge's home county Norfolk. The program earned Coogan the 2013 BAFTA for Best Male Performance in a Comedy Programme. It was followed the next week by Open Books with Martin Bryce, a mock literary programme discussing Partridge's autobiography.
On 7 August 2013, a feature film, Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, written by Coogan, Iannucci, Baynham and the Gibbons brothers, was released in the UK. It was directed by Declan Lowney and co-produced by StudioCanal and Baby Cow Productions, with support from BBC Films and the BFI Film Fund. The film sees Partridge enlisted as a crisis negotiator during a siege at his radio station. It received mostly positive reviews and opened at number one at the box office in the UK and Ireland.
2015–present: Scissored Isle, Nomad, and return to BBC
In 2015, Coogan co-presented a special Christmas episode of the Channel 4 chat show TFI Friday as Partridge. In February 2016, Sky Atlantic broadcast a second series of Mid Morning Matters, in which Partridge continues his relationship with divorcee Angela. This was followed in May by Alan Partridge's Scissored Isle, a mockumentary in which Partridge examines the British class divide. A second Alan Partridge book, Alan Partridge: Nomad, a travelogue in which Partridge recounts a journey across the UK, was published on 20 October 2016.
In July 2017, Partridge appeared in an episode of the BBC Radio 4 programme Inheritance Tracks, in which guests choose music they would pass to future generations; he selected "Who Put the Bomp (in the Bomp, Bomp, Bomp)" by Barry Mann and the theme from Grandstand. Iannucci guest-edited an October 2017 issue of The Big Issue, featuring a debate on Brexit between Partridge and Malcolm Tucker, a character from The Thick Of It, another sitcom created by Iannucci. On 27 December, BBC Two broadcast a documentary about the history of the character, Alan Partridge: Why, When, Where, How and Whom?. In 2018, Partridge will return to the BBC to host This Time With Alan Partridge, a current affairs program in the style of The One Show.
Alan Partridge is an incompetent and tactless television and radio presenter from Norwich, England. He is socially inept, often offending his guests, and has an inflated sense of importance and celebrity. According to the Telegraph, Partridge is "utterly convinced of his own superiority, and bewildered by the world's inability to recognise it – qualities that place him in the line of comedy lineage that runs directly from Hancock, Captain Mainwaring, and Basil Fawlty." His need for public attention drives him to deceit, treachery and shameless self-promotion, and sometimes violence; in the Knowing Me, Knowing Yule Christmas special, for example, he assaults a BBC boss and a paralysed former golfer.
Partridge holds right-wing views; Coogan described him as a Little Englander, with a "myopic, slightly philistine mentality". He is a reader of the right-wing tabloid newspaper the Daily Mail, and supports Brexit because, according to Coogan, the Daily Mail "told him to". Earlier versions of the character were more bigoted, but the writers found there was more humour in having him attempt to be liberal; in I, Partridge, for example, Partridge stresses his friendship with gay television presenter Dale Winton. Coogan said: "He's aware of political correctness but he's playing catch-up. In the same way that the Daily Mail is a bit PC – it wouldn't be openly homophobic now – Alan is the same. He tries to be modern."
According to Forbes, Partridge has "parochial bad taste", and Coogan described him as "on the wrong side of cool". He is a fan of James Bond films and Lexus cars and his music taste includes Wings and Abba; Partridge named his son Fernando and his talk show Knowing Me, Knowing You after Abba songs, and his talk show catchphrase, "Aha!", also comes from Abba. In earlier incarnations, Partridge's wardrobe included a blazer, badge and tie, driving gloves, and "too-short" shorts, styles he describes as "sports casual" and "imperial leisure". According to Iannucci, by the time of Alpha Papa his wardrobe had "evolved to the Top Gear Presenter Circa 2005 stage", with sports jackets and a "borderline-foppish" fringe. As Coogan aged, the ageing make-up he wore in earlier performances became unnecessary.
Baynham told the Guardian that "despite the fact that people say he's awful, a lot of the time we were trying to build empathy: you're watching a man suffer but also at some level identifying with his pain." According to Marber, the "fundamental aspect" of the character is desperation. Felicity Montagu, who plays Partridge's assistant Lynn, felt he was a good person "deep down" and actually "vulnerable and lovable". Iannucci said that Partridge stays optimistic because he never sees himself as others see him, and that despite his failings was "the perfect broadcaster for these times, when there are 24 hours to fill and dead time is a crime – he has a unique capacity to fill any vacuum with his own verbal vacuum." Rob and Neil Gibbons felt that by the time of Mid Morning Matters, when Partridge is working for an even smaller radio station, he was more at peace with himself and that his lack of self-awareness saved him from misery.
Reception and influence
Vanity Fair described Alan Partridge as "a national treasure ... as cherished a part of British comedy heritage as John Cleese's Basil Fawlty and Rowan Atkinson's Mr. Bean." According to Variety, in Britain "Alan Partridge is a full-on phenomenon, a multiplatform fictional celebrity whose catchphrases, mangled metaphors and social ineptitude are the stuff of legend and good ratings." The character is less well known outside the UK, but according to Anchorman director Adam McKay, "every American comic knows who Steve is, whether it's Stiller or Ferrell or Jack Black or me ... and everyone watching those [Partridge] DVDs had the same reaction. How did I not know about this guy?" Indiewire wrote that "few Americans may know, but Partridge is a something of a comic icon across the pond ... Before there was Ron Burgundy for the Yanks, there was Alan Partridge for the Brits."
