Alan Partridge has well and truly bounced back thanks to his Sky Atlantic TV series Mid Morning Matters.
The former BBC chatshow host has had a rocky career since his series Knowing Me, Knowing You, was cancelled after Partridge accidentally shot dead restaurant critic Forbes McAllister live on air.
Local radio exile and a mental breakdown involving a barefoot drive to Dundee followed, but in 2011 Partridge began to turn things around. Mid Morning Matters, webcam footage from his daily radio show, began broadcasting on YouTube and to mark the occasion the TV icon guest-edited Loaded Magazine.
Now back for a second series with trusty co-host Sidekick Simon and a station controller at North Norfolk Digital he actually approves of, Partridge has never been better.
But now you can travel back in time with a classic Partridge Q&A from his early days at the station, touching on sex after 50, the state of modern broadcasting and his biggest regret in life.
Alan, we’re delighted you’re guest editing our comedy special. Have you ever edited a magazine before?
No. I thought Lynn had told you that? That ruddy woman.
Don’t worry, it’s not a problem or anything. We were just wondering…
Oh, right. I am pretty conversant with the magazine industry though. Got a pile of them in my downstairs loo the exact height of Danny De Vito. Not for much longer, though – I need to add the last two issues of Top Gear magazine. Goodbye Danny De Vito, hello Frankie Dettori. Interestingly, of the four WCs in my house, that is the one I tend to gravitate towards when nature comes calling. As it does twice in the morning and once in the dead of night. It’s where I do a lot of my best thinking. It’s where I do a lot of my worst thinking too – in 2006 I conceived the idea of boiling an egg in my kettle. We live and learn.
Indeed. So, it’s been a while since we last saw you on our TV screens. Exactly how old are you now?
The broadcasting industry has become profoundly ageist. That’s why ten years ago I adopted a blanket policy of never disclosing my date of birth. It’s worked well for my career, less so when trying to do telephone banking.
But it’s safe to assume you’ve now reached your mid-fifties…
Safe for who?
Um, we’re not sure. Can you let us in on the hardest thing about getting older?
Nothing. Men get better with age. Just like certain varieties of cheese. You see, women like a man whose face is that bit weather-beaten. I actually seek out inclement weather to give my skin the craggy quality that works so well for John Craven. The hours he spent in lashing wind presenting Countryfile have turned him into – in his own words – a “minge magnet”. (I’m being bawdy, as it’s Loaded magazine. I’d have censored it to “babe magnet’’ if this was Radio Times.)
Now, whenever I notice it getting windy, I go outside and start walking directly into the gale, only stopping when the wind dies down. I then get the bus home. Weather like that is a rarity though. So normally I just find a stretch of open road, hit cruise control and stick my head out of the window. A word to the wise, though: never attempt this while driving along a country lane on a summer’s evening. You’ll end up with a mouthful of insects. I once arrived on a date without realising the gaps between my incisors had effectively become a graveyard for midges. I rectified the situation with the help of the landlord’s toothbrush, but by that point the damage had been done. Any chance I once had of securing a French kiss with my date at the end of the evening had effectively been obliterated.
We appreciate the advice, Alan. Now, you spoke during one recent Mid Morning Matters radio show about your new-found tolerance towards gay people, largely thanks to your friendship with Dale Winton. ls Alan Partridge an open-minded man?
If anything, I’d say my mind is too open. It’s like the bow doors on the Herald Of Free Enterprise – look it up. Sex and sexuality are nothing to shy away from. I was discussing this on a communal Skype session with Eamonn Holmes, Alastair Stewart from Police, Camera, Action! and one of the Hairy Bikers.
Friends of yours?
It’s something we do once a month, with a can of lager and a webcam. I firmly believe it’s the pub of the future. And if the subject turns to our sex lives, as it often does, we discuss it. We feel that in our fifties, we’re peaking. Alastair Stewart put it best. He said: “It’s the time when our experience is at its zenith but we’re still active enough to exploit that.” It’s technique that can only come from years of… well, between us, not far short of 200 years of reasonably consistent sexual activity.
You seem happy, Alan. Are you?
I’m a happy person by nature. Not much gets me down. I’m a tumbler half-full kinda guy. Obviously, that happiness is dented when I see friends or people I know enjoying professional or personal success. But I’m human. Fortunately, the bulk of my time is spent with either my PA Lynn – a failure by just about every metric – or my listeners who, with the best will in the world, wouldn’t be listening to mid-morning radio if they led successful lives.
“Women like a man whose face is that bit weather-beaten. I actually seek out inclement weather to give my skin the craggy quality that works so well for John Craven.”
A fair point. Now, can we ask if you’re a regular reader of Loaded?
I’m not sure anyone ‘reads’ Loaded. You digest it. You immerse yourself in it. You wallow in it. You become it. Instead of saying: “I read Loaded,” I used to say: “I am Loaded.” Before someone pointed out that it sounded boastful and crass.
You’re not the average Loaded reader…
This ‘new lad’ thing has always intrigued me. Leering at a lady’s chest is a no-no – that’s a given. But leering at a lady’s chest with a nudge and a wink, with a raised eyebrow, that’s absolutely fine. That’s the genius of Loaded. Camouflaging soft-core pornography with pub jokes. It’s the intelligent option.
Indeed. So how much of a ‘lad’ do you consider yourself?
I hold my own. I muck about. I like a laugh. Not to excess. You won’t find me in a sick–spattered shirt on Street Crime UK, throwing punches at a WPC while a fat girl shouts: “Leave it, Alan!” But yes, I enjoy a pint of cider. And yes, I’m sometimes violently sick.
How do you keep in shape?
It varies. I’ll march up and down my stairs a few times holding tinned beans, I’ll spend 30 minutes on the Wii, I’ll go for a run, I’ll do a few lunges. I do all of these things on a regular basis, with the exception of going for a run, which I’ve not done for eight years.
We must ask: what do you make of modern broadcasting?
Broadcasters today are way too risk averse. In the golden years of broadcasting, a TV executive would look at someone like Nick Ross and see nothing more than a wonderful broadcaster. Can you imagine them taking a risk on Nick Ross today? With his lifestyle? Get real. They’d get word of what he gets up to at weekends and march him out of TV Centre.
What keeps you awake at night?
I’ve spent the last few nights wondering if Sue Lawley managed to get her DVD player fixed. Last time I saw her she was ramming a skewer into it. Sue, if you read Loaded, get in touch.
And what’s your biggest regret?
Putting a bumble bee in the freezer when I was a child.
Why did you do that?
I was seeing if I could freeze it and then bring it back to life. I couldn’t. It was dead. I mean, this was the late ‘6os. Everyone was experimenting. We’d just put a man on the moon. Anything seemed possible. In this case, of course, it wasn’t.
How did you dispose of it?
I put it in a matchbox, which I suppose was like a biodegradable bee casket, then just chucked it in the bin. I never told my mother.