Actor Autobiographer Comedian Composer Film actor Film producer Musician Screenwriter Stage actor Television actor

Steve Coogan

Quick Facts

IntroEnglish actor and comedian
Is Actor
Comedian
Screenwriter
Film producer
Film actor
Musician
Composer
Stage actor
Autobiographer
Television actor
From United Kingdom
Type Film, TV, Stage, Radio
Humor
Literature
Music
Gendermale
Birth 14 October 1965, Middleton, United Kingdom
Age55 years
Star signLibra
Family
Siblings: Brendan Coogan
Stats
Height: 1.77165 m

Biography

Stephen John Coogan (/ˈkɡən/; born 14 October 1965) is an English actor, voice artist, comedian, screenwriter, and producer. He began his career in the 1980s as a voice actor on the satirical puppet show Spitting Image and providing voice-overs for television advertisements. In the 1990s, he began creating original characters. In 1999, he co-founded the production company Baby Cow Productions with Henry Normal.

While working with Armando Iannucci on On the Hour and The Day Today, Coogan developed the character of Alan Partridge, a socially inept and politically incorrect media personality. Partridge has featured in several television series and the 2013 film Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa. Coogan grew in prominence within the film industry in 2002, after starring in The Parole Officer and 24 Hour Party People. He portrayed Phileas Fogg in the 2004 film Around the World in 80 Days and co-starred with Rob Brydon in The Trip, The Trip to Italy, The Trip to Spain, and A Cock and Bull Story.

Coogan has also played dramatic roles, including What Maisie Knew (2012), and portrayed Paul Raymond in the biopic The Look of Love (2013) and Stan Laurel in Stan & Ollie (2018). In 2013, he co-wrote, produced, and starred in the film Philomena, which earned him nominations at the Golden Globes and BAFTAs, and the Academy Awards for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture.

Early life

Stephen John Coogan was born on 14 October 1965 in Middleton, Lancashire, the son of housewife Kathleen (née Coonan) and IBM engineer Anthony Coogan. He has four brothers and one sister, and was raised Roman Catholic in a “lower-middle or upper-working class” family which emphasised the values of education. His younger brother, Brendan, went on to present Top Gear, while his elder brother, Martin, became the lead singer of the rock band The Mock Turtles. Coogan’s mother is Irish and hails from County Mayo, while his father is also of Irish descent. During the 1950s, his paternal grandfather established a dance hall for Irish immigrants. Coogan attended Cardinal Langley Roman Catholic High School. He has stated that he had a happy childhood, and his parents fostered children on a short-term basis. As a family, it was assumed that all the children would become teachers. Coogan had a talent for impersonation and wanted to go to drama school, despite being advised by a teacher that it could lead to a precarious profession. After five failed applications to various drama schools in London, he received a place at the New Music theatre company before gaining a place at the Manchester Polytechnic School of Drama, where he met future collaborator John Thomson.

Career

Early career

Coogan began his career as a comic and impressionist, performing regularly in Ipswich, before working as a voice artist for television advertisements and the satirical puppet show Spitting Image. In 1989, he appeared in a series of specially shot sketches in the Observation round in the long-running ITV game show The Krypton Factor. In 1992, Coogan won the Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for his performance with long-time collaborator John Thomson, and starred alongside Caroline Aherne and John Thomson in a one-off Granada TV sketch show The Dead Good Show. His most prominent characters developed at this time were Paul Calf, a stereotypical working class Mancunian, and his sister Pauline, played by Coogan in drag.

Alan Partridge

While working with Armando Iannucci and Chris Morris on the Radio 4 comedy On the Hour, Coogan conceived his most popular and developed character, a socially awkward and politically incorrect regional media personality. He appeared as a sports presenter on the television comedy The Day Today, before hosting his own chat show, Knowing Me Knowing You with Alan Partridge. In 1997, Partridge returned in the sitcom I’m Alan Partridge, which was followed by a second series in 2002, and received five BAFTA nominations. Partridge featured in Coogan’s 2008 stand-up tour.

He revisited the character in two one-off Sky Atlantic specials, including Alan Partridge: Welcome to the Places of My Life, which received a further two BAFTA nominations, as well as the mockumentary Mid Morning Matters with Alan Partridge. A feature-length film, Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, was released in 2013. After a 17 year hiatus, the character returned to the BBC in 2019 with the parody magazine/current affairs show This Time with Alan Partridge.

