ICYMI: Stephen Buchanan on I'm Alan Partridge

BBC New Comedy Award Winner Stephen Buchanan dives headfirst into the wonderful world of Partridge. Jurassic Park!

Feature by Stephen Buchanan | 23 Jul 2019
  • Alan Partridge

It feels like everyone involved in comedy loves Alan Partridge and it’s easy to see why. Meticulously honed over 28 years, Partridge has graced every platform: from radio shows, to sitcoms, to fictional memoirs and even the silver screen. Critically, he’s held in high regard, usually found near the top of greatest-comedy-creations-of-all-time lists. Comedians become giddy with excitement whenever the incompetent presenter makes a return (or there’s a Partridge-esque gaffe elsewhere). 

But sometimes this can get irritating. Don’t get me wrong, I love butchering classic comedy lines as much as the next person. But there’s nothing more annoying than being left on the sidelines because you haven’t seen the thing your mates are talking about. Throughout my comedy career, green rooms and car-shares have been peppered with absurd quotes and impressions of Steve Coogan’s iconic character. It’s almost an unspoken rule that you must know some Partridge quotes to be a stand-up. Therefore, this felt like the perfect opportunity to catch up.

As I sat down to watch the first episode of I’m Alan Partridge, the initial five minutes felt very familiar. Maybe it was because I’d heard it being quoted a million times before. All the mediocre impersonations I’d endured had been drilled into my subconscious. But then it hit me. I’d actually watched it about ten years ago – well, tried to. A friend recommended it, assuring me if I liked The Office then I’d LOVE Partridge. I turned it off after about 15 minutes. Not because it wasn’t funny, but because I was annoyed at how similar Alan was to David Brent. Nowadays, I’m well aware that Partridge was created years before the Brentmeister General, but at the time I just didn’t care. I couldn’t get over the parallels. Both tactless, socially-inept narcissists, desperately seeking acceptance, while trying (and failing) to cling on to the tiny bit of power they have left. If I already had The Office, then why would I need this?

Ten years on and by the end of the first episode, I finally realised why. It’s just a very funny sitcom. It’s daft and over-the-top but without it I don’t think The Office would exist. 

For those who haven’t seen I’m Alan Partridge, it’s essentially about a shameless, egotistical broadcaster’s fall from grace. Following his dismissal as a BBC presenter, Partridge is now living in a shoddy roadside hotel; his wife has left him and he has been reduced to working the graveyard shift on a local radio station. 

It’s no hot take for me to say the way it’s shot and edited, along with a laughter track, feels quite dated now. The fact you forget about this quickly is testament to the sharp writing and Coogan’s flawless performance. It’s laced with inane comments, condescending remarks and nightmarish visions of Alan trying to seduce a BBC commissioner. 

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to watch it. I’m away to shoehorn some classic quotes into unsuspecting conversations with people – back of the net!

Stephen Buchanan: Baby Dove, Pleasance Courtyard (Cellar), until 25 Aug (not 14), 8.30pm, £7.50-£10