On the Mad Genius of “An Idiot Abroad”

Days of laying in bed, crying fits in the bathtub, nary a sleep without nightmares for two weeks. When I set out to start my year long adventure in Japan, I didn’t exactly have these things penciled into the itinerary. Japan, I can remember thinking, was the place I had spent the best summer of my life. Japan would be a newer, happier chapter to help punctuate a few rough years. Japan, I was certain, would be the start of something new.

Luckily, with a little time, assorted offal cooked on tiny halberds of timber, and an addiction to exploration, real Japan has since fallen more in line with the Japan of fantasy. Well, that’s almost true; I’ve yet to visit to the smoke-filled halls and booze soaked rooms of a karaoke joint since my return in December.

Of all the salves that kept me from taking the next flight out of Narita, the ramblings of an idiot — a famous idiot — were likely the most potent.

Perhaps I’m not being fair. Karl Pilkington, the star of the hit travelogue/punishment porn TV series “An Idiot Abroad” may very well not be an idiot. Going off his antics in the series, not to mention the part where he’s called as much in the title of his show, the disparaging title seems, at least, like useful shorthand.

If you’ve not seen Mr.Pilkington’s adventures in travel and schadenfreude, the highlights go something like this: bungee diving, awkward dancing, ignorant yet comedic xenophobia, etc. The empty headed “twonk,” as series runner Ricky Gervais often describes him, starts the show seemingly scared of anything out of place. By the end, well, look up the show on Netflix to see for yourself.

In one of “Idiot Abroad’s” dullest adventures, our hero is sent to America, where he’s charged with experiencing Route 66. Like the fabled road itself, our idiot is let down by the overblown legend of the once great highway. Yet, despite the effects of the tediously paced crawl cross-country — something both Pilkington and the viewer ostensibly feel equally — it’s in this episode that the travel-averse Englander best let’s us in on a little secret: he might not be such an idiot. In doing so, I think he may have helped save me from days of binge watching old anime and lamenting the loss of home, country, and friendship.

I can remember the scene vividly. Karl sat, arm perched on the driver side door, giving a typically ill- thought-out soliloquy on the gray, unfortunate nature of life. Suddenly, the clouds broke, and for a moment, that gray dialogue turned to technicolor, strangely leaving me inspired and wanting to get out of bed.

If your dreams are better than your life, what is the point? Your dreams should never be better than your real life.

I really started to feel better from the time I heard Karl say, “If your dreams are better than your life, what is the point? Your dreams should never be better than your real life.” How hard that hit me, as I sat there lamenting the country that existed in a dream, a collection of broken memories from years ago. Of course, in true form, our idiot followed that bit of genius with a far more typical bit of insanity. The full quote reads:

If your dreams are better than your life, what is the point? Your dreams should never be better than your real life — unless you’re a sloth. ‘cuz, then, they’re asleep a lot, aren’t they?

So, admittedly, Mr. Pilkington is an idiot, in the same way your drunken, mildly racist but lovable uncle is an idiot. That same experience deprived intelligence, though, had enough spark to push this idiot out of bed and back onto the trail.


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