The genius of Alan Partridge

Hey, I like to chuck the word genius around willy-nilly as much as the next guy, but in this case I think it’s worth acknowledging just how amazing a creation Alan Partridge really is.

I missed the whole radio thing, but from The Day Today onwards I’ve found him to be one of the funniest, best-observed, most perceptive comic inventions of our time.

He’s 22 years old now and I struggle to think of any character that has developed through their career in many different stages like Alan has.

There was the fantastic Knowing Me, Knowing YouI’m Alan Partridge, Anglian Lives and several others, culminating in the recent Alpha Papa movie.

Of course, a single joke could never last this long, so he’s adapted to different circumstances over the years and we’ve lived that along with him. Contrary to surface appearances I believe that we don’t so much think of him as a gormless twat, but more as one of us. When he says ‘Smell my cheese!’ in desperation to the controller of BBC1 we recognise that situation where circumstances have conspired to leave us watching our dreams disappear. But whereas we would just sit and watch sadly, Alan goes further and part of us envies him for not letting it go.

If you watch this Armando Iannucci interview you discover that they didn’t deliberately give him awful taste; he actually likes some quite ‘cool’ things. They didn’t make him come from a comedy daft town like (as was most appropriate in the 90s) Milton Keynes; he comes from Norwich, which is sort of sad and pathetic, yet at the same time neither of those things.

This is where a character gains longevity: he’s not so much a gag as a real person with well-rounded believability, and that’s why he can develop in new areas.

One of which is the Alan Partridge app, which plays chunks of his Morning Matters digital radio show interspersed with your own music collection. The Partridge bits are very funny, but there’s another odd layer of humour that happens when Kanye West songs become part of his show.

Here’s another interview with Armando Iannucci on the subject.