Magazine article The New Yorker

Buddies

Magazine article The New Yorker

Buddies

Article excerpt

When comedians get together, they tend to compete, which, to the untrained observer, can look a lot like funny people being funny. That was the basis of "Tristram Shandy," Michael Winterbottom's 2005 movie, starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, as pettier versions of themselves. Last year, Winterbottom reunited the two actors for "The Trip," a BBC series in which Coogan and Brydon, playing themselves, go on a foodie road trip through northern England: Cartmel, Windermere, Ramsgill-in-Nidderdale. The show has been recut as a film--a British buddy movie, with less binge drinking and more understated taunting than its American counterparts (Brydon to Coogan, who gets trapped crossing a river: "You're stuck in a metaphor!")

For the film, Brydon and Coogan ate at Michelin-star restaurants. Passing through New York a few weeks ago, they were mostly limited to room service. But one afternoon they made time for lunch at Plein Sud, in Tribeca. They were asked to put on their food-critic hats.

"It's a very small hat," Brydon said.

"That won't fit, then," Coogan said.

"Exactly. Not on my head."

"You've got a big head," Coogan said. "A lot of famous people have big heads. Dustin Hoffman, Tom Hanks."

"Is Pacino's head quite big?" Brydon wondered.

Starters arrived--for Brydon, a tomate farcie, and, for Coogan, an Alsatian tarte flambee. Neither man cooks much, although Coogan once made risotto for thirty people. "It was a disaster," he said. "It was hugely overcooked. It broke down into literally a gray mush. It looked like you could have put bricks on it and used it to build a house." Coogan was brought up near Manchester, not far from where "The Trip" was shot. "Being from the North, I rather champion it," he said. "It was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, so that's pretty significant. We went to the Lake District, where Wordsworth and Coleridge lived." Of the region's culinary identity, he conceded, "It's a bad one. You think of battered cod and French fries and mushy peas. The most famous food of the North is black pudding, which is congealed pig's blood."

Brydon, who is Welsh, grew up on leek-and-potato soup. At drama school in Cardiff, he branched out to frozen Goblin-brand hamburgers with gravy, an era that he described as "the microwave years."

" 'The Microwave Years. …

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