Josh Wolk
April 04, 2005 AT 04:00 AM EDT

A failed talk-show host with an uncontrollable rude streak, Alan Partridge of BBC America’s sitcom The Alan Partridge Experience is a cringe-inducing boor. So who could blame England for anointing him one of its most beloved TV characters? ”The British like failures,” says star and cocreator Steve Coogan (24 Hour Party People), 39. ”We celebrate the battle of Dunkirk in the Second World War, more so than the Normandy landings. And Dunkirk was a retreat.”

The hilarious Experience (composed of three Partridge BBC series, made in 1994, ’97, and 2002) begins with Knowing Me, Knowing You, a staged chat show with Partridge obliviously insulting interviewees (in one bit, he’s disgusted to discover that an author, played by Minnie Driver, is a transsexual) until he’s canceled after accidentally murdering a guest. The last two seasons find him working a local-radio night shift, pursuing a TV comeback: In one typically tasteless moment, he networks at the funeral of the BBC exec who fired him. Coogan hopes the U.S. embraces his schlumpy alter ego, but admits he’s at a disadvantage. ”Americans don’t really like to look at ugly people,” he says. ”And a lot of British comedies have ugly people in them. Figure out what that means; I have no idea.” Brits love failure and ugly people? It means Coogan is a great comedian, but a horrible publicist for the U.K.

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