Karl Pilkington

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Karl Pilkington

Date of Birth 23 September 1972
Place of Birth Manchester, England, United Kingdom
Education Ashton-on-Mersey School
Occupation Radio Producer, Head of Production and Author
Partner Suzanne Whiston
Parents Karl's Dad, Karl's Mam

"Come together and annoy Karl. He is your leader. He is your messiah! He is your god! And he fucking hates it." - Ricky Gervais

Karl Pilkington (born 23 September 1972 in Manchester, England) is an English radio producer, author, television presenter, actor and general round-headed buffoon. Having previously been known for producing The Ricky Gervais Show on the radio station Xfm, Pilkington reached an international audience through his appearances with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant on the similarly titled, record-breaking podcast series. He has since been the presenter of Sky 1 documentary An Idiot Abroad, and starred as caretaker Dougie in Derek.


Before Ricky and Steve

Karl went to work as a printer after leaving school at age 15, and was made to work a 24-hour shift pressing CDs for the band Smokey. He partly attributes his baldness to this grueling schedule. Karl also briefly hosted an overnight phone-in show on a Manchester radio station where he was something of an agony uncle.<ref>The Ricky Gervais Show, Xfm London, 19 January 2002</ref> It was in Manchester that he met long-time girlfriend Suzanne. He later moved on to work as Head of Production at London radio station Xfm, where he worked for seven years and would first cross paths with Ricky and Steve. Karl was given the job of producing their second run of shows at the station, shortly after the first series of The Office ran on BBC2. At first he merely "pressed the buttons", but his quirky antics and unique worldview soon prompted Gervais and Merchant to make him a third member of their team.

Karl might sometimes wish he never met Ricky


Ricky Gervais and Steve Merchant

Having been assigned to produce The Ricky Gervais Show with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, Karl began his on-air role by occasionally interjecting during the broadcast. As more of his anecdotes and opinions were revealed, he became more of a focal point of the show. Eventually, he began to take part in and create segments. The first feature introduced that focused on Karl was White Van Karl, where Karl gave his thoughts on current events and minor news stories. Then, following the live revelation that Karl only passed one GCSE, Ricky began Educating Karl on key topics in history and literature. As Ricky and Steve started to put less effort into the show, Karl began creating his own segments such as Educating Ricky, Monkey News, and Rockbusters. Having masterminded these bits, Karl's relative status on the show grew, with Ricky eventually saying it should be called "The Karl Pilkington Show". After the end of the Xfm show, Karl remained part of the trio, giving up his position as head of production at Xfm to make podcasts with Ricky and Steve and work on his writing. When Danny Wallace debuted his Saturday show on Xfm on 9th February 2008, Karl recorded a message for him containing advice and support on how to do a radio show and revealing that he had only received an extra thirty pounds for each show he did with Ricky and Steve.

The Russell Brand Show

Karl also co-hosted four radio shows with Russell Brand on BBC 6Music. Three shows aired after Christmas in 2005 with Karl and Russell substituting for Nemone. Another aired on 09 April 2006, the beginning of the Russell Brand Show. After this show, Karl no longer had a speaking role, but was talked about on air and seen on the webcam during the next couple of shows. There is speculation that Karl's participation in the show was discontinued due to his contract obligations with Ricky and Steve. Russell Brand remained on BBC 6Music with new co-presenters Matt Morgan and Trevor Lock (which Karl once was guest on over the phone on 11 June 2006) until November 2006 when he moved on to BBC Radio 2. Brand has recalled his stint with Karl with affection but also described Karl, perhaps facetiously, as "difficult to work with" at the same time.<ref>The Russell Brand Show, BBC6 Music, 13 August 2006</ref>


"...but his head come off."

Karl was undoubtedly the star of the podcasts in which he appeared alongside Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. The first series ran for 12 weeks, from 05 December 2005, with one episode released each Monday. Before setting out to do the podcasts, Karl quit his job as Head of Production at Xfm, receiving a digital camera as his leaving present, which he gave to his long-term girlfriend Suzanne for Christmas.<ref>BBC Radio 2, 24 December 2005</ref>

The podcasts featured Ricky and Steve probing Karl's world-views similarly to how they had done during the radio show, as well as e-mails containing questions and facts sent in for Karl to answer or react to due to his unfailing nontraditional perspectives. Karl consequently became the centrepiece of show, and the podcasts were a massive success. The show received a Guinness World Record in 2007 for being the Most Downloaded Podcast ever, and in September 2006 the BBC estimated that the show had been downloaded 18 million times.

