Global explorer and serial complainer Karl Pilkington returned earlier this month with the launch of his brand new book 'More Moaning' from Canongate. Documenting his travels across the world as part of his latest TV series, Karl expands on the places he went, the different people he met, and what he experienced whilst trying to find answers to some of life's biggest questions – all explained with the hilarious scrutiny and general wonderment that is unique to Karl.
For over 10 years Karl has been entertaining audiences with his views and beliefs. With his natural talent for making people laugh - albeit unintentionally - ability to cut through bluff and bravado, and an over willingness to speak his mind, his journeys of enlightenment are as compelling as they are funny. In 'More Moaning' Karl sets off around the world again, this time to ask questions and find out about issues such as identity, time, art, and the body.
In the following Q&A WhatCulture got the chance to ask Karl about his approach to writing and what his favourite (and least favourite) experiences were from the trip. Not only that but we got the unique opportunity to probe further into whether travelling has changed how he perceives the world, what he would change about modern living, and what he has planned for the future....
More Moaning is now your 7th book. Do you feel that the whole process of structuring your thoughts, deciding what to include and omit, and then putting it down on paper, has now become easier than when you first started?
I know - 7th book! I never wrote one essay at school so it's mad to think I've knocked out 7 books. What's weird is, I've only read about that many in all of my life. I'd say if anything it's got harder for me. I normally don't start at the beginning, I start mid chapter and then move everything around at the end and then read through it all and add more as I go. I couldn't do it if it wasn't for copy and paste so I could move stuff around. I don't know how Dickens did it back in the day as I make too many errors to write direct onto paper. My school text book pages used to be covered in tip ex cos of this. The pages were brittle due to the amount of hardened correction fluid. They were as delicate as papadums.
During the filming for the latest series of The Moaning Of Life, which is obviously the period of time covered by the book, you were introduced to some fairly weird and oddball behaviour and beliefs from all over the world - including using urine as medicine, painting with your own vomit, and being introduced to a man who relies solely on the sun's rays for energy. What was your favourite experience(s) from this latest adventure? And what was your least favourite?
I got to see and do some pretty mental stuff. Least favourite was probably being dropped into raw sewage in Mexico for the episode where I looked at pollution. Favourite part was me getting a wig fitted during the trip where I looked at my identity. I've been bald since I was about 21 so it was good to feel hair on my head again. It wasn't one of those old fashion wigs that you take off at the end of the day, it was this modern type that is actually glued to your head. I showered and slept in it and everything. I got to wake up with bed head which I haven't done for years.
From being someone who displayed a fair degree of reluctance in being removed from your comfort zone, whether that was visiting new places or the immersion within different cultures, you have now gone on to be a remarkably well travelled man. Looking back is there things you now wish you had may be appreciated and embraced more on those earlier travels?
I don't know what you mean as I think I did embrace everything on my earlier trips, it's just that I didn't always understand what all the fuss was about. If I went and saw the wonders of the world again I think I still wouldn't enjoy it as they are normally rammed with tourists with locals selling over priced tat. I'd say most people who were there weren't enjoying it but they convince themselves that they are as they've used their hard earned wages to be there. I'm sure the wonders of the world were special before they attracted millions of people to them. I think you should have to have a test or something before you go to see the wonders, if you fail the test due to not knowing enough about their history you can't enter... as I think the people who are really into the history of them can't enjoy it due to the people who are just there cos they think it's the thing to do.
As the 'The Enlightened One' is there anything, which you have seen/experienced/witnessed across all your travels that you have since integrated in to your own way of living, and now forms part of your own routine?
Now and again I do a bit of Mongolian throat singing while I'm washing up if I'm the only one in the house but other than that, no.
And is there anyone who you have met who has particularly inspired you and caused you to reflect on how you have lived your own life?
I met a man a few years back in America called Daniel Suelo who had given up money. I spent a day with him and he explained to me how he was happier without money in his life and got most stuff he needed like clothes and food out of skips and bins. When me girlfriend buys crap we don't need like cushions with images of cats on, I think, yeh Daniel had a point.
There have been a number of times in the past when people have questioned the genuineness of your persona, and regarded a lot of what you say and do as being an act. Although it is now generally acknowledged and accepted that you are who you are, the experiences you've had have inevitably opened your mind, and perhaps allowed you to become more tolerant and understanding of different things. Taking this in to account do you feel pressure to act ignorant or uninformed at times, to play up to the perception of the 'silly' or 'absurd' version of Karl which people sometimes expect?
Not that many people have questioned the genuineness of me, if anything, all I seem to get are people coming up to me telling me how much I remind them of their dad or brother. There's loads of people like me all over the world, it's just that not many of them end up on the TV. I'd say it's the people who are on the TV constantly smiling and being happy that you have to question the genuineness of.
You've hinted in recent months that you are 'on the end of the edge', and may be looking to a future away from the television side of things. Is this also likely to be the last book we see from you, and if so what are you hoping to do moving forward? Or have to got plans to move more towards a career in literature?
What you have to remember is that all of this happened by accident for me. All of this was never part of a big plan, so there's times when I think I've had enough of it all. Last year I'd been on Alan Carr's TV show promoting the new series and I bumped into John Bishop as he'd been a guest on Jonathon Ross (they're recorded in the same building) and I was telling him how I'd had enough of it all and he told me that i couldn't really leave the job and go back to something normal as he said I'd always be that bloke off the telly. And he's right in a way. You never call out a plumber or electrician to find its someone who used to be in coronation street or presented a quiz. Why have I never tapped a shop assistant on the shoulder when asking where the crumpets are to find it's Timmy Mallet stacking the shelf. Where do all these TV people go after telly?The only person I can think of is Zammo out of the kids show Grange Hill. He jacked it all in and became a key cutter in Surrey apparently.
You have also stated in the past that people should look to try something new every day, even if they don't enjoy it. Is there one thing you do that you think more people could benefit from trying?
I think everyone should have a go at writing a diary. It's a good way of appreciating your life when you relive the day by writing down what you have been up to.
You have a canny knack of viewing the world in a very pragmatic way. What knowledge do you think has actually over-complicated human life rather than improved it? Or what do you wish humans could unlearn?
Social media. I hate it. The people who are doing it like to show off what they have, and sometimes only do things so they can tell others about it rather than just doing it for themselves, and the readers of the messages get annoyed as their lives don't seem as interesting as the people who's messages they're reading. It's a mess. I hope I'm around to see the day when it's all turned off as I'm not sure it brings much happiness.
What is the Moaning of Life? That is, what is the thing in your life you find yourself moaning about more than anything else? What is your biggest moan about the world right now?
Listen, it's a myth that I moan all the time. You probably moan just as much as I do. We all like a moan now and again. It's just one of the natural emotions innit. Snow White's dwarves weren't all happy were they, there was a grumpy one in there. How would we ever know we were happy if we never had to have a moan about something.
More Moaning is available now in paperback and ebook - buy it now from Amazon.
If you would like to be in with a chance on winning 1 of 5 signed copies that we're giving away simply submit your name and address details to firstname.lastname@example.org, making sure to quote 'More Moaning' in the subject line. Competition closes on 10th November 2016.