Alan Partridge stands alongside the likes of David Brent and Basil Fawlty as one of the greatest characters to ever come out of British comedy. Vanity Fair called Alan a “national treasure” of Great Britain, while The Guardian described him as “one of the greatest and most beloved comic creations of the last few decades.” He’s played by Steve Coogan, who has stuck by the character for almost thirty years and still seems to love playing him. He started out on the spoof current affairs radio show On the Hour, before graduating to television in The Day Today and eventually getting his own fictional chat show in Knowing Me Knowing You. After that, we got a look inside Alan’s personal life in the brilliant sitcom I’m Alan Partridge, and then came Mid Morning Matters, a behind the scenes look at Alan’s North Norfolk Digital radio show, and a couple of one-off specials, before he made his first foray to the big screen with the highly acclaimed movie Alpha Papa, about a hostage takeover at the radio station. The character has also ‘written’ two books: the autobiography I, Partridge: We Need to Talk About Alan and the memoir Nomad. In the spirit of hoping the character sticks around for another thirty years, here are the 15 greatest Alan Partridge moments so far.
15. Shooting Forbes McAllister on his chat show
There never was a second series of the fictional chat show Knowing Me Knowing You, because in the Alan Partridge universe, he hurt the show’s ratings by killing a man live on television. His guest, the snooty restaurant critic Forbes McAllister, has brought a duelling pistol once owned by Lord Byron that he brought at auction for £100,000. Alan’s having a look at it, not realizing that the gun is loaded, when it goes off and kills McAllister. Alan panics, but the show comes first. He manages to “A-ha!” the police as they come in to haul off McAllister’s body and bring Alan into custody for questioning, and also manages to fit in a plug for his upcoming Texas Homecare appearance in Manchester. Classic comedy.
14. “You are NOTHING.”
Boy, Alan Partridge can’t take a joke. First of all, Mid Morning Matters is criminally underrated. It’s one of the funniest shows on television and it’s just Alan being Alan, doing his radio show, which is great. In this one, his co-workers – led by Sidekick Simon – pull a prank at his expense and he’s not happy about it. He tells Simon, “You wanna know what I think? I think you’re a fucking dick, mate.” Then the laughter stops and Alan launches into a tirade against Simon about how he will “never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever work in North Norfolk radio ever again.” He then proceeds to show Simon with his fingers just how insignificant he is to him and tells him, “You are NOTHING.” Suffice to say, Simon won’t be pranking him again any time soon.
13. Poorly edited swimming pool interview
In order to drum up more interest in the Alan Partridge character before his movie came out, the producers made a few one-off specials and new series featuring the character for Sky Atlantic. One of the specials was Welcome to the Places of My Life, a searing satire of the kind of shows has-been TV presenters do, as they take viewers through the places and people of their past, as if anyone cares. Except with Alan Partridge, they do care, because it’s hilarious. There’s a scene in Welcome to the Places of My Life where Alan conducts an interview in a swimming pool, and when the camera is on his subject, you can hear him coughing and spluttering and struggling to stay above the water, but whenever it cuts to him, he’s standing tall with his head and shoulders above the water. Trust Steve Coogan’s brilliant comedic mind to find the funny in how a scene is edited.
12. Misunderstanding “Sunday Bloody Sunday”
We’ve all been there, where you drastically misunderstand the meaning behind a song’s lyrics, but none of us have quite as drastically misinterpreted lyrics than Alan Partridge did with U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” which is about the Bloody Sunday massacre. Alan thought it was about this: “’Sunday Bloody Sunday,’ what a great song. It really encapsulates the frustration of a Sunday, doesn’t it? You wake up in the morning, you’ve got to read all the Sunday papers, the kids are running round, you’ve got to mow the lawn, wash the car, and you think ‘Sunday, bloody Sunday!’” An Irishman tells him, “I really hate to do this to you, Alan, but it’s actually a song about a massacre in Derry in 1972.” Alan, surprised, says, “A massacre? Ugh. I’m not playing that again.”
