Bits and Bobs (Vol. 17): Get to know the first Brit of the Month, Karl Pilkington

Karlpilkington_lHow do you describe a fella like British comedian, author, and all around observer of life’s strangest things Karl Pilkington? He grew up on a Manchester housing estate alongside a family that kept a stolen horse in their house, a kid with patchy hair who chased cars, two boys with webbed hands, and a man with overgown eyelids. He’s fond of using made-up words such as “squoze” (past tense of squeeze) and “foodage” (the stuff you eat). He loves stories about monkeys, like one concerning a zookeeper whose simian charge seduced his human wife. He thinks Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight” is sung from the point of view of a “bloke in a wheelchair.” And he once nearly choked to death on a Mr. Freeze.

Pilkington left school at 15, and through a mix of hard work and fate, made it big as the third chair on Office co-creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s Xfm radio show by regaling Ricky and Steve with daft wisdom on everything from fish having more freedom (because there’s more of them) to old men disliking Twix. This led to the Ricky Gervais Show podcast, on which Pilkington offered up his theory of evolution (“it was bacteria, fish, mermaid, man, onwards and what have you”), his solution to London’s population problem (old women should have babies right before they pass away so “as someone dies, someone’s born”), and his belief in a brain-person dichotomy (he really wanted to be a mechanic, but his brain wasn’t up for it). Somewhere in the middle, Pilkington also wrote and illustrated two bestsellers, The World of Karl Pilkington, a collection of transcripts from the podcast, and Happyslapped by a Jellyfish, a series of musings on his various vacations. His third book, Karlology, which chronicles his never-ending quest to self-educate, hits U.S. shores tomorrow. It’s so brilliant and hilarious that we had to name him our first Bits and Bobs Brit of the Month. In turn, Karl wrote in to tell us a little more about himself. That, and a special edition of the weekly B&B calendar, after the jump.

He’s had a good day if he learns one new thing during it.
PILKINGTON: There’s a saying that goes "the more you now, the more you don’tknow." I think it’s true. Yesterday, I found out that there used to bebarber doctors. People who used to cut hair used to be called in tocut arms and legs off ‘cos they had razors. I’d prefer to call up alumberjack doctor. I think they could do the job a lot quicker than abloke with a razor.

He’s more impressed by nature than anything else on earth.
Nothing can beat it. Scientists reckon there’s about 10 milliondifferent species of stuff in the world, and only 1.4 million haveactually been named. I put this down to the fact that there are notenough names for everything in the world. We need more letters in thealphabet.

He’s not feeling the perks of celebrity.
But then I’m hardly Tom Cruise am I? I don’t understand the attractionpeople have to celebrity, either. I don’t know why people are intoreading that "spotted" section in Heat magazine to find out what famouspeople are up to. If it was Stephen Hawking seen dancing the night awayin Tiger Tiger nightclub then fair enough, it’s a news story. ButLindsay Lohan seen in a bar? So what.

He usually only reads the headlines of newspaper articles.
There’s too much stuff written to read it all, so the headlinesnormally do the job. The only time a headline confused me was when Isaw one on a newspaper stand that read "Student like Elephant Man." Ithought so what? I like the Elephant Man too. Turned out it was a storyabout a student who had done one of them clinical trials and the drugsthey tested on him made his head go big.

The weirdest story he’s ever heard is…
Probably the one about the twins in America who got sick of lookinglike each other so one of them gave the other one his arm so that onehas three arms and the other had one.

The most interesting thing he learned last month was about broccoli.
It is the fact that broccoli has an IQ of 2. It worried me a bit ‘cos Ihad a Mensa test last year where I found I’ve got an IQ of 83, which Ithought was alright until my visit to Sainsbury’s supermarket where inthe vegetable aisle I was faced with a big pile of broccoli. There musthave been about 100 chunks of the stuff in total, which meant I waslooking at something that, as a gang, had a better IQ than me. It wasno longer just a pile of broccoli; it was more a broccoli university.They shouldn’t put so much of it together. It’ll end up taking over. Ithink this is why some supermarkets have started to shrink-wrap theminto packs of three.

He only likes pop songs when they tell stories (think: Kate Bush’s “Babooshka”).
My favorite is probably "Pinball Wizard" by The Who. It’s a song abouta deaf, dumb, and blind kid who is really good at pinball. It just mademe wonder if it’s worth being good at something if you’re not aware ofit. He didn’t know he was good at pinball. He just enjoyed hitting thebuttons. I may as well not have bothered putting money in the pinballmachine. He’d be just as happy playing on it if it was unplugged.

Russell Brand once took him to get a “posh face wash” (aka, a facial).
I hated it. I didn’t enjoy it. Before I had it done there was aquestionnaire asking me what my pain threshold was. I thought it wasmeant to be relaxing. Then they put on a CD of whale noises, which wasannoying me. The woman said that they are the most natural, relaxingnoises in the world, but the noise they make could just be whalesmoaning, for all we know. It always sounds more like a moan to me. I’mnot a fan of classical music ‘cos there’s no words, so a whale warblingon with itself is never going to win me over.

