Unemployed British radio producer Karl Pilkington has become an
unlikely superstar by using the new medium of podcasting for his
bizarre statement about eating an animal’s private parts.

plays the village idiot on The Ricky Gervais Show, with Gervais and
Stephen Merchant, a hit podcast — the new media craze of blending iPod
with broadcast. The free audio or video shows on the Internet can be
downloaded onto iPods and MP3 players.

It was during a discussion
on the Gervais show about a reality TV show, where contestants were
asked to eat an animal’s penis, that Pilkington made Internet history.
First he said he could not eat an animal’s penis in the morning because
he has a delicate stomach.

He then proclaimed, using the British slang for penis, "I could eat a knob at night."

"knob" soundbite has become so popular that a Google search for "I
could eat a knob at night" yields more than half a million listings.
Among them are T-shirts featuring the slogan and Pilkington’s bald head
selling for $17.

he BBC in Pilkington’s native Britain was among the earliest
adopters of podcasting technology. It carried Radio Five Live podcasts
in 2004. By last fall, major media on both sides of the Atlantic had
begun podcasts. Podcasts now see amateurs and media titans alike
battling for the eyes and ears of the "iPod generation."

"This is
another new Internet paradigm," Vanity Fair media critic Michael Wolff
said, adding that like other recent changes to the media world, "It
happened outside the official channels, so we are all unaware of it
until it is huge."

A few years ago, media companies woke up to
Internet theft of music on Napster. Last year they heard about blogs,
and now they are "like deers caught in the headlights again" trying to
figure out podcasting, Wolff said.

Among popular podcasts are
shows from America’s National Public Radio, CBS’ news magazine show "60
Minutes" and audio essays from Slate.com. Myriad amateur podcasts
include sports fans talking about favorite teams and podcasts like
"open source sex," which promises "erotica, sex ed and more …"

But the most popular podcast of all is The Ricky Gervais show, where Pilkington made his name.

Gervais mused on the show that the soundbite could be used in a dance
remix, it took just a few days for the Internet to be awash with songs
using the soundbite as a hook.

Gervais says in his ninth episode that his is the world’s most
popular podcast. He boasts 2.5 million downloads and says he expects 4
million downloads when the 12 episodes are done.

His hit format
is simple: Gervais and Merchant verbally beat up Pilkington, their
former producer at British radio station Xfm, as they discuss his
off-beat pronouncements. The show is strictly available as a podcast.

said the question now for mainstream media companies is how to make
money from the new technology. "The traditional media are asking
themselves with some degree of desperation how they can make money out
of this."

Gervais himself has jokingly lamented giving his show away for free, saying in a recent podcast, "I have been a fool."

By Mark Egan

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