Karl Pilkington (Sky)
Interview Words : Peter Moore | 04 October

Karl Pilkington on The Moaning of Life

Serial moaner Karl Pilkington sets off around the globe to find out how other cultures approach life's big issues. The answers may surprise you

In his latest travel series, The Moaning of Life, Karl Pilkington sets off around the globe to find out how other cultures approach life's big issues like marriage, death and kids. Travelling from far-flung tribes to high-tech cities, he experiences everything from a drive-thru wedding in Las Vegas to a vocational theme park in Japan, he meets a group of people in Mexico who find happiness through pain, undergoes a plastic surgery procedure in LA, and even encounters a woman in Bali who lets him help deliver her baby.

At a recent press preview of the series, Karl Pilkington spoke of how he is a simple man who lives for the memories, not the moment. And how there's too much crying on television. Peter Moore was in attendance.

I did moan a lot on series one of Idiot Abroad but then after it was over, I realised that my memories of it were quite good. So even though at the time I never enjoyed it, and it’s the same with this one, but after I think, “Actually, that was alright. I got something out of that.” For me it’s like therapy being able to moan.

I really wanted Steve and Ricky to go on the series of An Idiot Abroad that Warwick did. I think Steve would have been alright, because he likes to get stuck in, but Ricky would have just moaned. He wouldn’t have been happy and that would have got me down. He would have been whining, "There’s no wifi, I can’t go on Twitter."

People ask me why I’m doing another series. Let’s be honest. It’s always the money.

It’s all done off the cuff, nothing is scripted. I wish it was because it would make the trips a lot easier.

I like to wander in, ask whatever questions and get out. Whatever happens, happens. There’s no use worrying about what people might say. It’s much better just to wander in and go “What’s all that about?”

In the marriage episode I could have gone home from India with a new wife. It was mad! I met the family for an hour and 15 minutes and they were serious. We got a text from them asking what I was doing and whether I wanted to catch up for a coffee. I quite liked the idea the idea of arranged marriages. I think I’d be happy with it as a way of meeting someone.

I went to a Pheromone dating party in LA and I think it was a really good way of meeting people. If someone stinks, you can’t live with them, can you? It doesn’t matter how good-looking you are. It’s like when you’ve got dog shit on your shoe and you can’t think about anything else.

I went to my first funeral in Ghana filming this programme. I had to get involved with a dead body, a granny. I was pushing her legs over her head and stand her up in the corner of the room. Do her up. In Ghana funerals are celebrated. They’re not considered bad. It’s probably the biggest thing that happens in your life. The family we visited were like, ‘Yeah, we’d love to have it filmed.’

I don’t know if the stuff from the funeral in Ghana will go out on the tele. It was that mental. Sky might get nervous. They might say we’re going to do a show about Greggs the bakers instead.

I'm not the kind of person who goes on emotional journeys. That’s what people are used to on the tele, ‘I’m on a journey.’ I’m going on a journey but when they get to the end and they're crying. There’s none of that.

Everyone’s crying on the tele. Someone having a new garden and they’re crying!  I don’t think you need it. The things we are looking at are mental. So we don’t need a shot of someone crying. If you need crying to make something interesting then it is shit.

I don’t want kids. I wasn’t going to get to the end of the episode about children and say ‘What a mistake I’ve made! Let’s have kids. Let’s get at it now!’ It’s never going to happen.

In Japan, all the rude films and pictures are pixilated. I went to a sperm bank and the doctor apologised that the magazines and DVDs were Japanese. I was like, ‘What’s that about?’ It’s not hard to figure out the storyline. What he meant was that over there, rude bits are all pixelated so you can’t see anything.

I have a reputation as being miserable. But I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t want to do it. Most of the stuff is interesting, it’s just that I’ll give an honest opinion at the end of it, whether I enjoyed it or not. In the episode on happiness, there’s loads of stuff in there where I’m smiling.

There are too many grinning people on tele. Everyone is smiling, everyone is over the moon. Or they’re crying because they’re so happy. Suddenly, you’ve got someone looking normal and they say ‘He’s miserable!’ I’m not! I’m normal!

As much as I didn’t like the Indian wedding, it’s pretty good to say that I’ve been to one. I never want to go again, but that’s OK. I’ve done it now.

I'm a simple man. Before I went away on the episode about happiness, I just sat in the garden. It was a sunny day, I was cutting my toenails, I had a Tunnick’s (sic) tea cake and a cup of tea, Suzanne was messing about with plants and I was like ‘This is alright.’ You never do your toenails when you’re stressed out, do you? It’s not something you cram into a busy schedule. You do it when you’re chilled out.

There’s a tribe in Mexico who run for days and get happiness from that. I prefer simpler things. Like putting a dressing table together. At the end of it you think, ‘I did that!’ I like doing stuff. People go to a lot of trouble to be happy.

The main difference between filming The Moaning of Life and An Idiot Abroad? The hotels were nicer this time.

People don’t like talking about death, but it’s my favourite thing to talk about. In the Philippines people only get a five-year lease on a grave and then it’s like ‘Alright, get out.’ I was in a grave, helping drag a body out, and I was like, why are we funny about death? That person is no longer here. They’ve had their go. Why they are taking up land space when you’ve got people living in basement flats?

I think about death a lot. Especially at night, when I’m sort of nodding off. It’s the thing that calms me down, like counting sheep. Thinking that one day I won’t be here stops any other problems I’ve got going on in my head. It’s like ‘Don’t worry about it, you’re going to be dead.’ And it puts me at ease. 

I wouldn’t just go to a tribe and wander in. You’ve got to be careful, because you don’t know what you’re walking in to. There’s still the odd cannibal. I wouldn’t recommend it.

We used to go to a big hotel in Spain and watch some bloke with a funny wig on playing the piano. There’d always be some pissed up old woman at the end of the night singing ‘White Cliffs of Dover’. And I liked that. It’s an experience, isn’t it?

It’s all about memories, isn't it? When people say you should live for the moment, I say ’What’s the point of that?‘ But if you live for the memories, they stay with you forever, unless you get some brain illness or something. That’s why Alzheimer's is so tragic.

The Moaning of LifeThe Moaning of Life will begin on Sky 1 at 9pm on October 20.