Being buried alive is an experience that would leave many people scarred for life, but not Karl Pilkington.
The so-called “idiot” from TV dococomedy An Idiot Abroad was made to dig his own grave in Russia and lie in it, using 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 with no one else annoying me,’’ he 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 wanted an escape after the stunts his supposed mates – English funnymen Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant – put him through.
The 39-year-old is sent around the globe to face experiences designed to take him out of his comfort zone, but which usually prove terrifying, disgusting and humiliating.
“I really, really get annoyed with them 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 alright, 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 a toad in China, live in a cave in Jordan and was fake kidnapped in Israel. Series two sees him tick 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),” Pilkington says.
“It was easier than series one because I sort of knew what to expect in a way.
“It wasn’t as much of 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 bungee 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 may be 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 so they can carry on,” he says. “I’m seeing places they’re never going to see so, in the end, I think 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 sat in their little house watching telly and drinking tea.”
That doesn’t mean Pilkington’s up for a third season though.
“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.” –