Armando Iannucci, Steve Coogan’s co-creator of the force that is Alan Partridge, has revealed that the aspirational broadcaster is like a member of the family, just one he doesn’t wish to see that often.
“I’m not consciously looking for Alan moments all the time,” he tells HuffPostUK.
“Instead, when we meet up, we ask, ‘What’s Alan up to now?’ We’ve had this 22-year conversation about Alan’s life. It’s like an uncle that we don’t see that often, and we catch up on his whereabouts. ‘How’s Uncle Charlie? I think he’s got a boat now…’
'A member of the family' - Steve Coogan back on screen as Alan Partridge
“But he's not a relative you necessarily want to live with. I think you’ve got to be far enough away from him that it involves a slightly long car journey, so you know he’s not going to turn up on your doorstep.”
Despite his desired distance, Iannucci’s evident fondness for the broadcaster who makes his big screen debut this week, goes some way to explaining just why Alan has weathered a roller coaster career that would surely have felled a lesser man.
“It’s undoubtedly the power of Steve’s performance, but he’s not this two-dimensional character,” muses Iannucci, also responsible for other hits like ‘The Thick of It’ and ‘Veep’.
“He’s not just a clown. You recognise his vulnerabilities, his obsessions, his paranoia. No one will admit to being like Alan, but everyone will say they know someone like Alan.
'Alpha Papa finds Alan at the centre of a siege situation at his beloved North Norfolk Digital
“And it’s not just people in the media. I remember ‘I’m Alan Partridge’ coming out, and I was on a flight, sitting next to two people. One said, ‘I saw this show last night, man trapped in a hotel… that’s so like Peter’ and I thought, we’re onto something.
“He’s not a media animal, he’s worse than that,” Iannucci chuckles in delight. “We’ve crossed the streams. He’s got into the whole human system.”
Despite Partridge’s enduring popularity across a wealth of media and professional status, Iannucci admits that he would never have guessed, when Alan was first spawned 22 years ago, that he would still be going strong.
“There are people now who didn’t realise he had a chat show 20 years ago,” he says with delight.
“I asked Steve to do this sports reporter, someone a bit like John Motson, but we soon realised there was more to him.
“Someone shouted, ‘He’s an Alan,’ and someone else said, ‘He’s a Partridge,’ while another said, ‘He’s from Norwich.’
Alan Partridge has had a long, and versatile, career in his 22 years of broadcasting
“We knew he had these aspirations, but he knew he wasn’t quite a journalist, and that other people in the newsroom were laughing at him, so he was aiming for light entertainment. And we had all that extremely quickly.
“Steve would do him dressed as Alan, even though it was radio, in Pringle sweaters and stuff. People immediately started turning up dressed as Alan, so we thought, this is something different. But we thought it would be a cultish thing, not universal."
22 years is a broadcasting career to celebrate by any measure. Such a long time, in fact, that Mr Partridge could actually be a father to lots of little Alans by now? For the first time, Iannucci pauses…
“That’s a strange thought. A horrendous thought.”
'Alpha Papa' is in cinemas from Wednesday 7 August. Watch the trailer below...