He may be a tragic, buffoonish, laughable figure who puts the “id” in
idiot, but one of the reasons Steve Coogan’s finest creation has
remained so consistently funny in the 20-plus years since first
appearing on Radio 4’s On the Hour is that he’s also everyone’s worst
version of themselves.
He’s the petty, insecure, conservatively minded monster who won’t let us
get out of our own way, not because we’re completely lacking in
self-awareness (though there’s an element of that), but because we’re
often so scared of failure we’ll do everything in our limited power to
hold on to our diminishing position in the world, even if there might be
more to be gained from letting go and doing something else.
As it happens that’s roughly where we join the character in this first
big screen outing. Having long since reached the zenith of his career as
a short-lived BBC chat show host, the former Day Today sports
commentator has been on a slippery slope to ignominy in the years since;
his primetime career careening into a life of quiet desperation full of
stalled dreams, pulped autobiographies and budget hotel living.
As the film opens, though, all that seems to be behind him. Working as a
mid-morning radio show host on North Norfolk Digital in his home town
of Norwich, he’s found a vehicle that’s as perfect for his inane brand
of genial chat as the sponsored KIA saloon car he drives is for a man of
his advancing years and frozen-in-time musical tastes.