Highlights of the first series included Monkey News, Karl's famous quote of "I could eat a knob at night", and the introduction of Karl's Diary. In 2006 a second series of the show began, albeit the podcast now cost a small fee as opposed to being free. After finishing a third series later on that year, the show was put on a brief hiatus, but returned with three seasonal specials. A fifth series began in 2008, before a format change that saw the trio return in an audiobook series called The Ricky Gervais Guide To.... The last episode, The Ricky Gervais Guide To... Comic Relief, was released in March 2011.

The most recent podcast Karl appeared on was Learn English with Ricky Gervais, a 20-minute YouTube video in which Karl and Ricky discussed the English language. The episode was billed as a pilot, but since its release there has been no word on a full series.

Ricky was once quoted as saying, "It shouldn't be called the Ricky Gervais Show, it should be called the Karl Pilkington show, I mean it's ridiculous, I'm so lazy, I just turn up now and prod him".<ref>The Ricky Gervais Show, Podcast, 06 February 2006</ref> The stardom that Karl received from the shows helped him launch his subsequent television career, although Karl still felt having recorded the podcasts "I haven't done anything of any worth".

TV Appearances

Karl's first appearances on television were on Flipside TV during the Xfm years. In line with the show's format, Karl commented on various television programs, mainly staying focused on shows featuring the paranormal and oddities. In a later radio show, Ricky said Karl quit participating in the program because he did not like the fact that his parents or relatives might be watching him.<ref>The Ricky Gervais Show, Xfm London, 15 November 2003</ref>

In August 2006, Karl created four short films for 3 Minute Wonder, a documentary shorts strand that followed Channel 4 News on weekdays. The segments were titled Some Thoughts by Karl Pilkington and were essentially Karl's musings and observations on subjects like life, travel, health, and animals. Locations included a museum, in a tent while camping, his house, and the zoo. The documentary that followed Karl through a museum drew some strong criticism from Sunday Times reader Wendy Robinson, which is referenced in Series 3 Episode 4 of the Podcast series. Despite this, in October 2007, Karl appeared in a feature-length Channel 4 documentary entitled Karl Pilkington: Satisfied Fool. In it, he interviews scholars and writers ("brainy people," as he says) in an attempt to discover whether intelligence is the key to happiness.

After years of working with Ricky and Steve, Karl finally had a cameo in one of their shows at the end of 2007, when he appeared as an autograph seeker in the Christmas Special of Extras. Karl also made a number of contributions to BBC Two's The Culture Show having first been interviewed on the show in late 2006.

In February 2010, HBO began airing The Ricky Gervais Show (HBO). The programme uses the audio from The Ricky Gervais Show podcasts and The Ricky Gervais Guide To... audiobooks, and animates them in a retro style similar to that of The Flintstones. The show also began airing on Channel 4 on April 23rd 2010, and introduced a whole new audience to the genius/idiocy of Karl Pilkington. There animations lasted for three series before Ricky decided to end them. Karl sometimes admits that the animated version of the podcast is the only time he can listen to or watch himself.

In 2010 Karl began filming a series called An Idiot Abroad for Sky 1, a show that would see Karl tour seven wonders of the modern world in an effort to see if any of them would impress him. The show aired in 2010 and received very strong viewing figures. Karl appeared to have an awful time during most of the journeys, but agreed to do a second series as long as 'he could choose what he got to do'. With that, the premise of An Idiot Abroad 2 was born, with Karl this time choosing items off of a bucket list. Ricky, however, tweaked the majority of his picks and once more Karl found himself suffering throughout his trips. The series began airing on the 23rd of September 2011 (Karl's birthday). Highlights of series 2 included Karl being molested by monkeys, refusing to bungee jump and lying to Ricky about it even though he was on camera, and being tricked into receiving his first ever prostate exam while secretly filmed by Ricky and Steve.

A three-part special, entitled An Idiot Abroad: The Short Way Round was filmed and broadcast at the end of 2012. In this final series, Karl teamed up with Life's Too Short star Warwick Davis and the two of them travelled the Marco Polo route from Venice to China. Along the way Karl and Warwick appeared to have a fractious relationship, and Karl displayed an occasionally astonishing ignorance of Dwarfism, culminating in him asking Warwick 'do you have knees?'. Ricky confirmed that this would be the final series of An Idiot Abroad, but it was recently confirmed that Sky 1 would be commissioning a new series called The Moaning of Life, in which Karl will be exploring the world without Ricky's guidance.

