Dueling Comedians on a Road Trip

June 12th, 2011, byJeremy Freed

From the first time I saw the clip of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon doing their best to out-Michael Caine each other, I knew I would enjoy The Trip.

Initially released by BBC as a 6-part series, The Trip is now in theaters in the U.S. and Canada as a feature-length film. Directed by Michael Winterbottom, who previously worked with Coogan on 24 Hour Party People and Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, The Trip follows Coogan and Brydon, playing themselves on a road trip through the English countryside.

The plot is simple — Coogan is writing reviews of fancy restaurants for a newspaper and asks Brydon to come along and keep him company — leaving plenty of room for the two of them to stretch their comedic legs. Indeed, over the long drives and dinners that ensue, the two comedians go head to head, doing impressions, bickering constantly and otherwise trying to get under each others’ skin.

At the outset of filming, Coogan and Brydon made an agreement that neither of them could get offended by anything the other said in the course of improvising the film’s dialogue. “What makes it interesting,” Coogan told Dave Davies in a recent interview on NPR’s Fresh Air, “is that there’s an edge to it and a discomfort to it that makes it engaging. It’s not just a couple of actors saying, ‘Get a load of me. I’m laughing at myself.’ There are a couple of moments where I find Rob irritating — genuinely — and I respond naturally.”

While the trip is frequently laugh-out-loud funny, it’s also extremely poignant — delving into the pitfalls of fame, success and relationships in meaningful and insightful ways. It’s a balance that is unique to British comedy and one that makes a viewing of The Trip well worth your time.

Last modified: June 20, 2011 at 10:21 am