So, my recent Muppets Most Wanted PR assault on the US comes to an end.
A 10 day campaign of photo shoots, press junkets, chat shows and a fucking massive Hollywood premiere.
Often, those things are a labourious nightmare, but it was made fun by the presence of an evil Russian frog and my new best friend, Constantine. That sounds like tongue-in-cheek luvviness, but I actually like hanging out with him.
I feel I should point out that Constantine’s alter ego is a very talented puppeteer, actor, and all-round hilarious nice guy called Matt Vogel, but I pretty much ignore that fact when his right arm turns green.
"It’s time to put on makeup. It’s time to light the lights."
The global phenomenon that is Disney marketing is in full swing for my little adventure, Muppets Most Wanted.
The story centres around me and an evil Russian frog taking over The Muppets to get access to various establishments so we can rob them. It’s a really funny movie with great songs and cameos and I think kids and adults will love it.
I’ll be in L.A. most of March doing the usual junkets, newspaper and radio interviews and chat show appearances, including Ellen, Jimmy Kimmel and Craig Ferguson, before jetting to London to do some more.
Ricky Gervais has idea to bring David Brent back to TV
Ricky Gervais has revealed he is working on an idea to bring David Brent, his character from The Office, back to television in the form of a spoof music tour documentary.
The comedy star has recently performed a number of musical shows in character as the inept office manager, and more gigs featuring the Wernham Hogg employee and his (fictional) band Foregone Conclusion are planned for May.
Speaking to The Times newspaper, Gervais says he is now thinking of filming a TV series at the same time as performing some live dates.
He describes the idea of a tour as a “Trojan Horse” for the new TV project. “I want to do a tour, a little tour - and people think they’re seeing a tour. I film it, but actually it’s Brent who thinks he’s making a Scorsese-type thing of On The Road. Of course, behind the scenes, it is so much sadder and more poignant. It’s Spinal Tap meets sad Scorsese meets Anvil [the metal band]. It’s more of the breakdown of this man who thought he was going to be something else.”
However, Gervais stressed that, at this stage, “It’s just an idea.”
Speaking about the timing of bringing his character back, Gervais said: “The reason I didn’t bring Brent back before is that I wanted to do lots of other things first, but secretly I do want to do something else [with him]. It has to be right, it has to be justified. It can’t be an unwanted encore. It can’t even be a wanted encore, because people don’t know what they want.”
Should the new series go ahead, it may end up as an online show rather than broadcast via a traditional TV network - Gervais is not yet sure, and he hasn’t sold the rights to any networks. However he did mention in passing Netflix, HBO and the BBC.
Ricky Gervais’s next TV project will be another series of his Channel 4 comedy drama Derek. A second series has already been filmed and will be broadcast later this year.
He is currently promoting Muppets Most Wanted, the film in which he plays an evil henchman working for an evil Kermit lookalike.
The comedian and writer on the problem with celebrities, his new movie and his love of social satire
Comedian and writer Ricky Gervais likes to make fun of celebrities—and, sipping a latte during a recent interview, he is true to form. “They worry about what someone on Twitter says about them,” he says with a laugh. “You may as well walk around public toilets and look for graffiti about yourself, because it’s as relevant.”
Of course, he is no stranger to fame himself. As he talks in the lobby restaurant of the Loews Regency Hotel in New York, a waiter comes up every now and then to tell him how funny he is or to confess to being a fan. “I paid them to do that,” he says. “Clooney is next.” And there are some stars whom he admires. “Meeting Elmo was amazing!” he says of the “Sesame Street” character.
Mr. Gervais, 52, plays a villain named Dominic Badguy in the next Muppets movie, “Muppets Most Wanted,” to be released on March 21. He originally found fame co-writing and starring in the original “Office” television series, a British spoof on workplace culture, in the early 2000s. His more recent credits include co-writing and starring in the 2009 film “The Invention of Lying” and the series “Derek,” a comedy on Netflix (going into its second season) about an intellectually challenged man working at a retirement home.
Mr. Gervais didn’t become a Muppets fan by way of any children. He and his longtime girlfriend don’t have any, and he argues that too many people do. He jokes that parents who want children should have to apply for licenses before they do so. “You’ve got seven children?” he says, pretending to be a law-enforcement officer. “Why do you want another one?” Instead, he says he enjoys the Muppets because he’s still a child himself.
For this movie, he didn’t feel he had to change his approach for his younger audience. “Don’t patronize kids,” he says. “Use irony, use sarcasm, and they’ll get it.” It’s the same formula he uses in his adult humor. “I enjoy deconstructing human behavior,” he says. “That’s my favorite thing: social satire.”
