Steve Coogan on ‘culture shock’ of writing comedy for Channel 4 after years at BBC

Steve Coogan talks about Alan Partridge getting 'cancelled'

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Steve Coogan has admitted it was a “culture shock” moving to Channel 4 from the BBC when writing his new comedy Chivalry. The comedian said the BBC are much more “laissez faire” when it comes to the creative process. 

Comedy-drama Chivalry explores cancel culture and dating in a post #MeToo environment. 

Alan Partridge actor Steve, 56, plays Cameron O’Neill, the producer of a problematic film, while Him & Her star Sarah plays Bobby Sohrabi, a passionate indie filmmaker. 

“For me it was a bit of a culture shock, I have to say,” Steve confessed to and other press. 

“Because I am used to doing comedy with the BBC, where they are more laissez-faire. So at first, I had a little antipathy, but then I realised, ‘Oh it’s because they care about it.’ 

“And so all the engagement with Channel 4 made the show unquestionably twice as good, because it was exacted and all the questions and notes were not generic, they were all really getting to the nub of things, they spotted things that didn’t quite work, they have seen it and they’ve flagged it.”

He continued: “So it was great, because it made the show better. When people want to get involved, you only want smart, clever people.

“Well, I’m happy to say that was the case here, it was exacting in the right way. 

“Sometimes you have people who don’t understand, they are giving a note that doesn’t make sense because they haven’t fully understood what we are doing. That wasn’t it at all, it was always about getting it as good as possible. 

“That sort of finessing and tenacity, that last 10% of the process makes the show exponentially better. 

“You reach a tipping point, when you’ve got something that, touch wood, is different and is a bit special. 

“I love this show and what it does, and I love the fact that underpinning it, is that it’s not cynical, it’s acerbic at times but ultimately it’s about love.”

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Steve also revealed he and Sarah would get into “heated rows” while writing, but they would use their own arguments and turn them into dialogue between their characters. 

“We had quite vociferous debates and even though they were quite heated, they were never antagonistic,” said Steve.

I enjoyed the robust fencing match, and we thought, ‘Let’s try to put this into two characters.’ 

“We wrote it during the first lockdown, we got into a groove where we thought of what would be funny, what would be tricky.

“We would often break off from writing into some sort of debate, and having another row, and sometimes when it got quite heated, we’d say, ‘Let’s write down what we just said and put it into the dialogue.’”

Channel 4 promised: “Chivalry is a fresh new look on gender politics and romance, and asks the question: can one build and sustain a successful, relevant career in Hollywood without sacrificing authenticity?

“Chivalry grants the audience permission to laugh while asking complex questions that we as a society often find hard to discuss.”

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