Steve Coogan on why coming back to Alan Partridge for new tour is like taking a warm bath

Actor and comedian Steve Coogan is bringing his famed character Alan Partridge to venues across Yorkshire in a new tour. Grace Hammond reports.

If his 13 years away from the stage is not enough to entice Alan Partridge fans to catch a glimpse of the character during his new live tour, then perhaps an intriguing description of what to expect from the show from the man who created him will do it.

Steve Coogan calls Stratagem a cross between a Ted Talk and West Side Story - “there will be singing and dancing to keep people entertained but there will also be a heavyweight element to it” - promising that each stage on the tour will be riddled with metaphorical mines which could explode at any second under the weight of Alan’s inappropriate musings or clumsy turns of phrase.

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On stage: Alan Partridge is back on tour after 13 years. Photo: Trevor Leighton.On stage: Alan Partridge is back on tour after 13 years. Photo: Trevor Leighton.
On stage: Alan Partridge is back on tour after 13 years. Photo: Trevor Leighton.

“Alan will be trying to impart his accumulated wisdom and put it into some form that has cogency, so that he can ‘help’ other people,” says Coogan, who has inhabited Alan’s skin for more than 30 years since the character’s radio debut in On The Hour.

“It’s an all-encompassing, almost cripplingly broad attempt to cover all potential personal problems that people might have in processing the modern world.

“So Alan helps people navigate the rocky waters of gender, equality, diversity, sexual identity. Whatever the most precarious and dangerous landscapes that are out there, we’ll put Alan’s walking bits on and let him stomp all over them.”

Having last toured as the DJ and presenter in 2008, Coogan will need a moment to get himself fully embedded in the Partridge zone. “It’s about getting back in the saddle. I like writing drama and doing different things but I just need to remind myself that I can do this. There’s enough great stuff written for the show that I can’t wait for people to see, and once it gets up on its feet it’ll be good. I know it’s good, because we all laughed at it.”

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The ’we’ is largely Rob and Neil Gibbons, the twin brothers who have been part of the Partridge writing team since 2010, and who most recently had their own comedy series, The Witchfinder, air on BBC Two.

Though Partridge has not been live on stage, Norfolk’s beloved son has been far from idle over the past decade.

There have been published memoirs (the first of which was I Partridge: We Need To Talk About Alan), a film, a web series, documentaries (such as his caustic look at the state of Britain in Scissored Isle), a podcast and, in This Time With Alan Partridge, a new TV format for him to gingerly navigate, always skating on the thinnest of ices with his guests and co-presenter.

Coogan himself has been busy too and serious drama has become an integral part of his overall package. It started with 2013’s Philomena, an all-true odd-couple story of one woman’s half-century search for her toddler son who she gave up for adoption and the journalist who helped her.

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Then there was his role in ITV’s three-parter last year about Stephen Lawrence as DCI Clive Driscoll who reopens the case of the murdered Black teenager almost two decades after his death. And then there’s Stan & Ollie, the film about the comedic duo (Coogan as Stan, John C Reilly as Ollie), which laid bare their bittersweet relationship. Next, he’s appearing in The Reckoning for the BBC, in which Coogan plays notorious sexual predator Jimmy Savile.

For Coogan, even in the darkest corners, some chink of levity can still be found. “In all of the drama I do, I’ll deploy comedy; it’s more interesting to me as a tool in your toolbox than just an end in itself. With Partridge, you still have to be saying something at the same time as making people laugh, though a stupid joke is always welcome.

“When I come back to Partridge, it’s like a warm bath. I’ve got to a place now where I’m really comfortable with it; I don’t have to do it, I choose to do it. And that way, it will always be enjoyable.”

Stratagem is in Sheffield, Hull and Leeds over the coming weeks. Visit