Jul 06

Presentorator special: Clarkson vs Coogan

Do You See + FT11 comments • 1,686 views

I don’t go out of my way to watch Top Gear. It was just on, OK? And as it was on I noticed something quite horrible. Jeremy Clarkson interviewing Steve Coogan. And it was like watching The Abyss* stare into itself.

Okay, it is not exactly clever to equate boorish fake sports reporter-cum-chatshow host Alan Partridge with boorish motoring program-cum-chatshow host Jeremey Clarkson. But when the similarities stare you in the face on national television it is hard to ignore. Clarkson is Richard Littlejohn for people who don’t know what a handcart is. His books (such as The World According To Clarkson) stuff up the non-fiction bestseller charts despite being ripped off of “Is It Me Or Is Everything Crap”. Of course if Clarkson had used that title, the answer would have been simple. It is you which is crap. And seeing the comfy banter between Clarkson and Coogan suddenly made me realise something. Coogan is worse than Clarkson.

Anyone who read Sunday supplements in the 1990’s knows Steve Coogan likes cars. We know in fact that unlike the rest of his so called alternative comedy brethren, we help usher in lad culture being relatively boorish off screen. But on screen? Well he was even more boorish, but boorish IN CHARACTER. Again much has been said that there is probably much of Coogan in Partridge, but all of his characters (Paul/Pauline Calf etc) flirt with an easy political incorrectness which one guesses might come easily to Coogan himself. But Clarkson is not a character, you say. What you see on screen is what you get. Well, I beg to differ, he is probably as much of a construct as Partridge in a lot of ways. However, Jeremy Clarkson is willing to be “Jeremy Clarkson” all-the-time. Something which Coogan probably only considered the possibilities of when playing Tony Wilson in 24 Hour Party People.

Coogan’s Wilson was 25% Partridge, 50% Wilson and – in flashes – 25% something else which I am going to call Coogan. In realising that Wilson that the secret of Wilson’s success and failure lie on him in not only being a pompous fool, BUT KNOWING HE IS A POMPOUS FOOL AND NOT CARING, he unfolded a potential new career for Coogan. His film career after all had already floundered, characters came off flat. But he has suddenly made a career of playing himself. In A Cock And Bull Story he was called brave for portraying a dark, narcissistic version of himself. Fine. But again what if that is actually him. The nature of the film allowed him to call that Coogan a character. Yet again Clarkson wins because he is always in character.

So watching Clarkson banter to Coogan, this new Coogan, “Steve Coogan the character” was interesting. Clarkson was the funny one. “Steve Coogan the character” furthered his comedy Rob Brydon feud and mocked caring about a car race. Perhaps “Steve Coogan the character” is too complex, is too nuanced to be a funny character. Unlike the larger than life (and his jeans) Clarkson.

As an example, after this item Clarkson moved on to a package where he and the other presenters of Top Gear tried to build a car in a day. Watching Clarkson fuck it up, and being willing to caper around acting the clown in a piece which was thoroughly fictionalised, makes one realise perhaps how much Clarkson has sacrificed for his career. Coogan plays the knob. Clarkson IS the knob. Which means he gets:

PRESENTORATING: 9 (If he isn’t really the knob), 1 (if he is) – which gives us 5 rounded up because I think we will never know…

*The Special Edition. 25% more boring.The Abyss, Special Edition, Staring into its wetself.


  1. 1
    Steve Mannion on 24 Jul 2006 #

    Clarkson’s handcart goes from 0 to 60 in just 4.6 pompous putdowns.

  2. 2
    Steve Mannion on 24 Jul 2006 #

    “In A Cock And Bull Story he was called brave for portraying a dark, narcissistic version of himself.”

    He also did this, quite spectacularly, in The Man Who Thinks He’s It live video. I think he is very self-aware, aware of his own problems re narcissism (always only one side of a coin backed with self-loathing it seems), ego and the pressure to balance the real him with his character(s), leaking out at every opportunity because they were so irresistable and fascinating, to both himself and his audience. To the extent where they can never be escaped from.

  3. 3
    Tom on 24 Jul 2006 #

    Or alternatively, the man’s a knob.

  4. 4
    Pete Baran on 24 Jul 2006 #

    What I completely missed out of course was that he is also portrayed (anonymously, but clearly) in Festival in exactly the same way, which has also done wonders in building Steve Coogan the Character.

  5. 5
    Pete Baran on 24 Jul 2006 #

    What i find remarkable about the comparison is I think that probably deep down Clarkson might not be a knob, but Coogan almost certainly is!

  6. 6
    Steve Mannion on 24 Jul 2006 #

    Brilliant (if one-note) comic actor = nob in real life shockah?

    Clarkson is v transparent/WYSIWYG and what you get can be entertaining (i think Clarkson is a GREAT presenter beyond aspects such as ‘likeability as a person/would you have a pint with them’ etc.) but still very much the ramblings of a prize nob.

  7. 7
    Pete Baran on 24 Jul 2006 #

    Okay, maybe remarkable was pushing it.

  8. 8
    Alan on 24 Jul 2006 #

    Clarkson = best selling author in Poland. Is this why Pete is being so generous to him?

    (Edited with link proving this otherwise unbelievable fact)

  9. 9
    DavidM on 5 Aug 2006 #

    His books (such as The World According To Clarkson) being ripped off of “Is It Me Or Is Everything Crap”.

    Other way round, for god’s sake. And why does The Guardian employ so many dismal writers like the author of that pathetic “gasp! foreigners like popular, albeit non-politically correct boo-hoo, person as well!” piece?
    I’m guessing Helen Pidd won’t be joining Clarkson on the bestseller list any time soon.

  10. 10
    pˆnk s lord sükråt cunctør on 5 Aug 2006 #

    “for god’s sake”

  11. 11
    Alan on 5 Aug 2006 #

    Number of “gasp! foreigners like popular, albeit non-politically correct boo-hoo, person as well!” pieces commissioned by the guardian ~ 20/month i hear

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