music friday: “signed d.c.”
what i watched last week

turn left

I’m a few years behind on this, for no reason I can figure. I recently came across an excerpt from one of Ricky Gervais’ podcasts, and now I’m hooked. The show features Gervais, his long-time work partner Stephen Merchant, and “producer” Karl Pilkington chatting about various subjects. The show has turned Pilkington into a cult favorite. The podcasts, downloaded so often they made Guinness World Records, were later turned into an animated series, seen in the States on HBO.

Basically, Pilkington is presented as a bloke with no brain but a great imagination. Gervais and Merchant egg him on, laugh hysterically at his jabber, and make merciless fun of him. There are elements Americans miss, or at least I do … Pilkington is from Manchester, the others are “college boys,” and there seems to be some snobbery in their interplay that we don’t quite get. Anyway, if you lock into the show’s humor, you will find yourself laughing along with Gervais and Merchant far more often than you’ll find yourself thinking Pilkington’s is a mind ahead of its time. Toss in one added ingredient, that it’s never quite clear if Pilkington is playing a role, and you have a fascinating, hilarious, but ultimately mean-spirited show.

And I’d leave it at that, but there is a personal connection, one that doesn’t likely make sense to anyone but my wife.  Because she is the sole recipient of a particular form of, I don’t know, showmanship, that I sometimes come up with. It grew out of times when she would ask me to tell her a story, and I’d make up a fantasy on the spot that usually involved a beautiful lady named Robin and a trip to outer space. Over time, these stories got blended into another type of “story” I would tell. For someone who believes in science as much as I do, I am frightfully uninformed about the actual physical world, disconnected and lacking knowledge. So I’ll start talking about something, and it will have about as much relation to reality as one of my fantasy stories, except I’ll work from a base that includes scientific “facts.” Neither of us is ever quite sure that I actually believe the tripe I come up with … my lack of knowledge really is remarkable, usually because I haven’t thought something through, so Robin will realize I think some off-the-wall thing about the world, and my stories will grow out of those “factual fantasies,” and the next thing you know, I’ve got myself on some ledge that won’t hold. At this point, we both realize I’m full of shit, which is almost a relief … if I really believed some of this stuff, I’d worry about myself.

I appreciate the above doesn’t make much sense … you kinda have to be there, and I’ll only allow myself to expose this aspect of my brain to Robin. But I’ve found an example of my little stories: Karl Pilkington. I’m like Karl, rolling off outrageous stories as if they were true, and Robin is Ricky, laughing at my misguided “intelligence.”

I guess I better offer a sample, or this will make no sense at all. Here is Karl, explaining how monkeys were used in the early days of rocketry:

My favorite moment, from a “Robin” perspective, is when Karl says the monkey would press a button to “turn left.” Honestly, this sounds exactly like a conversation she and I would have when I’m on a roll. And my favorite “Steven” moment is when Ricky says there is no way they’d put a banana dispenser on a space craft, and Karl replies, so you’re saying it’s easy to send someone into space but hard to imagine it would have a banana machine.


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