Bits and Bobs (Vol. 8): Tropic Blunder… Why Isn’t Steve Coogan a Bigger U.S. Star?

Rainofmadness_lI hit up Tropic Thunder this weekend, but I didn’t go for Stiller, Black, or Downey Jr. I went to see, as my colleague Tanner calls him, the Coog. So I was miffed when (spoiler alert!) my guy barely made it through the first third of the film. Sure, you could call his blip of a role as a foolish and ultimately doomed Hollywood director a "star cameo." And he is hilarious. Yet, it’s all a tad thankless for the bloke who co-created Britcom great Alan Partridge, don’t you think?

Which got me wondering: Why isn’t Steve Coogan (pictured) a bigger U.S. star? It happened for Ricky Gervais. It’s on the horizon for Russell Brand. Blockbuster missteps (Around the World in 80 Days) and kiddy flicks (Night at the Museum) aside, Coogan has been behind some pretty stellar bits. Mull over my faves (all are available on U.S. DVD, unless noted) below. Then, in honor of Friday’s release of the Coogan-led Hamlet 2 (he’s EXCELLENT in it), let’s discuss: Why do you think Coogan hasn’t charmed the states? And what other Brit actors do you feel have wrongfully suffered the same fate? Let us know!

1. Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge. A faux BBC chat show hosted by clueless former sportscaster Alan Partridge (Coogan), who’s obsessed with ABBA and "Bangkok lady boys." Oh, and he loves to sing.

2. Steve Coogan: The Man Who Thinks He’s It. This standupspecial features all Coogan’s greatest characters, from scummyManchester siblings Paul and Pauline Calf (yes, he cross-dresses) toPortuguese singer Tony Ferrino. Simon Pegg and Julia Davis also pop in,but it’s Alan’s Kate Bush medley (below) that brings down the house. (UK DVD)

3. I’m Alan Partridge, Series 1. The BBC fired him. The wifeleft him. Thus, Alan’s manning the nightshift on local Norwich radioand living in a motel (where he thinks he’s scamming the staff bybringing his own extra-large plate to the all-you-can-eat buffet).Watch episode one.

4. Three Fights, Two Weddings, and a Funeral. Lager-lout PaulCalf celebrated slutty sis Pauline’s nuptials to a "Greek bloke calledStiros" by filming this pre-wedding video. (Hint: all doesn’t go asplanned.) See it here or check out Paul and Pauline in this equally funny episode of Coogan’s Run. (UK VHS)

5. 24-Hour Party People. The Coog’s breakout film role: He’smiraculous as real-life Manchester music mogul Tony Wilson, who reppedJoy Division, the Happy Mondays, and New Order.

6. Coffee & Cigarettes. In the best of this Jim Jarmuschpic’s 11 vignettes, Coogan plays an aloof version of himself oppositeactor Alfred Molina, who claims to have discovered that they aredistant relatives. It’s all here.

7. Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story. For my favoriteof his features, Coogan reteamed with Party director MichaelWinterbottom to portray Tristram, his dad, and an actor named SteveCoogan in this movie within a movie within a movie about egos,celebrity friendships, literary adaptations, and the British filmindustry. (Jeremy Northam, Rob Brydon, Kelly Macdonald, and GillianAnderson also appear.) Watch the trailer.

8. Saxondale. The best of his TV roles: Tommy Saxondale is anex-roady turned pest-controller with a young daughter, an ex-wife, anda cheeky girlfriend that is his heart and soul. He also has angermanagement issues. See this scene from episode 1. (UK DVD)

9. Curb Your Enthusiasm, Season 6. Coogan guests as Larry’s therapist, who ends up in jail after a misguided attempt to help Larry win back Cheryl by mugging Cheryl’s shrink. It all makes sense, really.  Here’s a clip.


Monday (August 18th): Using your realplayer, listen to Simon Parkes’ radio doc on the British love of takeaway food (fish and chips!) on BBC 7. If you can’t watch Primeval on BBC America, it’s downloadable on iTunes. Also available are radio series of That Mitchell and Webb Sound and The Mighty Boosh.

Tuesday: Hugh Laurie fans rejoice: House: Season 4 and Street Kings drop, as does British Daily Show correspondent John Oliver’s live standup special, Terrifying Times.

Wednesday: In the morning, watch the rerun of Eddie Izzard on The View on ABC. That night at 3am, tape Russell Brand on BBC America’s The Graham Norton Show,and remember to tell everybody how you were into him way before allthis MTV/Britney Spears nonsense, and you don’t appreciate how theypicked on you then.

Thursday: Listen to Coldplay’s live sessions on Xfm.

Friday: See Steve Coogan in Hamlet 2 (or Jason Statham and Ian McShane in Death Race).

Saturday: Lose yourself downloading old episodes of Ricky Gervais, Steve Merchant and Karl Pilkington’s Xfm radio show from Pilkipedia. Then watch episode 1 of Windsor Castle: A Royal Year on PBS (check local listings).

