As he is more likely to be hob-knobbing with the likes of Ben Stiller and Robert Downey Jr on Hollywood blockbusters these days – rather than eating free biscuits at a Norwich Travel Tavern – it is not surprising that Steve Coogan is smiling.
Of course, Coogan was never a resident of Linton Travel Tavern. But in a slightly odd way, it is difficult speaking to Coogan without thinking that you are speaking to Alan Partridge.
Bouncing Back was the title of the biography of his most famous character. And indeed, gone are the packaged shortbread biscuits, gone are the ‘bring your own’ 12 inch plates used for buffets, and, hopefully, gone are the contents of Alan’s top drawer in his hotel room.
“Needless to say, I had the last laugh.” was what Alan used to say to end each anecdote in his book. For instance, when he told Peter Purves “don’t be blue, Peter”, when he beat him to the last seat on the Crewe to London train in 1974.
And after being accused of concentrating too much on his Hollywood career to the detriment of his first stand-up comedy tour in ten years, Coogan has bounced back.
Earlier in the tour the Mancunian comedian was accused of poor preparation when he performed in Liverpool and Stoke-on-Trent. However, he was then cheered on the next leg in Partridge’s home city of Norwich.
Coogan has won round the critics and he is now raring to get to the stage at the National Indoor Arena on Wednesday and Thursday.
“It has been 99 per cent well received by the audience,” said Coogan. “I have really enjoyed doing it. I do not see the point in doing the same thing all the time so I really wanted to come back to stage and I am glad that most people have enjoyed it.”
It might have been assumed that Coogan would have been better off to stay in America to secure more parts in blockbusters such as Tropic Thunder, but the Bafta and British Comedy Award-winning comedy legend is having none of it.
Why? Because Coogan wants the challenge of the stage and, well, Hollywood isn’t exactly all that much fun.
He said: “There seems to be this myth about Hollywood, which I do not understand. Everyone drives everywhere, so no-one drinks. Everyone is health conscious and most people eat their dinner at 7.30pm and are in bed by 10.30pm.
“I did not want to be pigeon-holed as a movie actor. I enjoy writing and directing. The BBC 1 drama Sunshine has been very well received and I like doing things in Britain.”
Coogan’s show is roughly divided in two. In the first half there are four characters – Pauline Calf, Tommy Saxondale, Duncan Thickett and Paul Calf.
The second half is a large helping of Partridge.
At this point of the interview, I was getting increasingly confused with the blurring between the Coogan/Partridge personalities, which is something, I presume, that Coogan himself must experience.
“People do often get confused, but that is because they only ever hear my voice. But it is my voice, not Alan’s.
“I have been talking like this for a lot longer than him,” he said.
“Anyone who knows me also knows that we are very different. I am a socialist and an internationalist. Alan is a Daily Mail-reading xenophobe who is incredibly right-wing.”
Coogan says he is looking forward to playing Birmingham. “The city has always been very hospitable to me,” he adds.
Needless to say, he will have the last laugh.
* Steve Coogan appears at the NIA, Birmingham, on Wednesday and Thursday. Bookings: www.thenia.co.uk