How We Met: Karl Pilkington & Ricky Gervais

'Sometimes it all gets too much: two hours in a room with Ricky can seem a long time'

Ricky Gervais, 50

A writer, director and comic, Gervais (to the fore in picture) was catapulted into the limelight by the BBC mockumentary 'The Office' in 2001. Acclaimed TV series 'Extras', several stand-up tours, a record-breaking podcast and a starring role in a slew of Hollywood films have followed. He lives in London with his partner

Being friends with Karl has been a nice experiment; he's a cross between my best mate, a lab chimp and a pupil. Steve [Merchant] and I had left XFM to do The Office and returned in 2002 to this tiny little radio station – where Karl worked – as conquering heroes.

I liked him instantly, as he wasn't impressed by who I was. I think the first words I said to him were, "Why have you got a round head?" and he replied, "What shape's a head meant to be?"I laughed straight away, as he didn't go, "How insulting!" So I asked if I could hit it with my phone and he said, "OK," and afterwards he asked, "Did it make a normal noise?" As humans, we use humour to see if someone's on our wavelength and I felt Karl was the funniest man I'd ever met.

Karl will do anything for you. When I got stressed with moving out, he helped me move offices – though he moaned all the way. Now I call him every day; he's the first person I call in the morning.

I like the way he sees the world differently. We might be listening to the radio about the Nativity and the Three Wise Men bringing presents for the baby Jesus, and all Karl could say would be, "Were those presents for Christmas or his birthday?" He's not trying to be funny, he just thinks stuff and says it out loud. When I write, I'm consciously trying to be funny, constructing a punchline, but Karl does it in conversation.

Most things in the world are a bit shit, which is why An Idiot Aboard [presented by Pilkington] is such an important travel documentary. On Wish You Were Here, Judith Chalmers doesn't go to poor areas where there's degradation and starvation or try food and go, "That tastes like snot!" He's a reluctant man outside his comfort zone; just like my greatest comedy characters, and we're best mates. Though I remember someone asking him, "Is Ricky your best mate?" and he went, "Yeah, Ricky is my besty mate. But I haven't got many mates."

Karl Pilkington, 39

After earning cult status for his oddball contributions to the weekly podcast 'The Ricky Gervais Show', Pilkington cemented his fame by presenting Sky 1 TV series 'An Idiot Abroad'. He lives in London

Before I joined XFM, Ricky and Steve used to have a show playing music, with a bit of chat and swearing, and phoning up his mum. I remember thinking, how are they getting away with this? I got a job there after they left, in production, and a few years later, in 2002, my boss told me that these two blokes were back and it was my turn to produce them. The Office had been on, but I'd never watched it, so I was pretty nonplussed about it.

He came into the office on the day of the first show – I was just there to hit the buttons – and while we were in the station kitchen he got out his mobile phone and hit me over the head with it. I said, "What you do that for?" And he said, "Just wanted to see what sound it made." And I was like, OK this is going to be a nightmare: Terry Wogan wouldn't have done that. But I felt I had to go with it.

By week three Ricky and Steve had started to involve me in the shows: he said, "Let's just chat like we do off air," and I started chipping in all the time. Once he started getting to know me, he started to see how far he could push me; he'd put bin lids on my head just to see what happened. That's how he is, he annoys everyone and you either go along and have a laugh or say, "Don't do that, it's annoying me." And when that happened he'd stop and give me some facts, something like, "Did you know ants never sleep?" And that would interest me, as I love finding out about that sort of stuff, and once he knew I was all right with him again, he'd start wrestling with me. Sometimes it would all get too much and I'd have to leave the room: two hours spent with Ricky can seem a long time.

With Ricky, when you say "no" to something, that makes him push you more; he doesn't let anything go, which can be pretty tiring. But in a way he knows what's best for me: he pushed me to do the second series of An Idiot Abroad even though I'd hated the first one, being in India and ill. And I enjoyed the second season. He's like my careers adviser.

Now he's my best mate, but in the early years he became obsessed with finding out where I lived. I remember after one recording session, he was like, "Where are you going now?" And I was like, "I'm going home." I didn't want him to come round whenever he wanted, ringing the buzzer, so I legged it. But every time I turned round, there was Ricky, following me through London, laughing his head off, which was really weird.

'An Idiot Abroad: 2' is out now on DVD

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

HR Manager - HR Generalist / Sole in HR

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - HR Generalis...

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Banking - People Change - Lond...

HR Manager - Milton Keynes - £50,000 + package

£48000 - £50000 per annum + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Shared...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment