TV Interview: Karl Pilkington on Sky One's Sick of It.

Karl Pilkington is back on Sky One, this time with his first scripted comedy drama: a six-part Sky original production co-written with Richard Yee.

Karl plays Karl, a crotchety cabbie who’s living with his auntie while trying to get over the loss of his long-term girlfriend. His closest mate is his alter ego, an uncensored version of himself who appears only to him and can say exactly what he thinks, without the risk of offending anyone. As Karl muddles through life, desperately trying to get back on track, the voice in his head just can’t seem to shut up. He imparts his wisdom, deals out criticism and shares his rather unorthodox philosophy on life – counsel that often lands Karl in trouble.

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Karl tells us more…

This is your first scripted drama. What made you want to write?

I thought I’d had enough of telly. I’d bought my house and once I got it paid for I thought, well that’s all we’re working for. But after having a bit of time off, I just got bored. After doing all the travel stuff for God knows how long, I’d had enough of hanging around airports and feeling jetlagged. But then I met up with Richard. He directed some of the trips in An Idiot Abroad and The Moaning of Life and he asked me if I wanted to have a go at writing something. And we sat down and chatted about the programmes I liked and it just sort of went from there. It was just something to do.

Did you always plan to be in it?

I wasn’t going to be. I thought, I can’t act, I can’t do it. But then Richard was like, you could do a cameo, couldn’t you? And I was like, yeah I could do. And then he was like, have a bigger role. And then it turned from me not being in it to me being in it twice. If I’d been told at the beginning I was going to write it and be in it, I’d probably have scared myself off doing it. But coming up with the storylines gave me time to think about it, so it made it easier to take on.

And did you enjoy it?

It was hard work but I think I did enjoy it. My girlfriend Suzanne said I did because when I do the travel stuff I call her and moan. And with this, I was only a bit pissed off for two days in eight weeks so that’s pretty good for me. The writing part was good. I’d just do three days a week so I still had time to do the garden and the little jobs around the house I like doing. But once you’re filming, that’s proper stress time because I am just rubbish at not worrying about stuff. It’s not like the travel series when you are just winging it – you turn up, you see something, you say something and then you get on a plane home. With this, I’d spend a lot of time writing it and then the night before I’d be awake changing stuff. Richard would be getting emails from me at four in the morning. So I was really knackered and running on adrenaline. I was playing two roles all the time and I am in every scene. And then I wasn’t sleeping so it was pretty mental.

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What differences are there between Karl and the Voice in His Head?

We wanted them to be slightly different. The idea was that the inner self would be more confident most of the time while Karl is a bit sort of downtrodden, a bit nervous and unsure. The inner self is trying to push him on so there is an energy difference between the two. But apart from that, they look the same, they sound the same. Yeah, there’s not much acting going on.

And where did that idea to include the Voice in His Head come from?

I’ve always said there’s a voice in my head. I remember doing a podcast with Ricky and Steve. I was saying how my thoughts are in my accent and wondering, is it the same for Stephen Hawking? When he was thinking about something, did he hear his own, old voice in his head or did he hear that computer voice? They were like, what are you talking about? You don’t have thoughts in a voice, you just have them. Well, I don’t. So that was the idea that was rattling around my head.

The series has a great soundtrack, can you tell us about it.

It’s a bit of a security blanket for me. I wanted everything to be as good as it could be because I don’t think I’m great at acting, so as long as it looks nice and it has nice music and stuff that will do some of the work. I am a big music fan so going through music and finding tracks that link to the story was a nice thing to do. We spent a lot of time and effort on it. Though some people won’t notice, they’ll just say, oh, I’d have preferred it if you’d used Abba on it.

How would you sum up the series?

It’s little simple and relatable stories about a man who’s a bit lost in life. There’s something that carries on through the series but it’s not hanging on a whodunit. It’s nothing too heavy – I liked the idea of making something that you could watch on the train or on the bus. Each episode is just 23 minutes but you’ll get something out of it. It’s about that relationship you have with yourself, how much we worry about what we say and do and how much we are truly being ourselves. Life can be complicated. And even though there are major things going on in the world, you are still caught up in your own bubble. You still have your own daft worries and it’s about dealing with them. Do you know what I mean?

Sick of It starts Thursday 27 September 2018, 10pm on Sky One / NOW TV