Written Work

Karl has penned five books since leaving Xfm and banding with Ricky and Steve. The first, The World of Karl Pilkington, was essentially transcripts of the first series of podcasts along side drawings done by Karl. Several new anecdotes and diary entries were included in the book as well. The second book, Happyslapped by a Jellyfish, is a travelogue that documents the many holidays Karl has taken in his life. The third book Karlology is about what Karl has learnt in his life. The fourth is the companion book to An Idiot Abroad, released in 2010. Karl followed this up with The Further Adventures of An Idiot Abroad. To promote the release of his fifth book, Karl held book-signings in Watford and Manchester, in which lucky fans were able to meet the round-headed twonk in person. Karl was given gifts of cards, Munchies and Revels during the day.

Film Appearances

Karl appeared as an extra in The Invention of Lying in a caveman sequence that did not make the final cut of the film. He filmed the role in Boston, Massachusetts during the summer of 2008 and a behind the scenes special appeared on The Culture Show. Although the scene was cut, it appeared as a DVD extra.

Karl also has a small non-speaking role in the film Cemetery Junction, a film written and directed by Ricky and Steve. Ricky mainly used the opportunity to put Karl in a ridiculous wig, a justification that would later see Karl appear in Derek. The film was released on 14 April 2010.


Many of Karl's anecdotes are centered around his childhood. Several stories are so ingrained in Pilkington fandom that even the people and places in them have become notorious. During the time of the Xfm shows, these anecdotes were a prime source of Karl's comedic ammunition, causing his co-presenters to be captivated, amazed, and roaring with laughter at the stories he told from his past.


Karl lived in Manchester for most of his life. The descriptions of his childhood suggest he had an unconventional upbringing. Growing up on a council estate, he was educated at Ashton-on-Mersey School but was regularly absent due to family holidays, arranged by his parents during term-time when it was cheaper to do so. He claims that during his school years he was given two attendance awards in an attempt to persuade him to remain in school. This strategy failed, and Karl continued his excessive absences. He now contends that he was never encouraged by his teachers and was even told by one (Mrs Matthews) that he would "never be a high flier".<ref>The Ricky Gervais Show, Xfm London, 09 March 2002</ref> Moreover, he disliked school because his teachers were "profiting" from his education and complains that in class he was regularly given menial and pointless tasks, such as attaching as many stickers to Thomson brochures as possible in 30 minutes.

One year, Karl participated in his school's Christmas production. He was playing the drums and had to wear a little hat. Whilst sat at his drums he started playing along to "Little Donkey" (although he wasn't supposed to) and the crowd went wild. However, Karl was scarred by the incident as his father was filming the event and quipped "He looks like a right twat". Karl attributes this to a fear of performing<ref>The Ricky Gervais Show, Xfm London, 23 February 2002</ref>.

Karl's school was near a chemical plant<ref>The Ricky Gervais Show, Xfm London, 23 March 2002</ref>. This might explain the large number of "weird looking" pupils there, including two students who had big heads and webbed hands. Karl claimed they were unrelated and that they were not friends because that would be "too obvious". Another boy at the school had a "pigeon's chest"<ref>The Ricky Gervais Show, Xfm London, 31 August 2002</ref>. These early childhood memories may help explain Karl's inherent fascination with "freaks".

Karl was never particularly good at football as a child; He remembers scoring only 1 goal, and that was only because he was being chased by a bee at the time.<ref>The Ricky Gervais Show, Episode 12, Xfm London, 16 February 2002</ref>

Near Death Experiences

Karl's arch nemesis

Karl had a number of near-death experiences as a child. The most serious, he feels, was when he nearly choked to death on a Mr. Freeze pop. Karl believed he was so close to death during that incident that in the next few days he felt like "a special person". As well as this, he almost plummeted to his death one snowy morning when he was forced to climb out of an upstairs window to do his paper round. His mother had locked the front door to stop him from delivering papers in blizzard conditions, and Karl fell out of the window and had to hang on until his Dad arrived, who at first thought he was a burglar. In another incident, Karl "kicked his height" (kicked his leg as high as his head) and then fell hard on his back because he forgot to put his foot down. Karl believes that this is why he now has back troubles.

Karl has also described how a church worker "nearly killed him in a car crash" when trying to take him to Crusaders on a Sunday. There is also the infamous "bad cream" affair, in which Karl got a stomachache after consuming too many day-old cakes. The family doctor, after being told that Karl had overindulged on tainted sweets, facetiously told his mum that he didn't have long to live. The joke went over his mum's head, causing a panic until Karl's dad called the doctor later to clarify. Then there was the occasion at his brother's wedding, where he was walking while reading and almost fell off a cliff. Another time, Karl started running down a large hill and couldn't stop. He said he tried to throw himself on the floor but he was going so fast that he just bounced up again. His Father's friend had to rugby tackle Karl to the ground. Finally, in 2006 Karl underwent a operation to have kidney stones removed. Though routine, through the experience he felt as though he were hovering between life and death.

