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New series no joking matter

Serious: Karl Pilkington, a bit of an antidote.Why did you stop doing An Idiot Abroad and tackle something a little more serious in The Moaning of Life?

The last four years has been pretty non-stop, so, to be honest, I am not sure I remember why. If this was a police investigation, I wouldn’t be able to give you the answer. My head is a mess up there. Someone just asked me what places I had visited and I can’t remember. (The answer is Japan, South Africa, Mexico and Taiwan.) I couldn’t do An Idiot Abroad any more. I got tired of staying in shitty places and eating horrible food. I’m 41 now. I was 40 then, and I thought, what am I doing?

The Moaning of Life tackles big questions about cultures and societies. Why those questions and why the search for answers?

This was the next sort of natural thing, in a way. They had the idea of the big topics in life. I suppose during An Idiot Abroad I would still talk about those things, but when it came to editing the program, it wasn’t really the place. In the end, Richard [executive producer Richard Yee] came up with this idea that I was 40 and there’s a lot of big things in life you’re meant to do and I hadn’t done them: I’m not married and I haven’t got kids.

How happy were you with the result?

I think it’s good. I’m not into blowing my own trumpet, because no one’s going to believe me, anyway. If I say it’s really good, they would go, ”Well you would say that – you’re in it”, but I am quite proud of it. I know that I don’t always understand the bigger picture on some of these topics, but I am honest about it. What comes out of my head at the time is what I believe and some people will agree, some won’t, but even take me out of it and look at the things I am witnessing and you will learn something from it. It’s not a joke.

Do you think people presume it’s comedy because you’re delivering it?

I did the stuff with Ricky and Steve [Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant] and, as a result, I think people have struggled understanding me. They go, ”Oh, he’s messing about. It’s a joke.” It’s not a joke. It’s also because it’s nine days away, condensed into 45 minutes. There might be a bit where I sit there doing nothing because I can’t be arsed and I’m not in the mood, or I’m in a mood. It’s a bit like Big Brother in that way. If you watch the edited version, it’s really intense, but if you watch the live feed, it’s like nothing is happening. The most appealing part of this, I think, is that you serve as a bit of an antidote to the hyper-produced television bulls in the travel genre. A lot of that stuff is even done before they’ve got on a plane. It’s written at home. This isn’t planned. There was a time in series two of An Idiot Abroad when they buried me alive in Russia and they thought I’d come out and be livid, and I came out of there and stood there and said, ”That was really relaxing”. That was a great moment for me, because it annoyed them. It was relaxing. I hadn’t been sleeping. It had been a mad trip and suddenly I was underground breathing through a pipe and I was alone. It was quiet and I was happy.

The Moaning of Life airs on ABC1 tonight at 9.30pm and on January 9 at 8.30pm.

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