Bona fide flight risk
The joke might be on him, but Karl Pilkington reckons he’s getting a better deal out of An Idiot Abroad than Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, writes Anooska Tucker- Evans
BEING buried alive is an experience that would leave many people scarred for life, but not Karl Pilkington.
The so- called ‘‘ idiot’’ from television documentary- comedy An Idiot Abroad was made to dig his own grave in Russia and then lie in it as a form of therapy, using only a piece of garden hose as a breathing tube.
‘‘ At first I was worried about it but when I was down there it was peace and quiet and I just felt like I could have time to myself,’’ Pilkington says.
‘‘ They dug me out and I think they were expecting me to go mad and I was just like, ‘ I’d be quite happy to be in another 10 minutes’.’’
It’s almost no wonder Pilkington ( pictured) wanted an escape after the stunts his supposed mates – English funnymen Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant – put him through on the show.
The 39- year- old is sent to every corner of the globe to unknowingly face experiences designed to take him out of his comfort zone, but usually prove terrifying, disgusting and humiliating.
‘‘ I really, really get annoyed with them [ Gervais and Merchant] but I don’t like to tell them,’’ Pilkington says.
‘‘ If they know I’m getting all annoyed they’re loving it, so I like to just send them a text going, ‘ Yeah, I’m all right, having a lovely time’, just to annoy them. It’s the only power I’ve got really – the power of the lie.’’
In the first season of the show, Pilkington – a former radio producer – visited the New Seven Wonders of the World, where he was made to eat toad in China, and live in a cave in Jordan.
In series two he ticks items off his bucket list but, again, they’re not without a little evil spin from Gervais and Merchant.
‘‘ I definitely had second thoughts [ about doing a second season],’’ he says. ‘‘ It was easier than series one because I sort of knew what to expect in a way.
‘‘ It wasn’t as much as a surprise when I’d end up somewhere and I’d think, ‘ Well, this isn’t the plan’.
‘‘ I knew how Ricky and Steve worked, so I was more accepting of things.’’
But with stunts including swimming with sharks in Australia, standing on the edge of a live volcano in Vanuatu, and bungy jumping in New Zealand, his acceptance of what was to come didn’t make the experiences any less terrifying.
‘‘ It’s like if someone said you’re going to go for a long walk and at some point you’re going to get run over by a bus, it would affect the whole walk. And that’s what it’s like. It’s like you’re trying to enjoy it but you’re thinking, ‘ When’s the bus coming?’,’’ he says.
Although he’s the butt of his mates’ jokes, Pilkington says he gets the last laugh.
‘‘ I just think I’m getting more out of it than them,’’ he says.
‘‘ I’m seeing places they’re never going to see, so, in the end . . . I’m the winner.
‘‘ They might sort of have their little laughs about the situations they’re putting me through, but when I come home I’ve got photographs to prove I’ve been to places and done things, where they’ve been sitting in their little house watching telly and drinking tea.’’
That, however, doesn’t mean he’s up for a third season.
‘‘ Ricky wants to do something but at the moment I just said, ‘ Let’s just leave it’. I’m writing a book for the second series and I’ve just had enough of being on a plane,’’ he says.