Brian Logan wrote in the Guardian that though Partridge was created as a satire of the "asinine fluency of broadcaster-speak" of the time, his study of character traits gave the character a timeless quality. Guardian writer John Crace wrote: "By rights, Alan Partridge should have been dead as a character years ago, the last drops of humour long since wrung out ... but Steve Coogan keeps finding ways to make him feel fresh." The Independent wrote that Partridge is a "disarming creation" and that despite his flaws "we always root for him." Guardian critic Alexis Petridis wrote that audiences find Partridge funny partly because they recognise themselves in him. In the same paper, Edmund Gordon called Partridge "a magnificent comic creation: a monster of egotism and tastelessness"; according to Gordon, Partridge allows liberal audiences to laugh at politically incorrect humour as "every loathsome comment is sold to us not as a gag, but as a gaffe".
The entertainment news site Mandatory said Partridge was "a fascinatingly layered and fully realised creation of years of storytelling and a fundamentally contemptible prick — he feels like a living, breathing person, but a living, breathing person that you want to strangle." The Telegraph wrote: "Never has one actor so completely inhabited a sitcom character. We believe Partridge is real, from his side-parted hair down to his tasseled sports-casual loafers." In 2014, Guardian writer Stuart Heritage described Partridge as "one of the greatest and most beloved comic creations of the last few decades." In a 2017 poll of over 100 comedians, Partridge was voted best TV comedy character and Coogan best male comedy actor, and a scene from I'm Alan Partridge in which Partridge goes to the home of an obsessive fan was voted best comedy scene.
The Telegraph credited Partridge with influencing cringe comedies such as The Inbetweeners, Nighty Night and Peep Show. According to Den of Geek, he has so influenced British culture that "Partridgisms" have become everyday vernacular. "Monkey Tennis", one of Partridge's desperate television proposals, has become shorthand for absurd television concepts. Another, "Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank", was used by the hostel booking site Hostelworld as the basis of a 2015 television advert with boxer Chris Eubank. "Accidental Partridge", an unofficial Twitter account which collects quotes reminiscent of Partridge's speech from real media figures, had attracted 144,000 followers by May 2014. In July 2015, an art exhibition inspired by the character opened in Norwich.
Bold text indicates a starring role.
|1991||On the Hour series 1||Radio series (BBC Radio 4)||Sports correspondent|
|1992||On the Hour series 2||Radio series (BBC Radio 4)||Sports correspondent|
|1992||Knowing Me Knowing You with Alan Partridge||Radio series (BBC Radio 4)||Host|
|1994||BAFTA Tech Awards||TV awards show||Presenter|
|1994||The Day Today||TV series (BBC Two)||Sports correspondent|
|1994||Knowing Me Knowing You with Alan Partridge||TV series (BBC Two)||Host|
|1994||Christmas Night with the Stars||TV special||Segment host|
|1995||Comic Relief||TV fundraiser (BBC Two)||Fundraising presenter|
|1995||Knowing Me Knowing Yule with Alan Partridge||TV special (BBC Two)||Host|
|1996||The Big Snog||TV special (BBC Two)||Co-presenter[not in citation given]|
|1997||I'm Alan Partridge series 1||TV series (BBC Two)||Protagonist|
|1997||Clive Anderson: All Talk||TV talk show||Interviewee|
|1997||Election Night Armistice||TV special (BBC Two)||Interview correspondent|
|1998||Brit Awards||TV awards show (ITV)||Presenter of "Best British Video" award|
|1998||Steve Coogan Live: The Man Who Thinks He's It||DVD special||Presenter|
|1998||Stephen Fry's Live from the Lighthouse||TV fundraiser (Channel 4)||Interview correspondent|
|1999||Comic Relief||TV fundraiser (BBC One)||Presenter|
|2000||British Comedy Awards||TV awards show (ITV)||Musical performer|
|2001||Comic Relief||TV fundraiser (BBC Two)||Interview correspondent|
|2002||I'm Alan Partridge series 2||TV series (BBC Two)||Protagonist|
|2003||Anglian Lives: Alan Partridge||TV interview special (BBC Two)||Interviewee|
|2005||Comic Relief||TV fundraiser (BBC Two)||Host|
|2005||Alan Partridge Presents: The Cream of British Comedy||DVD fundraiser||Host|
|2009||Steve Coogan Live: As Alan Partridge and Other Less Successful Characters||DVD special||Presenter|
|2011||Mid Morning Matters with Alan Partridge series 1||TV series (Sky Atlantic)||Presenter|
|2011||Comic Relief||TV fundraiser (BBC Two)||Host of Mid Morning Matters segment|
|2011||I, Partridge: We Need to Talk About Alan||Autobiography||Author|
|2011||The Jonathan Ross Show||TV talk show (ITV)||Interviewee|
|2011||The Richard Bacon Show||Radio talk show (BBC Radio 5 Live)||Interviewee|
|2011||Alan Partridge: Welcome to the Places of My Life||TV special (Sky Atlantic)||Presenter|
|2011||Open Books with Martin Bryce||TV talk show (Sky Atlantic)||Interviewee|
|2013||Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa||Film||Protagonist|
|2015||TFI Friday||Talk show (Channel 4)||Co-host|
|2016||Mid Morning Matters with Alan Partridge series 2||TV series (Sky Atlantic)||Presenter|
|2016||Sport Relief||TV Fundraiser (BBC One)||Single Segment|
|2016||Alan Partridge's Scissored Isle||TV special (Sky Atlantic)||Presenter|
|2016||Alan Partridge: Nomad||Autobiography||Author|
|2017||Comic Relief||TV fundraiser (BBC One)||Segment voiceover|
|2017||Inheritance Tracks||Radio series (BBC Radio 4)||Guest|
|2017||Alan Partridge: Why, When, Where, How and Whom?||Documentary (BBC Two)||Subject|
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