He doesn’t like pet cats or birds.
Both are a bit useless. I don’t think anyone really owns a cat. Theydo what they want, don’t they. Paul Young sang, "Wherever I lay my hat,that’s my home." I think the same applies with cats. "Wherever you putyour cat, that’s it’s home."

The last thing he watched on TV was called "Paul Merton in India."
Paul’s a comedian who’s traveling about India. He met some blindpeople who play cricket. The Who could make a song about that.

If he could observe one animal all day, it would be a mayfly.
I sometimes watch worms and play "What ends the head at," but Icouldn’t play that all day. Watching a mayfly for one day would be good’cos they only live a day, so it’d be interesting to see how they spendit. Seems a bit cruel to name them after a month. Why not a Dayfly?They wouldn’t get away with giving them that name now, not with allthese trade description laws.

He was supposed to appear in Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinsons’ This Side of the Truth.
It was a scene that was at the very start of the film, but it went ontoo long so it’s all gone. It’s been cut out. I’m sure it will be onthe DVD extras though.

Who wrote these entries, Karl or his brain?
Both of Us.

Now, in lieu of the usual Bits and Bobs Calendar (which is taking offin mourning for the Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand radio shows), enjoymore from Karl throughout the week:
Monday: Read Karl’s blog at
Tuesday: Watch this video of Karl and his brain shilling Karlology, then relax with the book and tune in to Ricky on BBC America’s election coverage.
Wednesday: Download nearly the entire back catalog of Karl, Ricky, and Steve’s Xfm shows and podcasts at
Thursday: Check out Karl’s Channel 4 documentary, Karl Pilkington: Satisfied Fool on Youtube.
Friday: Watch this clip of Ricky Gervais explaining Karl to David Letterman
Saturday: See Karl travel to Boston to film his (cut) scene in This Side of the Truth.
Sunday: Watch the mindblowing Karl-narrated documentary Monkey Lovers.

Comments (246 total) Add your comment
Page: 1 2 3 17
  • Alli

    I love Karl Pilkington. After getting through all of the Ricky Gervais show podcasts, I’ve been missing Karl’s crazy musings like, whoa. I am so happy to see him on EW’s radar! Reading this post made my morning.

  • Mel

    Thanks for the link to downloading the old XFM shows! Aubry I am curious about your feelings on the whole Brand/Ross debacle?

  • Anonymous

    American ‘Anglophiles’ are creepy to me as an actual Briton and this column’s been annoying me since its inception. At least call it something less twee. Having said that, Karl Pilkington is worth mentioning, but you’re a bit late, aren’t you? all that head like a f-ing orange and i could eat a knob at night phenomena is at least a couple of years old.

  • Anonymous

    Is it really funny to laugh at the
    ‘logic’ employed by someone of subnormal intelligence??? Well, ok, it is, but do you really feel good about yourself doing it?

  • Chaddogg

    He’s got a head like a f$*#ing orange.

  • Anonymous

    So what about Brits that read about American celebrities? Totally normal?

  • Alex

    Oh grief. We really don’t need a Brit to pour scorn over us Americans enjoying a bit of Anglophilia. So what if Karl Pilkington is considered passé over in the UK, no harm in giving him some scope over here. That said, I’ve enjoyed Karl’s daft musings on the Ricky Gervais Show for some time now. I guess we all need a bit of stupid philosophy sometimes.

  • Anonymous

    I’m opposed to the fetishisation of British culture. American crap’s forced down our throats whether we like it or not. We don’t feel ‘special’ for consuming it in the way some of you seem to. Bit disproportionately hostile there, Alex. Why not try getting shagged instead of watching our castoffs, you’ll feel better. There’s a good lad.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, another thing- you lot sound pretentious and silly when you say things like ‘daft’ and ‘cheers’. Please, just don’t.

  • Jules

    Hey, fellow Brit, I’ve got a much better idea:
    If you have not got anything nice to say, then don’t say anything.
    I’m glad that some Americans appreciate our TV and culture, given that not enough of our own do.

  • Robbie

    What is wrong with being an “Anglophile”? Isn’t it good that some “Yanks” do enjoy pop-culture from another country?? I know everything in the UK isn’t tea drinking ladies in Midsomer Murders but the US sure as heck isn’t all Desperate Housewife’s or cool kids in California. If a show is good, it is good no matter if it is from the UK or the US…(or Brazil either for that matter). I think British TV is in many ways underrated in many ways and many US shows are too bland.

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  • YouTube – Berlin – Take my breath away – Top Gun

    sywond oeiczws idjr YouTube – Berlin – Take my breath away – Top Gun

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