11. Hiding in a septic tank to escape Pat
In Alpha Papa, Alan’s co-worker Pat gets sacked after Alan realizes the board wants to fire at least one of them and recommends that they “JUST SACK PAT” instead of him. So, they do and Alan gets to keep his job. But he’s not out of the woods yet, because Pat comes back with a shotgun one night and keeps everyone in the station hostage. Alan is his confidante and communication with the police, so he trusts him, until they break away in the radio bus and Pat sees Alan’s “JUST SACK PAT” note and recognizes his handwriting. Alan, realizing this, makes a break for it by hiding in the septic tank on the bus. Even after the betrayal and attempted escape, they still banter: it’s “The Shitshank Redemption,” or “The Armitage Shank Redemption.”
10. Working behind the till at Tesco
Toward the beginning of Scissored Isle, Alan works a shift at a Tesco supermarket, where he quickly learns the ropes and falls in love with the job. He sits behind the counter and scans items, thinking he’s really great at it. He’s so full of himself that he’s certain his mad skills are annoying a Tesco veteran who has dominated that row of tills for decades. Eventually he gets one customer – an old lady – who he just can’t stand. She’s confused by the system of putting her shopping on the end of the conveyor belt so that he can bring it down and scan her items. She either brings the items to him, puts the basket next to the conveyor belt, or puts all of the items with the basket on the belt, until Alan finally loses his temper and the producer has to step in to mediate. “She’s not listening to me!”
9. Football commentary
Imagine if Alan Partridge was allowed to commentate every single football match. Every game would be a laugh riot. His cringeworthy and hysterical observations would make for very interesting viewing during a World Cup final. He did football commentary on the radio show On the Hour and the current affairs spoof TV show The Day Today. The highlights of his commentary includes: “TWAT! That was liquid football!” “SHIT! Did you see that? He must have a foot like a traction engine.” “The proof is in the pudding, and the pudding, in this case, is football. Boof! Eat my goal! The goalie has got football pie all over his shirt.” Partridge gave up sports commentary a long time ago, but it would great to see him take it up again, at least for a couple of matches.
8. Sue Cook pulls out
This Alan Partridge moment is perhaps the most perfect joke ever crafted in the history of comedy. First of all, the episode subtly sets up that Alan is planning an event at the Linton Travel Tavern where his special guest will be Sue Cook. Then you’ve got the setup of the joke, as Alan and the Linton Travel Tavern staff discuss the number of prank phone calls that Alan’s been receiving – Mr. G. String, Mr. Y. Front, Mr. P. Nesshead etc. And then he receives another phone call and the writers mislead you, because you’re pretty sure it’s another prank caller, since he’s been receiving so many of them, and since he tells them, “Oh, come on! Oh this is…Oh, that’s bang out of order!…Whoa, take a look in the mirror! What? Pardon? No, I’ve got a better idea, why don’t you shove it up your arse!” and he slams down the phone. And then he delivers the greatest punchline of all time: “Sue Cook’s pulled out.”
7. Tony Hayers’ funeral
In the season 1 finale of I’m Alan Partridge, Alan’s arch nemesis, Tony Hayers, the chief commissioning editor of BBC Television, dies and Alan couldn’t be happier. He attends the funeral wearing a Castrol jacket (surely he could’ve found another item of clothing that was black) in order to network for business purposes. He schmoozes with Tony’s replacement, eyeing himself a new TV deal. The height of the awkwardness of Alan’s character comes when he speaks to Tony’s widow, who tells him that Tony would’ve turned 41 next week had he lived, and Alan replies, “All those people who go around saying life begins at 40 – they’re notable by their absence. The nerve!” And then he asks this poor woman, the wife of the deceased, “Were you close?”
