A chat with Ricky Gervais sidekick Karl Pilkington -- His meandering musings on Siamese twins, Elvis, and reincarnation enliven the ''Office'' star's podcast

By Michele Romero
Updated June 23, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
Karl Pilkington Illustration by Ricky Gervais

So I thought of you the other day because I saw a woman walking a miniature pony on the streets of New York.
[Deeply intrigued] Really?

Yeah, apparently it’s for the blind, like a seeing-eye dog, except it’s a miniature pony. It can go on an airplane or a train…
What? So it’s for lazy blind people? You can just sit on the back of it, as opposed to walking with it?

Nope, it’s not big enough for that. It’s supposed to be smarter than a dog. Reebok makes tiny little tiny pony shoes.
But why not go the whole hog and have a proper horse and rider as opposed to tackin’ something like that around with you?

I think because you can’t ride a horse onto an airplane or the train, I suppose.
Well, can you take a little pony on a plane?

Yes!
But why have they done that, though, when there’s loads of dogs? We’re not runnin’ short on dogs, are we?

I don’t know [laughing]. There are people that have ponies in bed with them. They are kinda cute, but it’s very strange.
Yeah, but the blind people don’t know they’re cute!

That’s actually very true.

Have you ever seen Entertainment Weekly?
Ricky [Gervais] showed me a copy.

Basically what this issue is, we pick our favorite artists, actors, musicians, authors, and we ask them what they’re into.
Oh, but, you know, I can be really mad on something, and then I get bored with it and then, well, I move on. So, say if I say to you today that I like, I dunno, Battemberg cake, by the time this goes into your magazine, I might say, Do you know what? I’m sick of eatin’ it. So it might be a bit out of date.

That’s okay, you know, I think we can account for that. Because we can say, you know, at this date and time, these are the things that Karl Pilkington was into.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’d be great if you can do that.

So I know you like medical shows on television…
Well, they’re not really medical, I mean it’s just things with weird people. I mean, if there’s, like, a bloke with three heads or whatever, I’ve just gotta see that, not to make fun of it, but just to think what I’d be thinking if I was him. What sort of life would I have? Is there anything good about it? And I sometimes wonder if these things happen for a reason. With evolution, things are always changing, so I sort of think: Should we all be growing three heads?

Three heads are better than one?
Right. The way people have to multitask and everything now, it’s, like, well, maybe that’s the way we should be. But because doctors interfere, they’re actually putting a stop to the natural progression.

Anything other TV you love?
There was a program on a couple of weeks ago about people who, um, don’t stand up. They run about on all fours.

I thought every TV show in England was about redecorating other people’s houses?
Yeah, there’s a lot of that going on. Everyone’s house is starting to look the same and it’s all obvious stuff. It’s just like: Okay, you want to paint the walls white and get rid of that dead dog you’ve got in the corner. I don’t know. People aren’t allowed to think for themselves anymore, are they? I want to write a children’s book where you just ask them questions…

Like about a guy with three heads?
Yeah, like just think about what his day is like, does he get through more shampoo? Is that the downside? Will he get a lot of headaches? Just ask the kids.

Okay…
The other day I was thinking — because I get a lot of headaches — I was wondering whether the head should be where it is. Because, at the end of the day, it’s probably the heaviest part of your body, right? And yet it’s at the top as opposed to, I don’t, dangling at the bottom somewhere.

Where would you dangle it?
I don’t know, between the legs or on the knees or something.

Between the legs probably wouldn’t be so pretty.
You’re only saying that because that’s what you’re used to. What I mean is: Everybody’s like this, so you won’t have to unzip your pants to see where you’re going, everything will be designed differently. So you’d have different types of clothes. It would just mean that you wouldn’t get a neckache because you’d just be carrying your head as opposed to keepin’ it upright.

Right.

Do you drink bottled water?
I think it’s mental to pay for water. Where is that water coming from? Are they in the hills puttin’ it into bottles when years ago it used to roll down and go into the lakes? Is that why there’s a water shortage? Because it doesn’t get a chance to get to the world anymore; people are bottling it?

