Karl Pilkington had 'retired' from TV - but then came the chance to write and star in his own show, he tells Georgia Humphreys

KARL PILKINGTON is an over-thinker. Anyone who's watched him on TV before, or listened to him on The Ricky Gervais Show podcast, will know that. But nothing has sent him into a tizz quite like writing and starring in new Sky One comedy Sick Of It.

"There's no clocking in, clocking out," recalls the Mancunian, who turns 46 later this month. "You want to make something as good as you can make it. And for someone who didn't do well in school and didn't aim to get in this line of work, I think it's not bad, considering. But that anxiousness of 'I want to do better' wears you down. It was more knackering than anything else I've done."

TV presenter, author, radio producer, actor: Pilkington's done it all. He's arguably best known for An Idiot Abroad, which documented his journeys (as someone who hates travelling) to see the Seven Wonders of the World, with comedians Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant encouraging him to broaden his mind.

After that ended in 2012, he'd knocked the world of TV on the head, as he puts it, in his amusingly blunt tone. However, when Richard Yee - the director of An Idiot Abroad - suggested Pilkington make something new for Sky, "boredom" made him say yes.

The result? Sick Of It, which sees him play not only a version of himself, but also the voice inside his head - the "Inner Self".

At first the star, who lives with his long-term partner Suzanne Whiston, was insistent he wouldn't appear in the series as well as penning the script. "I thought, 'I'm not an actor. If someone else did it, they're going to do a better job.' It just worried me. But, I'm a worrier - that's what I do."

Even now, he's not sure he was right to take the lead role (a middle-aged taxi driver, who's ended up living with his aunt following a break-up, muddling through a rather mundane existence). "I don't know how you're meant to feel, when you've made something you've been that involved in from the start, to being in it, to the editing, to picking the music, watching it again and again and again... I don't see how anyone can distance themselves from it, and watch it as a viewer."

The Inner Self idea was partly inspired by the fact that Pilkington talks to himself a lot. But also the notion that "life's complicated. In some of the episodes, there are big life problems that I think other people will relate to."

One such storyline, explored in episode two, sees childless Karl being responsible for a lifelike baby doll. "At the start, he's adamant that he doesn't want a baby. It's split him and his girlfriend up. By the end, he's found it interesting to have this thing he's had to take care of and he's like, 'Maybe I could do it, maybe I do want one'."

Pilkington has said in the past he definitely doesn't want to be a dad. Does he still feel the same way?

"I think unless you're absolutely 100%, then don't do it. If Suzanne was like, 'I really want one'... You need someone to lead it. We talk about it now and again and go, 'I wonder if when we're older we go oh we regret not having kids'. But honestly, I'm like that with everything. Buying something on Amazon - I don't just go 'I need a so and so, how much are they? Buy, order.' I go, 'Well, which one? Do I need one? How much do I need it?'"

I totally understand, from chatting to him, why Pilkington has such a legion of fans. He brings up issues that are relatable - not wanting to go to parties, that he annoys Suzanne by doing DIY jobs around the house that don't really need doing, and how he's desperate for some biscuits to perk his energy levels up.

He may have had huge success thanks to his work with Gervais and Merchant, but he seems so... normal. But then, the endearing TV personality never set out to be a celebrity. "Before I started work on this, I was tinkering with the idea of helping a window cleaner, just for something to do three days a week," he quips.

* Sick Of It starts on Sky One and Now TV on Thursday