In a 2001 poll conducted by Channel 4 Partridge was ranked seventh on their list of the 100 Greatest TV Characters. Coogan still enjoys rewatching and laughing at his Partridge persona. Occasionally, in character as Partridge, Coogan has made some comedic references to Ireland. Coogan has an Irish heritage. The Irish references are widely enjoyed in Ireland, such as the quotable RTE producers meeting in the hotel, and 2019’s “Irish Alan Partridge” sequence.

TV roles

Paul Calf first began as a character named ‘Duncan Disorderly’ in Coogan’s early stand-up routines. Calf first came to wider public notice in 1993, with several appearances on Saturday Zoo, a late-night variety show presented by Jonathan Ross on Channel 4. Paul has appeared in two video diaries, an episode of Coogan’s Run, and in various stand-up performances. He is an unemployed Mancunian wastrel with a particular hatred of students. His catchphrase is “Bag o’ shite”. Paul lives in a council house in the fictional town of Ottle with his mother and his sister, Pauline Calf (also played by Coogan). His father, Pete Calf (played by Coogan in Coogan’s Run) died some time before the first video diary was made. For a long time he was obsessed with getting back together with his ex-girlfriend, Julie. Paul’s best friend is “Fat” Bob (played by John Thomson), a car mechanic who eventually married Pauline. Paul supports Manchester City and is very partial to Wagon Wheels. He wears Burton suits, sports a bleached mullet and drives a Ford Cortina.

Other Coogan creations include Tommy Saxondale, Duncan Thicket, Ernest Eckler and Portuguese Eurovision Song Contest winner Tony Ferrino. Duncan Thicket has appeared in a tour of live shows. Other TV shows he has starred in include Coogan’s Run, Dr. Terrible’s House of Horrible, Monkey Trousers and Saxondale. Coogan has provided voices for the animated series I Am Not an Animal and Bob and Margaret, two Christmas specials featuring Robbie the Reindeer, and an episode of the BBC Radio Four spoof sci-fi series Nebulous.

He played the Gnat in the 1998 TV adaptation of Alice Through the Looking Glass starring Kate Beckinsale, and also starred in BBC2’s The Private Life of Samuel Pepys in 2003, and Cruise of the Gods in 2002. In 2006, he had a cameo in the Little Britain Christmas special as a pilot taking Lou and Andy to Disneyland. In 2007, Coogan played a psychiatrist on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, and in 2008, starred in the BBC1 drama Sunshine.

In 2010, he reworked with Brydon and Winterbottom for the partially improvised BBC2 sitcom The Trip, in which he and Brydon tour northern restaurants.

Film roles

Notable film roles include Factory Records boss Tony Wilson in the film 24 Hour Party People and Octavius in Night at the Museum.

He has played himself several times on screen. First, in one of the vignettes of Jim Jarmusch’s 2003 film Coffee and Cigarettes, alongside Alfred Molina. Second, in 2006 Coogan starred with Rob Brydon in Michael Winterbottom’s A Cock and Bull Story, a self-referential film of the “unfilmable” self-referential novel Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne. In the film, Coogan plays a fictional, womanising version of himself. Thirdly, he played himself in the 2010 film The Trip. He worked again with director Winterbottom in The Look of Love, about ’50s porn-king Paul Raymond. His fourth time playing himself on screen was in the 2014 film The Trip to Italy, a film about him and Rob Brydon taking a food-tasting trip through Italy, followed in 2017 by The Trip to Spain.

The first film which he co-wrote with Henry Normal was The Parole Officer, in which he also acted alongside Ben Miller and Lena Headey. Coogan has an uncredited cameo in Hot Fuzz, scripted by Shaun of the Dead writers Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright.

Coogan’s most acclaimed work to date is the drama-comedy Philomena, which he co-wrote, produced, and starred in with Judi Dench. This performance earned him a Golden Globe nomination, among many other nominations (and some wins). Philomena was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. In 2018, Coogan played English comedian Stan Laurel in the film biopic Stan & Ollie, starring opposite American actor John C. Reilly who played Oliver Hardy.

Awards

Coogan’s show Steve Coogan in character with John Thomson was winner of the Perrier Award for best show at the 1992 Edinburgh Fringe. He has won numerous awards for his work in TV including British Comedy Awards, BAFTAs and The South Bank Show award for comedy. In 2003, he was listed in The Observer as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy. In 2005, a poll to find the Comedians’ Comedian saw him being voted amongst the top 20 greatest comedy acts ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders.

