For a long period of time, there were questions as to whether or not Karl Pilkington, at least the version of him played on radio, was real or simply a comedic invention of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. His particular brand of idiocy seems related to the David Brent and Andy Millman characters that Gervais plays on his shows, and at times Pilkington is so over-the-top that it’s impossible not to wonder how much of what he does is real. By now, though, I think even doubters have to admit that he’s genuine, not just from An Idiot Abroad but also through sheer consistency. Even the best comedian would have to crack up eventually saying some of the lines he spouts out.
So how did he become who he is today? Well, I think that question was pretty much answered in “Kidney” when the question is raised, “You don’t believe everything you read, do you?” We learn that even though Karl’s in no way religious, he believes the entirety of bible in a completely literal fashion. Likewise, whether the source of his news is a tabloid or the Guardian in no way effects his reception of information. Karl’s fantastically ignorant, but it’s clear that the main reason for this ignorance is because of all the wrong information that’s being thrown at him. He’s a sort of human wikipedia without any sort of fact-checking whatsoever.
That’s particularly relevant for the third section of “Kidney,” in which the story of Noah’s Ark is discussed at great length. One of the strengths of this particular episode, probably the best since the premiere, is the way each of its sections is a more focused discussion. We begin with the eponymous kidney stone and Karl’s nonsensical reaction to having one. This transitions into part two, an odd section best explained by Karl’s opening question, “What is the closest thing … sort of living … that’s nothing?” Then the Ark, and finally a quite entertaining bit of his diary at the end of the show focused on a trip he went on for his girlfriend Suzanne’s birthday.
There’s a sort of childlike innocence to the way that Karl takes in information from various unreliable sources, and likewise there’s an equally childish way he approaches his own observations. His belief that there’s little to differentiate a stick and an insect that looks like a stick is clearly the result of accepting the universe as it appears on the surface, with no preconceptions about there being more depth. There’s almost always a certain logic involved, it’s just backwards. It’s hard not to imagine that were he living in the middle ages, Karl Pilkington could be some sort of sage.
The focus of the segments and the oddity of Karl’s observations, even for him, make for a great episode that feels less of a hodgepodge than usual. Its normal themes are present, and there isn’t anything that will be particularly surprising to regular viewers, but there wasn’t a minute wasted in the episode. Not only that, but these were some of the more memorable discussions the show’s had in a while.
•”I had a tube put up me knob.” -I’d watch a show that was just Karl in a hospital.
•”The coldness got rid of the badness.”
•Likewise, Old Cold Belly Badness is a book it’d be great to read. I need to pick up some of Karl’s actual books one of these days.
•The chicken and potatoes on Karl’s plate are the type of nice detail that really adds to the dialog. A lot of those in this episode.
•Karl Pilkington’s wears special, geriatric socks
•”What is the closest thing … sort of living … that’s nothing.” “I don’t know what you mean.”
•”At some point, something’s had its way with a leaf.”
•”What I’ve found with pigeons is they’ve got wings, and yet they walk a lot.”
•”We went around the church graveyard to see how old the dead people are.” How often does Karl do this?
•We’re seeing a lot more of Suzanne’’s face these days. I’m still kind of unsure why we can’t get a full view of it. I guess because given the animation style, no one looks good?