Ladies and Gentlemen, Steve Coogan

Coogan is the Sexy Jesus in the backI’m a big fan of Steve Coogan. His deluded chat-show host Alan Partridge is one of the most fully realized (and most disturbing) television characters of the last two decades, and the BBC series that featured him are the first indications of the cringe-comedy wave that came to full flower with “The Office”. There would be no Ricky Gervais, I suspect, without Steve Coogan.

More important, though, is his evolving work as an actor. In Michael Winterbottom’s “24 Hour Party People”, he accomplished the meta-fillip of playing Partridge’s actual inspiration, the Granada TV personality Tony Wilson, and even appear in the frame with the real Wilson without ripping a hole in the time-space continuum.

In Winterbottom’s “Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story”, he further meta’ed around as both the digressive hero of Laurence Sterne’s revolutionary novel and the actor playing him.

He has a key role in “Tropic Thunder”, and in “Hamlet 2”, which opens tomorrow, he plays a struggling Arizona drama teacher with a low sperm count and a few closet monsters who tries to save his job by writing a musical sequel to “Hamlet” that involves time travel and Jesus. So he’s pretty much fearless.

Boy, I wish there’d been room for all of this in the setup to my interview with Coogan in the new issue of NOW. Anyway, check it out. There’s audio!