Stand-up comedy comeback tour

In March 2008, it was confirmed that Coogan would return to doing stand-up comedy as part of his first stand-up tour in ten years. The tour, named “Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge and other less successful characters”, saw the return of some of his old characters including Paul Calf and Alan Partridge. Reviews of the tour were mixed. Much of the criticism focused on the apparent unrehearsed quality of some of the performances and on Coogan’s nervous stage presence. Chortle comedy guide described it as “most definitely a show of two halves: the superlative Alan Partridge plus a collection of characters that are not only less successful, but woefully less funny”.

As the tour progressed and the problems were ironed out, reviews were very positive. Dominic Maxwell of The Times described the show as “twice as entertaining as most other comedy shows this year.” Brian Logan of The Guardian awarded it four stars and described it as “shamelessly funny.” Reviews such as the one from the Trent FM Arena exemplified how much the show had improved after dealing with the glitches on its first few dates: “When Steve Coogan first brought this show to Nottingham last month, the reviews were poor… the intervening weeks have made a big difference, and last night’s audience at the Trent FM Arena went home happy. More please, and soon.”

In 2009, Coogan was featured, alongside Vic Reeves, Bob Mortimer and Julia Davis, in the spoof documentary TV film Steve Coogan – The Inside Story. The same year he spoke on the influence of Monty Python on his comedy when he appeared in the television documentary, Monty Python: Almost the Truth (Lawyers Cut).

Baby Cow Productions

Coogan, along with his writing partner Henry Normal, founded Baby Cow Productions in 1999. Together, they have served as executive producers for shows such as The Mighty Boosh, Nighty Night, Marion and Geoff, Gavin & Stacey, Human Remains and Moone Boy, as well as the Alan Partridge feature film Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa. They have also produced Where Are the Joneses?, an online sitcom which uses wiki technology to allow the audience to upload scripts and storyline ideas.

In 2008, BBC Worldwide bought a 25% stake in the production company. They did not offer the largest sum but that they were chosen by Coogan & Normal due to their previous work and strong connection with the BBC. In 2016, after Henry Normal stood down, Christine Langan (Head of BBC Film at the time) was hired by Coogan (creative director of Baby Cow Productions) as the new CEO which led to an increase in BBC Worldwide’s stake to 73%.

Since joining, Christine Langan has executively produced all of the content from Baby Cow Productions, including Camping, Stan & Ollie, Zapped and The Witchfinder.

In the media

Public image

Coogan has said that he likes to “keep [himself] private”, and added: “I have never wanted to be famous, as such – fame is a by-product.” He has been a popular target of the British tabloid press since 1996, and has stated that they have subjected him to entrapment and blackmail, printed obvious lies about him, and have targeted his family and friends in attempts to extract stories from them. Coogan in some cases gave a strong denial to allegations, but in others did not contest them because he wanted to shield vulnerable friends from adverse publicity. The tabloids also published intrusive information about his relationships and the schooling of his child. Coogan has also been critical of the broadsheet press, saying they have colluded with the tabloids in the interests of selling newspapers. In 2005 he said “The Guardian tends to have its cake and eat it. It waits for the tabloids to dish the dirt and then it talks about the tabloids dishing the dirt while enjoying it themselves.” However, he later gave credit to the same newspaper for its investigation of the phone hacking scandal. He has said that the press, by persistently intruding in his private life, has effectively made him “immune” to further attack as his “closet is empty of skeletons”.

Phone hacking scandal

Coogan became a prominent figure in the News International phone hacking scandal as one of the celebrities who took action against the British tabloids in light of these events. He was made aware by his phone service provider of “possible anomalies” on his phone in 2005 and 2006. In 2010, Coogan’s legal firm obtained a partially redacted version of Glenn Mulcaire’s hacking notebook by a court order which showed Coogan had been targeted and his personal information was in the possession of Mulcaire.

Mulcaire was forced by the High Court of Justice to disclose to Coogan’s legal team who amongst the staff at the News of the World ordered him to hack phones. This information was obtained by Coogan’s lawyers on 26 August 2011.
Interviewed on Newsnight on 8 July 2011, Coogan said he was “delighted” by the closure of the News of the World and said it was a “fantastic day for journalism”. He said the idea of press freedom was used by the tabloids as a “smokescreen for selling papers with tittle-tattle” and said the argument against press regulation was “morally bankrupt”.