Sunday: As if to rub in the fact that the series ended a week ago, Masterpiece Mystery! repeats the penultimate season of The Inspector Lynley Mysteries starting tonight at 9pm on PBS.

Comments (18 total) Add your comment
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  • susan

    I also love Steve Coogan, especially in Tristram Shandy, and I am a bit of an anglophile, but I don’t think his Alan Patridge schtick translates well to the US – the jokes are very british, based on current events or pop culture that hasn’t come to the US, so you just don’t get many of the references. Hopefully he will be a bigger star in the future.

  • Jessica

    While we’re lucky that Doctor Who now airs on a couple of channels, I think David Tennant should be a bigger star. It’s still impossible to find Casanova or Viva Blackpool over here. Also, speaking of comedians, I’m surprised no one airs the Mighty Boosh.

  • laylagalise

    “Tristam” is one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen and one of my favorites. Prehaps he’ll be getting more film roles if his new movie does well. I’m looking forward to the ridiculousness of “Hamlet 2.”

  • Perry Lucas

    24 Hour Party People is one of my favorite movies and Coogan is among the excellent parts. Just love that it’s not your standard biopic – the writing and directing are super.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe after Hamlet 2, things will change for Coogan. I can’t wait!

  • Ben S

    It really is a shame that Partridge is so esoteric and doesn’t translate to the US very well, as it really is his best work. He’s about to embark on his first UK stand-up comedy tour in 10 years, and I’m delighted to say I have tickets!

  • Tom Brazelton

    I think most people are cold to Coogan because the majority of us came to know him as the partial impetus for Owen Wilson’s suicide attempt about a year ago. Wasn’t he the one that gave him the drugs? If I recall, even Courtney Love said he was a scumbag.
    I know you’re supposed to separate the art from the artist, but most people weren’t exposed to his art before that bit of a PR scandal.

  • dan

    Ricky Gervais found fame because the Office was imported to America (the new version creating interest in the Brirish original version). Alan Partridge (something I admit, I’ve never seen), has not received the same treatment. That’s why Coogan isn’t famous… his most noteworthy work (as far as I hear) has yet to make it to our market.

  • josher

    I’ve seen Knowing Me, Knowing You, I Am Alan Partridge and Tristram Shandy.
    Coogan is obviously a gifted actor and comedian, but a little bit of him goes a long way with me. Except for those who have HBO,I don’t think even Ricky Gervais is as well-known across America as you think he is.
    Americans and the Brits have very different senses of humor, and I think the Brits only appeal to a niche audience in this country.
    Aubry, I think you and I and other fans of British culture get what Coogan and others are doing. I don’t think that’s true for most Americans.
    Once again, thanks for this column.

  • Jenn

    The only stuff I know him from is the stuff Tom Brazelton mentioned.

  • Raven_Moon

    I rather like Steve Coogan. He probably isn’t a bigger star because the only big American movies he has done that people may have actually see is “Around the World in 80 Days” (well, maybe most people haven’t seen it) & a supporting role in “Night at the Museum.” Not really star making turns.

  • Jason

    Just for future reference, you should say “SPOILER ALERT” earlier than the sentence where you spoil something. That way, readers won’t accidentally see the spoiler underneath that line.

  • xfanatic50

    Have to agree with the earlier post from “Jessica” about Tennant. He’s brilliant. Apparently John Simm and Philip Glenister both got asked to play the leads in the American remake of Life on Mars as well, and turned it down. Good for them, it probably won’t be very good, however they are both brilliant too – especially John Simm. His turns in Life on Mars and then in Doctor Who were fantastic. Christopher Eccleston is great as well, I was really hoping his small role in the first season of Heroes would turn into a bigger part, because I liked his character. Maybe they’ll bring him back, though.

  • Alex

    Steve Coogan became a bit of a d*ck once he crossed over to the States, getting involved with the wrong people and losing much of his distinctive charm that made him so watchable in his Alan Partridge days. I doubt he’ll maintain any of the dignity Brit actors like Ricky Gervais, Eddie Izzard and Ian McShane have been able to display in their career choices. He’s still a watchable actor though – he’s Tony Wilson portrayal in 24 Hour Party People is a blast and one of my favourite musical biopics.

  • Stephanie

    Steve Coogan is also largely responsible for my favorite British comedy, “The Mighty Boosh” getting signed to BBC. He is a producer on that project & helped pitch the show to studio execs. I hope that we start seeing more British talent here in the states – I have been a fan of Russell Brand for about a year now as he has done projects throughout the UK with Noel Fielding from The Mighty Boosh. I also would like to see Richard Ayoade find success here as well – he was set to star in the American version of the “I.T. Crowd” which I have heard has fallen through. I am not British – have never even been there – but I find their humor extremely entertaining & would like to see more on American television and in film. In the meantime, I guess I’ll be watching youtube to get my fix.

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