Mr. Gervais says that he can’t help noticing people’s quirks, body language and reactions to social taboos. As his eyes dart back and forth to scan a crowd that clearly recognizes him, he says, “I don’t look for anything, but I see everything—it’s like the man with X-ray eyes, I can see every little foible and every little thing.” It isn’t always pleasant. “Honestly, once I latch onto a foible it drives me mad—it’s like a dripping tap.” He recently went to a movie theater, and his friends told him they had to move because a man nearby was sniffling every 10 seconds. They knew it would distract him. “It’s like I see someone and I go—shrooom!—into their world and I see their upbringing and I see what’s happened to them,” he explains. “Sometimes I want to go over and go, ‘You have an uncle that used to bully you, didn’t you?’ and they’ll go, ‘Yes, I did. You’re amazing, Ricky.’ ” (At least that’s how the conversation goes in his imagination.)
Mr. Gervais says that he doesn’t enjoy embarrassing people—but he doesn’t hesitate to share his own views, even if they make others uncomfortable. “I have truth Tourette’s,” he says with a grin. In 2011, Mr. Gervais made waves for roasting Hollywood stars at the Golden Globe Awards, but he thought the criticism was overblown. “You usually have to be a serial killer to get that many inches” in the press, he says, adding that “offense is taken, not given.” He went on to host the Golden Globes again in 2012.
These days he’s using his Twitter account, with over five million followers—”I’m not friends with all of them!”—to promote his views and projects. He sees it as a valuable marketing tool, but when he first signed on, he says it was more of a burden. When he hadn’t tweeted in a while, he’d think, “I’ve got to do something for the sake of it, like they were all sitting at home going, ‘He hasn’t tweeted’—five million of them like birds in a nest, thinking, ‘Mummy’s not coming back!’ They’re starving!”
Mr. Gervais was born in Berkshire, England, to a father who worked as a laborer and a designer mother, he says. Then he corrects himself: “She wasn’t really, but she used to make her own clothes because we were poor.” He says that he was never very ambitious growing up. “I was strangely, unjustifiably satisfied and confident, and knew it would all be OK. I always did what I wanted.”
While attending University College London, he started a band called Seona Dancing that never took off. By the time he reached his late 20s, he got a job as an office middle manager—an experience that became the basis for “The Office.” He moved on to work at a local radio station, and after writing scripts for the DJs, he got a call from Channel 4 to audition for a satirical alternative news show. They ended up offering him his own spoof chat show, “Meet Ricky Gervais.” Next he turned a boss-type character that he had created to entertain his friends into David Brent, the star of “The Office,” which made its debut in 2001.
Now he says he’s working harder than ever before. Along with working on “Derek,” he has recently extended his old “The Office” character’s life in an online series called “Learn Guitar with David Brent” and is planning to make a feature film with him. Mr. Gervais also performs around the world as a standup comedian.
"I sort of quite like the struggle now," he says. "I want to take some punches. I want battle scars." Then he stops himself to clarify: "obviously, metaphorical ones, because real ones would scare the s— out of me." He then imagines how his comments will come off in an article: "The most pretentious thing Ricky Gervais said was he liked battle scars," he pretends to read. "He did this while drinking a latte and getting annoyed at someone sniffling." He stops to ask another question. "Can you imagine me in the army? I’d wonder, ‘Why’s he sniffling so much? Corporal, corporal, he keeps sniffling so much!’ ‘Get in the trench!’ ‘Are there any spiders down there?’ "
Mr. Gervais likes his life just as it is. Because he became famous so late in life, he doesn’t think it has affected him. “I think it’s different being famous as Justin Bieber, ” he says. “I already had the necessary truths and values in order, and I knew what was right and what was wrong.” He still has the same friends, family and girlfriend.
"I’ve got a nicer house, and I travel comfortably, but that’s about it," he says. "I don’t do drugs, I don’t race cars, I don’t gamble, I don’t buy jewelry, and nothing I couldn’t do when I was poor have I started doing when I was rich," he adds. "I always acted like I was a famous cocky bastard."
Nearly finished editing Derek Season 2. The second series is always the best as you can develop characters without all the set up and just enjoy their interactions in new and familiar situations. It’s also usually the last in my case. Well, apart from the Xmas Special of course. But who knows. Derek is the series that has tempted me most to do a third. But let’s get this one up and running first. No release date yet but it’s looking like Spring/Summer around the world.
Before that though, my little Disney Movie - Muppets Most Wanted - will hopefully take the world by storm. It’s out March 21st in the US, March 28th in the UK and then everywhere else that has a cinema.
Ricky Gervais At Home: God-Hating, Dinners with Seinfeld and a 'