This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
You know Karl Pilkington as the funny bald northern bloke off the TV and radio. Which makes sense, because that's who he is. But he hasn't always been: Karl started his career as a behind-the-scenes man, producing Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's XFM radio show. However, when the pair started weaving his voice in more and more, his cynical, baffled, deadpan offerings on daily life picked him up a following of his own.
Next was TV, from being an extra in Extras to the star of a three-season run of An Idiot Abroad, followed by a period as an animated version of himself when the radio-show-cum-podcast The Ricky Gervais Show transitioned to television. Earlier this year, he co-wrote and starred in the comedy-drama Sick Of It, in which he plays someone a lot like himself, only a little more morose than mystified.
I had a chat with him recently for The VICE Interview.
VICE: If you were a wrestler, what would your theme song be?
Karl Pilkington: The Mr Men theme-tune. If you're going to have to hear a piece of music again and again, you have to make sure it's something you won’t get sick of, and I know I’m fine with this theme-tune. When I was doing Idiot Abroad 3 with Warwick Davis, we were in Macedonia, and we found out it's a country that likes to try and get in the Guinness Book of Records. I decided to see if I could get the record for listening to the Mr Men theme-tune. I listened to it from when I woke up until I went to bed. I think I heard that short theme tune around 1,200 times that day. Unfortunately, I didn't get in the book of records as a representative has to be present while attempting a record to make it official, so because of this it wasn't featured in Idiot Abroad. If you watch the episode, though, you do see me wearing headphones while doing other things, with no explanation as to why I'm wearing them.
What's your greatest fear in life?
The screwworm fly. It's terrifying. It's a parasite that gets into the human body via a cut and then eats away at your flesh. I watched something on the Discovery Channel where a woman had one in her head that she had picked up in Peru, and she could hear it chewing away constantly.
What would your specialist subject on Mastermind be?
I haven't got a subject that I know much about. There's a setting on the iPhone these days that deletes apps that aren't used regularly. My brain does the same with information. I teach it stuff but it decides to remember very little.
What's the nicest thing you own?
I'd say it’s the hot tub. It wasn't cheap and I was worried it could turn into one of those things that I end up wishing I hadn't bought, but it's brilliant. People always ask if I have friends round and invite them in. Let me tell you now, that never happens. People ask, "Why not?" Because it would be weird, that's why. You wouldn't ask your friend to come round and have a bath with you, so why is it OK to join you in a hot tub? I've got a bad back from all the flights I’ve done over the years, and it eases the pain.
What would be your last meal on death row?
I ate some meat when I was filming in Mexico and it was horrid. It was the toughest meat I have ever eaten, and the most rancid. It turned out it was donkey. If I was on death row I’d probably ask for donkey so that I’d be happy in the knowledge that, after I’m dead, I’m never going to have to eat it ever again.
Who is the worst celebrity you have ever met?
I don't know any. I don't mix in those circles. I suppose I'm classed as a celeb these days, so the fact I'm one made me realise that they're nowt special, so I tend to avoid them. I'd say it's much more useful to get to know plumbers, builders and electricians.
What's the closest you've come to death?
I'm not sure. I mean, there could be hundreds of times when I've not realised how close to death I've been and just escaped it. A couple of times I am aware of is the time I flew over an active volcano in a tiny plane whizzing through the smoke, while a helicopter was flying around the vicinity and had no idea where we were. The other time was when I was choking on an ice pop. I was maybe 30 seconds, at most, away from death when my mam saved me using the Heimlich manoeuvre.
How long do you think you would last in space?
I wouldn't last long. I don't like wearing helmets. I get claustrophobic. I did one of those Mars missions in Utah and had to wear a helmet for a couple of hours, and it drove me mad. Something you forget about spacemen is that it's not easy for them to scratch an itch. Also, if you sneeze, what a mess that makes. You end up floating around looking like a used condom.
What conspiracy theory do you believe in?
Well, we were talking about space. I wouldn't be surprised if man hasn't been on the moon. But saying that, I wouldn't be too arsed either. We've probably been told worse lies.
What is the best television show ever made and why?
The one I watch the most is a show called Bullseye. It ran in the 80s and 90s and now gets replayed on Challenge TV. It's darts mixed with a quiz and really shite prizes. It’s the only competition where I’ve seen winners actually look disappointed.
Would you rather change one day from your past or see one day from your future?
I wouldn’t go back. I never like going back. Even to a place I’ve been on holiday, it's normally not as good second time round. But I don’t like the idea of seeing the future either, as the unknown is what makes it worth getting out of bed in the morning. The only time I want to know what lies ahead is when I’m eating out. I always look at the pudding menu before the main course.
What's the latest or longest you've ever stayed up?
It must have been the time I camped in the Amazon for a few days. I must have got about three hours' sleep in total – too many weird things creeping about outside and inside the tent. The noise was unbelievable. No wonder there's a lot of nocturnal stuff in the jungle; it's because it's not possible to sleep at night with all that racket going on.
What was your worst phase?
Surely everyone says the same answer to this? It's got to be when we were a baby, hasn't it? We're useless. It's quite a long phase as well. We are no use to anyone. You hear about premature babies being born – I think we're all premature. We shouldn’t come out until we’re about ten years old.
What's the closest you've come to having a stalker?
You mean someone who visits my house daily posting me letters? I do have one person who does that. The postman.
How many times as an adult have you shit yourself?
Never. It’s an experience I’m saving for when I’m older. I’m not one for farting, so I guess that takes me out of the danger zone. There’s times when I’ve really needed to go but I have really good strong arse muscles, which – as far as I’m concerned – are the muscles you want. What’s the point of a six-pack if your arse is as weak as a moth.
Would you like to experience death if you could be guaranteed to come back to life?
No, ta. We all get to experience it for a long, long time, so I’m happy to wait for that one. There’s so many other things I want to experience before that one. I’ve got an urge to drive a forklift truck, but the opportunity hasn’t come along yet.
How do you think you will die?
Brain cancer. I’ve had loads of X-rays at the dentist over the years. In fact, I think it’s the most photographed bit of me. I’m sure my dentist has more photos of my jaw than my mam has of me as a kid. X-rays can't be good for you, can they.
Karl Pilkington's Sick of It is available to buy on DVD and download from Monday the 19th of November.