Steve Coogan's inspired, off-the-cuff lead performance in 2002's Brit-rock biopic 24 Hour Party People had American critics heralding the arrival of a unique new talent -- but to U.K. audiences, his star turn was the next logical step for one of that country's most celebrated comics. Born into a working-class, Catholic family in Manchester, England, Coogan took to performance in his teens, and hit the standup scene soon thereafter. It was there that television casting agents took notice of his spot-on impersonations of world leaders, pop stars, and sundry celebrities, and they soon put him to work playing various comedic bit parts in network shows. One of his early breakthroughs came when he provided several recurring voices on the long-running puppet show Spitting Image, a weekly satirical review that took aim at Margaret Thatcher, Michael Jackson, and Ronald Reagan, among others.
Coogan's talents led him away from the small screen to radio, where he made an even bigger splash with the comedy program On the Hour. The show gave the comedian free reign to try out a number of vocal characterizations, among them the arrogant, ignorant radio announcer Alan Partridge, whose hilariously lame puns and non-sequiturs quickly made him -- and, by proxy, Coogan -- an audience favorite. Coogan parlayed the Partridge character into a mini-empire, first with his own mock radio talk show -- cheekily titled Knowing Me, Knowing You...With Alan Partridge -- then in the flesh on 1994's BBC 2 news satire The Day Today, and finally with the wildly successful TV show Knowing Me, Knowing You...With Alan Partridge.