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Karl Pilkington: The enigma that is not manufactured

Updated on September 14, 2015

Karl in Derek

Some people think that Karl Pilkington is the comic creation of Ricky Gervais and Steve Merchant. That is simply not true. But if not a masterfully manufactured character then who is he?

Karl Pilkington arrived in 1972 in the north English city of Manchester. Judging from the stories Karl has told, he has inherited a lot of his uniqueness from his parents. His father was a bus driver and once put a mentally challenged passenger in a wheelie bin. He also dumped some elderly women by the side of the road as he found them too demanding. His mother once left a litter tray out for baby Karl to use as a toilet. She also would keep him home from school when she perceived the weather to be too extreme.

Karl’s first job, and to date he says, his best, was a paper round. A job he loved as he was his “own boss”. Merchant once informed him: “surely the news agent was your boss” . Karl refused to accept this. Then there was his job in a local supermarket called “Cordon Bleu”. He was sacked for refusing to get out of a trolley he was comfortably sat in. In later life he would become work adverse or Lazy as Ricky Gervais would call it. He once researched the probability of him having to look after a child after he was asked to be a god father. There were so many factors to consider. How large was the family? Is there any probability of him actually having to do this? He states that “the baby would have to sleep in his sink” as his flat is too small. Also he refused to promote his own book as he thinks if “people are interested they will find it”.

Karl left school with an E in GCSE History, an exam he could not remember taking. Later Ricky Gervais would research his qualifications on the XFM show and Karl seemed confused about the notion of registering for exams.

The Ricky Gervais Show

His career began in earnest when he produced the Ricky Gervais show with Steve Merchant on XFM. They immediately took a shine to his unique and eccentric opinions, involving him more and more in the shows. He would eventually join them to become a trio. Gervais is on record as saying the show should be called the "Karl Pilkington show". He would later leave his role as producer and perform a series of record breaking pod casts with Gervais and Merchant. Pilkington started to create features for the show like "Educating Ricky" and "Monkey News". In educating Ricky Karl relayed a “story” about the man who claimed to have been abducted by Aliens. Karl highlighted the fact that he had grown a beard in three days as evidence for this abduction. Ricky and Merchant hypothesised that it was more likely the guy had been on a binge drinking session. Perhaps the abduction story was fabricated for the benefit of his wife? Monkey news is literally stories about monkeys. In this section of the show Karl presents highly sceptical stories about monkeys. A classic episode involved a story about Oliver. Karl claimed the chimp had befriended the zoo keeper who subsequently took him home. The chimp would go on to flirt with the zoo keeper’s wife and drink brandy along with smoking cigarettes.

An Idiot Abroad

An Idiot Abroad is a travel programme which is told through the unique perspective of Karl Pilkington. Karl is described by Steve Merchant as an “archetypal little Englander”. It is probably too harsh to call Karl xenophobic. It is probably more accurate to call it a clash of cultures. Gervais and Merchant brilliantly orchestrate Karl’s activities to ensure that each destination is not enjoyable. Whilst on location Karl receives instructions from Gervais and Merchant which gives the show a great spontaneous quality. This resulted in Karl travelling on the back of a camel which hurt his “bollocks” so much he had a tantrum and refused to complete the journey. Also hilarious is Karl’s reaction to “strange” foods. He shamelessly wrenches in front of locals with no comprehension that he might be causing offence. One of the outstanding episodes was Karl’s trip to China. This provided some golden Karl Pilkington moments. For instance, when shown the Great Wall of China Karl quips “that is goes on for miles but so does the M6”. It was also hilarious watching the look of bewilderment on his face as he was watching the Chinese consume insects. He of course was eating a bag of monster munch. Karl genuinely can’t adapt to foreign cultures. He perhaps represents the ignorance in all of us.

In 2012 he made his full acting debut playing a caretaker and bus driver in Channel 4's Derek. An experience he did not enjoy, according to the Metro he quit because he was forced to wear a "f***ing stupid wig".

Karl Pilkington is strangely an idiot and yet a comic genius. He can effortlessly conjure the stupidest, and yet, funniest statements in any context.

Some of Karl’s statements:

"Does the brain control you or are you controlling the brain? I don't know if I'm in charge of mine."

“You don’t get anything done by planning”

"By 78 you've done everything you're going to do. If you haven't bungee-jumped by the time you're 78 you're not going to do it."

"If I was [Noah], I would have gone, "Hang on a minute, I've just seen somethin' that looks a bit like this, let it drown", have a bit of a clear out, but he was messin' about savin' everythin'"

“Why didn't evolution make a giraffe good at carpentry so it could build a ladder?”

"You know how they say people have six senses? There's loads more than that. [The ability to feel someone looking at you], that's been around since man and dinosaur were knockin' about."

Karl: "I came up with a good idea....see through skin"

On dopplegangers - "How would I know which one I was?"

"They say it all started out with a big bang. But, what I wonder is, was it a big bang or did it just seem big because there wasn't anything else drown it out at the time?"


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Karl Dilkington

    • profile image

      Black jebus 

      4 years ago

      Karl pillockton

    • UndercoverAgent19 profile image


      4 years ago

      Loved reading this! Karl is a very special being, a true gift to the world.

    • Academicviews profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Scotland

      I struggle to find anyone who does not have a soft spot for Karl. Mr Gervais on the other hand seems to divide opinions. I think the trio, and by that I mean Karl, Gervais and Steve Merchant works perfectly and they complement each other perfectly.

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 

      6 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Yes I enjoy An Idiot Abroad. I am from Manchester as is Karl. The only thing I don't like is Ricky Gervais supposedly laughing spontaneously, terrible.

      Anyway a great hub from you.


    • Academicviews profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Scotland

      He certainly is a funny man. The second serious is called “the bucket list” where he is sent to do things like swim with Dolphins which Merchant and Gervais change to Sharks at the last minute. Mega funny I have to say! You can also get some free pod casts from iTunes. Just type of “free Gervais” or some various and you can get them. Lol I should be Karl’s agent. Thank you for your comment and for reading my Hub.

    • livingabroad profile image


      6 years ago from Wales, UK

      Haha. Hilarious and thanks for the clarification, like santa he is actually real. An idiot abroad is one of the only shows that make me roar. I'm not sure if the second series is out yet as I'm not in the UK. Can't wait to see it. Thanks for your info on Karl, he really is a comic genius. Up and funny

    • Academicviews profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Scotland

      thanks for the comment whizzer. I have heard that there might be a one off special of idiot abroad this christmas called the short way round

    • Academicviews profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Scotland

      you can get the pod casts of the Ricky Gervais show on iTunes ebooks. be prepared to cry with laughter though lol

    • whizzer profile image


      6 years ago from Ireland

      Karl's dead-pan delivery and arid sense of humour is brilliant. Love the Idiot Abroad series.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 

      6 years ago from Planet Earth

      I love his quotes! Wonder where I can find his stuff in Texas? Voted up!

    • r jayanthi profile image

      r jayanthi 

      6 years ago from india

      I dint know about Karl Pilkington, but i am surely going to look him up. Thanks for writing about him!the vedio was superb

    • Academicviews profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Scotland

      yes he is one of funniest people on the planet. I can't get enough of him. have you listened to the pod casts? you'll cry laughing they are that funny!!!!

    • Hayley Richardson profile image

      Hayley Richardson 

      6 years ago from London, UK

      Karl Pilkington is one of my favourite people on TV. Absolutely hilarious!


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