GCSE Results

Karl left school without collecting his exam results. On an Xfm show, Karl recalled that he had taken multiple exams, but could not remember exactly which ones. He thought he had done art (where he'd made a "little clay man putting his arms into a car"), maths, and a few others. After some investigation, Ricky Gervais revealed on live radio that Karl had attained a single "E" GCSE grade in History. This came as a surprise to Karl as he had no recollection of actually taking that particular exam. The "excitement" of this news was tempered somewhat by the discovery that he had not received grades for any of the GCSEs he did remember taking. It seems he had not registered for those exams.<ref>The Ricky Gervais Show, Xfm London, 02 March 2002</ref>


Karl went through a number of jobs as a child, his favourite of which was a paper round. To this day, he claims that this was the best job he ever held. The main reason he enjoyed it was because he was his own boss. When Steve pointed out that the newsagent was technically his boss, Karl replied with "nah", maintaining his original opinion.

Karl also had a job in a local grocers called "Cordon Bleu". He did not particularly excel at his position. Once when stocking packages of chicken, a drumstick fell out onto the ground. Karl, rationalizing that someone might just want one chicken drumstick, labeled it with a price and stocked it on the shelf. His superiors were upset at this but did not fire him. On another occasion, Karl sat in a trolley and pushed himself into a puddle in the back lot. He ended up stranded, unable to get out in fear of getting his new trainers wet. When his manager told him to get out or he would lose his job, Karl refused and he was sacked on the spot. He sat in the puddle for 30 minutes further before he decided to get out. Taking a giant leap, he hopped out only getting one foot wet.

Karl has also mentioned the time that he worked at a Printers. Karl lamented how difficult it was when they were using gold ink, stating that "you really had to get your rollers clean".


Karl draws Auntie Nora

Over the years, Karl has described the members of his extended family in vivid detail. Karl's dad is portrayed as a very short-tempered man. While working as a bus driver, he had difficulty controlling a mentally challenged passenger, so he decided to place him in a wheelie bin. He also once dropped a group of elderly women off on the side of the road because they were too demanding and was subsequently fired. Furthermore, he once clouted Karl for suggesting that they should knock down a castle. It has also been revealed that Karl's dad regularly steals from the other residents of the Welsh village in which he lives.

Karl's mum is notable for her strange behaviour towards pets. When one of the family budgies died, she glued some of its feathers to a rock and placed it in the cage to keep the other bird company. She also dealt with a frequently ill cat by shaving it, which made it easier to clean. She was somewhat overprotective of Karl in his youth, once making him stay home from school because it was windy and she was afraid Karl might get "blown into the road", and once locking him in the house to stop him from doing his paper round while it was snowing.

Karl has an older brother and sister from whom he appears to be estranged. His brother Mark was something of a womanizer. Throughout Karl's youth, strange women would come to the Pilkington home claiming that Mark had gotten them pregnant. Mark also served in the British Army, joining up just before the Falklands War. Karl claims that he did not have to fight in the conflict because his Mum had sent the Lieutenant a letter saying "can you leave him out of this one?". He was discharged after he drove a tank to a nearby store to buy cigarettes. Karl once ran into his sister in a parking lot, but their reunion was somewhat hampered by his lack of interest in pictures of her newborn son.

Arguably, Karl's most infamous family member is his Auntie Nora. Karl recalled that on one occasion she phoned his mother complaining that she had been breaking wind for five minutes<ref>The Ricky Gervais Show, Xfm London, 12 October 2002</ref>. When Karl was a child, he accidentally glimpsed up her dress, and later described what he saw as resembling a "ripped tennis ball". In the last series of the Xfm shows, Karl claims to have gotten in trouble with his family for discussing Auntie Nora in an interview with a magazine. Her other antics include wanting an astro-turf lawn, putting a valance on everything, and mashing up all her food.