6. Interviewing the Mayor of Manchester while coming down from ecstasy high
In Alan’s supposed investigation of the class system, he spends some time with a gang in Manchester who take him to a party, where they sell him “an ecstasy pellet” for £70, telling him it’s a “mate’s rate” discount down from the usual £120 (they’re actually only like £4). He gives it a nibble to make sure it’s genuine (thinking he’s Jimmy McNulty or something), but insists he’s fine. However, the camera doesn’t lie, and it shows Alan in a vest, sweating, dancing in a nightclub until seven o’clock in the morning. A couple of hours later, he has an interview with the Mayor of Manchester, and no one has ever looked more rough in the history of the world. He’s drowsy, sleepy, clearly suffering from a massive headache, and he can barely speak – it’s so bad that he’s had to dub over the interview later, even including the sound of him drinking his water.
5. Angering the farming community
Gotta love a good Partridge rant. In the episode “Watership Alan,” the Norfolk disc jockey has angered the local farming community, and he has a farmer on his show (played by the great Chris Morris) to set the record straight. Except things don’t exactly go according to plan, as Alan descends into a tirade that is offensive, ignorant, and downright hilarious. “If you see a lovely field with a family having a picnic and there’s a nice pond in it, you fill in the pond with concrete, you plough the family into the field, you blow up the tree, and use the leaves to make a dress for your wife who’s also your brother.” It’s a combination of ridiculous stereotypes and outright absurdity. How does Alan’s mind work?
4. “He’s a mentalist!”
In the classic, timeless I’m Alan Partridge episode “To Kill a Mocking Alan,” Alan meets his biggest fan, an insane man named Jed Maxwell. After a series of unfortunate circumstances involving some Irish TV executives who are less than enamored with Alan, they all end up back at Jed’s house. Terrified by all the pictures of Alan on the walls and the lifesize Alan statue sitting in an armchair, the Irish guys get the hell out of there, but Alan isn’t so lucky as Jed catches him in time. He gets Alan in a headlock and Alan has to promise he’ll go for a drink in order to earn his freedom. But out at the time, Alan changes his tune, calls Jed a mentalist, and drives off. However, he gets lost and reaches a dead end, so he flees on foot.
3. Monkey Tennis
In the first episode of I’m Alan Partridge, Alan buys a house right before a meeting with a BBC executive who denies him a second series of his chat show. Desperate for a job since he can’t afford the house, Alan starts firing off whatever TV show ideas come to mind: detective series “Swallow,” “Alan Attack” (like The Cook Report with a more slapstick approach), “Arm Wrestling with Chas and Dave,” “Knowing M.E., Knowing You,” “Inner City Sumo,” “Cooking in Prison,” “Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank,” and “A Partridge Amongst The Pigeons.” Then finally, as he scrapes the bottom of the barrel, he says, “Monkey Tennis?” After that, the meeting is over. “Monkey Tennis” is now used in the media as a shorthand for a bad and outlandish TV show concept.
2. “There’s a cow on me.”
In the I’m Alan Partridge episode “Watership Alan,” Alan manages to anger the farming community with some insensitive comments, right around the time he’s starring in an ad for a canal holiday company, directed by guest star Simon Pegg. We get to see Alan acting like “one of the lads” and watch him get drunk, fall asleep standing up, and run into the kitchen to “cook all the food,” after just 45 minutes in the pub. But the greatest moment in the episode is its climax, as Alan is shooting the end of the video on a boat going under a bridge – a bridge off which a bunch of farmers drop a dead cow on him. As Alan is taken off into the ambulance, he says, “Good luck with the edit!”
1. “DAN! DAN! DAN! DAN! DAN!”
It was only going to end badly when Alan met a man who was exactly like him in every way. Dan Moody reads the Daily Mail, drinks Directors Bitter, and drives a Lexus, even using the plural “Lexi” (except, unbeknownst to Alan at this stage, he and his wife are also “sex people”). Before the friendship turned south, Alan was hosting the Norfolk Bravery Awards that Dan was attending. He spots him across the parking lot and starts yelling his name. Only Steve Coogan could wring quite so many laughs out of the name Dan. And you’ll never watch it the same way once you notice that the actresses playing Lynn and Sonja can’t keep it together in the background. Imagine how many takes this took.