Usually when a celebrity is peachy keen to get involved in press regulation, it's because they want to save their juicy stories to sell themselves in the form of an autobiography. Not Steve Coogan though. He isn't trying to profit from his coke-and-shagging excesses. He just wants to talk to you about Philomena.
Imagine for a moment that you’re the sort of person who would answer, when asked who you’d invite to your fantasy dinner party, ‘Steve Coogan’.
What would you hope for when Steve turned up with his bunch of flowers or bottle of wine? What would you want him to talk about? Stories about the genesis and development of his most famous creation, Alan Partridge? Maybe something about his formative years working in comedy on shows like Spitting Image, The Day Today or Coogan’s Run? Or maybe you’re after details of his wild coke-and-shagging days?
If so, you’d better hope you’re serving an extensive seven-course menu. Because it takes Steve Coogan a long, long time to get round to any of that sort stuff in his autobiography, Easily Distracted.
This is how you can expect your evening to go:
As your guests mingle in the living room, Steve will start off talking about some of his more recent work. Specifically, the film he co-wrote and starred in, Philomena.
You usher your guests through into the dining room, and have them take their seats at the table. Though the natural break could potentially lead to a bit of a reset on the conversation, Steve hasn’t finished telling you his Philomena anecdotes yet.
He once had a call from Harvey Weinstein, you know? It wasn’t a particularly interesting call. Many would think it wasn’t really a story worth repeating, but what the hell. We’re all friends around this table, aren’t we?
Steve fleetingly mentions Alpha Papa. Hopes are raised until the subject quickly shifts to his work on… Philomena.
Your eyelids start to feel a little heavy as he moves on to talk about all the selfless work he did for Hacked Off, and Steve notices that he might be losing your attention.
Perhaps you’d like a little more context on the man, Stephen Coogan? You know, a little bit of the background that has influenced his work; giving him the skills and experience to add such colour and nuance to his most celebrated characters – such as Martin Sixsmith in the film Philomena?
Well, you’re in luck!
ENOUGH PHILOMENA, STEVE! TELL US SOME GOOD ANECDOTES!
If at any point you feel like you need a nap, you should excuse yourself now. When you hear people rustling about with After Eight wrappers it will be safe to come back downstairs.
As people start looking at their watches and wondering if they should maybe call the babysitter quickly, Coogan pipes up.
“OK,” he says. “I know why you asked me here. You want to hear about Partridge, don’t you? I get it. As I’ve been saying all evening, I really don’t mind that this character is who has come to define me. I mean, I have done other projects – like Philomena – but I understand that people love Alan Partridge. So I’ll tell you all about him.”
“Just after I tell you all about how Harry Enfield didn’t approve of my ‘silly characters’ when I was at Spitting Image.”
Coffee and Petit Fours
The first taxi arrives. Your other guests start glumly pulling on their coats, quietly cursing Philomena‘s Oscar nomination. Casually, Steve tosses out a story about the time he took so much coke during Edinburgh that he had to be rushed to hospital and then unstrapped himself from the machines so he could discharge himself to go and do a show.
Not wanting to leave the driver idling outside, they are picking up their bags as Steve launches into tales about how he and The Fast Show‘s John Thompson used to play reciprocal pranks on each other: Steve calling in to a radio show pretending to be Tony Wilson and threatening to sue John Thompson live on air; John getting Zoë Ball to pretend to be a hotel manager busting Coogan for having girls in his room.
What? Steve has suddenly got interesting, but it’s time to go.
Having had an appreciation of the old comic guard, and the traditions of British variety performance, Coogan will understand better than most the famous showbiz rule that you’re supposed to leave your audience wanting more.
But this is not what they meant. This is not what they meant at all.
Easily Distracted is available from all good bookshops – and Amazon.