Coogan provided an eight-page witness statement to the Leveson Inquiry and appeared at the inquiry on 22 November 2011 to discuss the evidence. He said he was there reluctantly representing a lot of celebrities who felt they could not speak out for fear of reprisals from the tabloid press.

Personal life

Coogan married Caroline Hickman in 2002, and divorced in 2005. He entered rehab for personal issues. He dated model China Chow for three years. In March 2011, Coogan was guest editor for lads mag Loaded, where he met and began dating glamour model Loretta “Elle” Basey. They were together until 2014. He has a daughter, Clare Coogan-Cole, from a previous four-year relationship with solicitor Anna Cole.

Although raised Catholic, Coogan is now an atheist. He supports Manchester United FC. A motoring enthusiast, he has owned a succession of Ferrari cars, but stopped buying them after realising that the depreciation and running costs were greater than hiring a private plane. In February 2016, he was fined £670 and banned from driving for 28 days after being caught speeding in Brighton. In August 2019, he escaped the usual six-month ban for a further speeding offence by saying that his next TV series depends on his ability to drive; he was given a two-month ban and a £750 fine.

Coogan’s autobiography, Easily Distracted, was published in October 2015.

Politics

On 22 November 2011, Coogan gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry on phone hacking, favouring regulation of the press.

Coogan supports the Labour Party. He believes that the Conservative Party think “people are plebs” and that “they like to pat people on the head”. In August 2014, Coogan was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September’s referendum on that issue.

In June 2017, Coogan endorsed Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in the 2017 UK general election. He opened for Corbyn at a rally in Birmingham, saying: “The Tory tactic was to try to make this a choice between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, but this has backfired as people – and I readily admit to being one of them – have started to listen to what Jeremy Corbyn says rather than what other people have been saying about him.”

In November 2019, along with other public figures, Coogan signed a letter supporting Corbyn describing him as “a beacon of hope in the struggle against emergent far-right nationalism, xenophobia and racism in much of the democratic world” and endorsed him in the 2019 general election. In December 2019, along with 42 other leading cultural figures, he signed a letter endorsing the Labour Party under Corbyn’s leadership in the 2019 general election. The letter stated that “Labour’s election manifesto under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership offers a transformative plan that prioritises the needs of people and the planet over private profit and the vested interests of a few”.

Awards and nominations

YearTitleAwardCategoryResult
1992In Character with John ThomsonPerrier Comedy AwardBest Comedy ShowWon
1994Knowing Me Knowing You with Alan PartridgeBritish Comedy AwardsBest Male TV PerformerWon
1995Pauline Calf’s Wedding VideoBAFTAsBest Comedy PerformanceNominated
Knowing Me Knowing You with Alan PartridgeBest Light Entertainment PerformanceNominated
1998I’m Alan PartridgeBritish Comedy AwardsBest TV Comedy ActorWon
BAFTAsBest Comedy PerformanceWon
Best Comedy (Programme or Series)Won
2002The Parole OfficerBAFTA Award for Best NewcomerNominated
2003Cruise of the GodsBritish Comedy AwardsBest TV Comedy ActorWon
I’m Alan PartridgeBAFTAsBest Comedy PerformanceNominated
Royal Television SocietyNominated
24 Hour Party PeopleEmpire AwardsBest British ActorNominated
Online Film Critics SocietyBest Breakthrough PerformanceNominated
2005Happy EndingsSatellite AwardBest Supporting ActorNominated
2011The TripBAFTAsBest Male Comedy PerformanceWon
2013Alan Partridge: Welcome to the Places of My LifeBAFTAsBest Male Comedy PerformanceWon
2014PhilomenaAcademy AwardsBest PictureNominated
Best Writing – Adapted ScreenplayNominated
BAFTAsBest Writing – Adapted ScreenplayWon
Best British FilmNominated
Best FilmNominated
2017Alan Partridge’s Scissored IsleBAFTAsBest Male Comedy PerformanceWon
2019 Holmes & Watson, Ideal Home, Stan & OllieALFS AwardsBritish/Irish Actor of the YearNominated
Stan & OllieBAFTAsBest Actor in a Leading RoleNominated
N/ABritannia AwardsCharlie Chaplin Britannia Award for Excellence in ComedyWon

Stand-up releases

YearTitle
1994Live ‘N’ Lewd
1998Live – The Man Who Thinks He’s It
2003Paul and Pauline Calf’s Cheese and Ham Sandwich
2009As Alan Partridge And Other Less Successful Characters – Live