You have that sort of Freakonomical thinking about cause and effect…
Yes, I say stop bottling it. It’s like the butterfly thing. Butterfly flaps it wings over here, the wind kind of moves a little bit differently and then over there… do you believe that’s true?

Sure, why not?
A butterfly? I can’t imagine that causing that much… draft. Maybe a butterfly is a bad example. I don’t even see that many of them, actually. I don’t even know if we have them in London. We have a lot of flies though. Blame them. They’ve got a bad reputation anyway. You know, that earthquake, a fly did it, as opposed to a butterfly that is sort of relaxing and nice, aren’t they?

Exactly.
I don’t understand why they’re havin’ a go at the butterfly.

Do you have a favorite song?
I like songs that have stories in them. Stevie Wonder’s ”Living for the City,” Elvis’ ”In The Ghetto,” about a kid growin’ up in a rough area. And I like the way you’ve gotta listen to the whole song to sort of see how it ends up. It’s like a little film as opposed to a song. But sometimes I don’t get the full gist of the story so I make up my own little story.

Have you liked any films lately?
Uh, I like The Elephant Man.

Of course!
Yeah, that’s really sad and stuff.

But that falls in line with your interest in people with deformities. But is it a deformity or an asset?
Um, in his case it was a deformity because he never used it, did he? He never took advantage of what he had. There’s loads of jobs he could have done without them knowing. I just think he was a bit lazy. If he wrote for a paper or a magazine, they wouldn’t have known that he had a head like that, so stop moaning about it, and get on with it.

How does it feel to know that the writing staff of The Simpsons, David Letterman, and David Bowie are all fans of the podcast?
It fascinates me more when we get an email from, like, an Eskimo or something where I think: What’s he doing listening to an iPod when he should be out fishing or something? That amazes me more. My girlfriend got me an iPod and so I added Elvis’ ”In The Ghetto” and a few other songs, like, 10 times, and she’s like: “What are you doing?” And I was like: I like that song, and she’s like: ”Well, just hit repeat.” So it took a while for me to get me head around it, but now I’ve probably got about 450 songs on it.

Tell me about your book.
What we thought we’d do is bring out the podcast but in sort of a book form. So that’s what the book is, along with my drawings, because I quite like drawing. It’s probably the thing that I’m best at in life.

Do you have any thoughts about reincarnation?
Well, there was a program on the other night, about these people whose job it is to, you know, come round and clear up the body when someone dies in their house, and go through all the papers and stuff like that. But the weird thing is: The windows were shut, the doors were shut, right? They go in, there’s the body rottin’ away on a chair, flies everywhere.

Right.
Now those flies have come from the body.

You think so?
Yeah they have, because the body’s rotted away, it’s sort of rotted, hadn’t it? And now flies have come off this dead body.

So we come back as 600 flies, is that what you’re saying?
Yeah, the body’s dead, but from there you become a fly.

Well, so when the fly dies, do little flies come off of them?
It’s a good one. I dunno.

You’re gonna have to think about that.
You know, in Selfridges, they have kangaroo pie.

That sounds, why do you need to eat kangaroo?
It’s just that thing of, at the end of the day, people just want to eat everything, don’t they?

Yeah, but they always say it tastes just like chicken. So why not eat the chicken?
I know. It’s like duck. People eat duck and you think, well, we’ve got loads of chickens, leave the ducks alone! And people don’t waste any of the duck. Like at the Chinese takeaway near me.

Yeah, they eat the duck tongue too.
Duck tongue. Chuck it away, for God’s sake. You’ve had the legs and the arms , the wings and all that. Just chuck the tongue in the bin. But they don’t waste any of it.

I think that probably comes from if you come from a place where you’re starving.
Yeah, but we’re not! See, if I was starving, and I saw countries eating a tongue, I’d say: What are you doing? You’ve got a chicken over there. Eat that. Stop eating the rubbish bit and send us the tongues. But we’re eating all of it and leavin’ nothing for anyone else. So, yeah, that’s what the book’s about.

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