Karl also has a lesbian aunt whom he calls Uncle Hazel.<ref>The Ricky Gervais Show, Xfm London, 23 March 2002</ref>


Book Info Cover Synopsis (from Amazon)
The World of Karl Pilkington
Published: Autumn 2006
This is a collection of the best moments from the "Ricky Gervais Show" podcasts - the world's number one podcast - with additional musings and original drawings by Karl Pilkington, the show's unlikely star. In this pithy and hilarious book, Karl is in conversation with (the often bewildered) Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, the writers and stars of "The Office" and "Extras", outwitting even these comedy Goliaths with his take on such contentious issues as charity, the lack of Chinese homeless people, re-incarnation, the rights of monkeys and favourite superpowers. Featuring Karl's original illustrations, imaginative scribblings, full colour pictures sent in by fans, the best conversations of the first 12 podcasts, and to be published alongside the second series of the internationally acclaimed and Guinness Record-winning "Ricky Gervais Podcast Show" (downloaded over 4,000,000 times - the most popoular podcast ever), this is a unique trip into the world of one of our most innovative thinkers, visionaries and prophets, or as Gervais and Merchant know him, 'the funniest man alive in Britain today'.
Happyslapped by a Jellyfish
Published: Autumn 2007
A hilarious guide to travelling, from the man behind The World of Karl Pilkington - one of our most innovative thinkers, visionaries and prophets, or as Ricky Gervais knows him, 'the funniest man alive in Britain today'. Pack your suitcase and take an irreverent trip with the unlikely star of "The Ricky Gervais Podcast Show", Karl Pilkington, to the furthest corners of Europe. From sunbathing in t-shirts and lizards the length of Toblerones, to a toxic apartment in Ibiza with a used loo that can't be flushed - these witty musings could put you off travelling forever! Gain insight into the curious life of this comic genius from pithy anecdotes. Find out about his mum's obsession with keeping gnomes indoors and his experiences getting high on dope chocolate, to his childhood dentist who filled his perfect back teeth to give them 'extra protection'. This book features Pilkington's original illustrations and imaginative scribblings.
Published: Autumn 2008
This book offers an irreverent look at culture and learning from cult author Karl Pilkington. Drawing from visits to national museums, galleries and places of cultural interest, Karl Pilkington explores the world of knowledge from his own unique viewpoint. Read Karl's irreverent exploration of each subject, approached with his inimitable combination of innocent wonder and cheeky wisdom. Karl quizzes the world's top experts and teasing out insights with hilariously naive and muddled questions. This is a hilarious new book from the author of bestselling "The World of Karl Pilkington" and "Happyslapped by a Jellyfish".
An Idiot Abroad
Published: Autumn 2010
Karl Pilkington isn't keen on travelling. Given the choice, he'll go on holiday to Devon or Wales or, at a push, eat English food on a package holiday in Majorca. Which isn't exactly Michael Palin, is it? So what happened when he was convinced by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant to go on an epic adventure to see the Seven Wonders of the World? Travel broadens the mind, right? You'd think so...Find out in Karl Pilkington's hilarious travel diaries.
The Further Adventures of An Idiot Abroad
Published: Autumn 2012
The nation's favourite idiot is back. Safely home from his latest travels, Karl has decided it is time to share his hard-earned wisdom of the world. Taking the Bucket List of '100 Things to Do Before You Die' as his starting point, Karl combines brilliant stories from his recent adventuresto Alaska, Siberia and beyond with entertaining, highly-opinionated views on what other people aspire to do with their lives. * Why on earth would anybody want to run with the bulls in Pamplona? * Go 'storm chasing' through Tornado Alley? * Have lunch with the Queen? * Or touch hands with the Pope? The Further Adventures of An Idiot Abroad is a fitting finale to two years of eventful globe-trotting. Frank, funny and strangely inspiring, this is Karl's final word on travel.

Quotes and Opinions

Ricky squoze Karl's head

See also: Karl Pilkington Quotes, Karl's Theories, Dictionary of Karl Pilkington, Flaws in Karl's reasoning

It was Karl himself who best summed up his worldview: "I don't like fun". He is not a fan of holidays, parties, traveling, or anything that has to be planned in advance. Maintaining relationships with family and friends is a tremendous hassle for him. He is also largely indifferent to some of life's great pleasures, like sex and music.

Another of Karl's most memorable quotes was from The Ricky Gervais Show Podcast. In the first series in episode 3 Karl announced "I could eat a knob at night" during a discussion about a reality TV show, "I'm a celebrity get me out of here". Since this a number of merchandise has been produced from t-shirts to thongs with this quote printed on them. In addition after Karl said this quote Stephen and Ricky asked if there was any DJ's out there who would make a mix of this quote. The response to this was strong with Ricky, Stephen and Karl receiving hundreds of tracks. At the end of series 1 episode 5 they played their favorite track that they had received.

As well as his specific views, ideas and philosophies, Karl also has a unique way of speaking. Karl's idiolect is made up of old-fashioned sayings (eg. "have it away"), Mancunian slang (eg. "knockin' about"), and correct English that has been misspoken (eg. "squoze").

See Also

External Links


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