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Interview

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Bill Oddie Talks Alan Partridge
The bird-enthusiast on his fictional friend

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"Had a long chat with Bill Oddie. An experienced birder, he's lent me his binoculars and given me some great advice on how to remain still for long periods of time..."

This quote, a passage from Partridge autobiography We Need To Talk About Alan, is just one of many, many references the character makes to the former Goodie. We rang Oddie up to ask how he feels about being part of the Partridgeverse.

Bill Oddie Talks Alan Partridge

So are you a fan of Alan, or does it piss you off?
People keep saying to me, "Alan Partridge always mentions you. Aren't you upset? Aren't you offended?" I say, "No, why would I be?" I was curious about it and still am: why would he choose me? One rumour I heard is that someone on the writing team is a birdwatcher, and knew me from that reputation in the past. But am I offended? No, I'm offended when I'm not in it! My agent got an inquiry at one stage to see whether I was free to actually make an appearance on one of the TV series. And unfortunately I couldn't because I was in India or somewhere. It was a very good excuse, or I'd happily have done it.

Have you ever actually met Steve Coogan?
The closest I've come to meeting Steve Coogan is being in the audience at one of his live shows. I had to pay for my own ticket, the mean bastard!
No, the closest I've come is being in the audience at one of his live shows. I had to pay for my own ticket, the mean bastard! You'd think he might have sent me a few, if only to keep quiet and not slag him off. I get plenty of opportunities, believe me. But I have sent him a few letters, addressed to Alan Partridge, saying, "Will you please stop claiming to be a friend of mine? Just because you're named after a bird, it doesn't mean I have the slightest attraction to you."

At one point in I'm Alan Partridge, Alan takes a lady on a date to an owl sanctuary. Have you ever done that?
I certainly have! They weren't necessarily owls, but I remember in my slightly sprightlier days more than one hapless young woman was carted off to a bird hide for several hours. Most of the time I was rewarded, much to my surprise.

Do you have a favourite Alan / Oddie moment?
When Alan first started mentioning my name, the first thing that made me laugh was the receptionist. She and her mate started giggling because she couldn't bring herself to say B. Oddie — it rhymed with body and that was rude. I was giggling right away with that; I thought it was a wonderful little thing. And the actress, Sally Phillips, is great at doing stuff like that. She's so subtle.

You were referenced over ten times in last year's Alan Partridge book. Have you read it?
I have. The first thing I did was flick to the index to see how many times I was mentioned. I actually thought I was grossly underfeatured. There could have been a full chapter. But never mind - hopefully he'll put that right in the next one.

As a former comedy star yourself, how do you rate Steve Coogan in the pantheon?
Oh, he's brilliant. Alan Partridge is one of the great comedy characters of all time. The pain of him trying to pitch all these crap ideas - which, let's face it, we've all done at some point - it's in the Spinal Tap bracket to me. Steve is obviously very fond of resilient losers, who have a modicum of talent but keep working away. He's the Peter Sellers of his day, and I hope he comes to a happier end.


Interview by Nick de Semlyen

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