Cultural Life: Stephen Merchant, comedian


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The Independent Culture

Television: I've been enjoying Mark Cousins's 'The Story of An Odyssey' on More4. A lot of people seem to take great umbrage at his voice, but I have no problem with it. I think he's really great and informed and smart. I did film studies at university so maybe I'm slightly more tolerant of what some people probably see as pretentious over-analysis.

Films: I've been watching a lot of those existential American thrillers from the Seventies, like Robert Altman's 'The Long Goodbye', and another one called 'Night Moves' with Gene Hackman. They're very bleak and open-ended, really thoughtful and leisurely paced, and it's a great shame that they don't make that sort of thing anymore. George Clooney, with films like 'The Ides of March', is one of the only people who can still get these films made. I can't really get with a lot of mainstream cinema these days, it just feels a bit too juvenile for me. I think I'm beginning to feel old.

Music: I quite enjoyed the recent Ryan Adams and James Blake albums, but I tend to rely on the old standbys, like Tom Waits. I used to be really on-the-ball culturally; I knew what was happening in music and films, but nowadays I feel so left behind. The horrible truth is you find yourself saying, "Well, I've heard it all before."

Books: There's a book called 'Letters to a Young Poet' by Rainer Maria Rilke, where he's writing letters at the turn of the last century. They're just very elegant, beautiful and thoughtful letters about everything from sex to God. It makes you realise how, in an age of texting and Twitter, these profound philosophical letters that people used to write have evaporated.

Stephen Merchant's nationwide tour, 'Hello Ladies', runs to 12 December. 'Life's Too Short' is on BBC2 on Thursdays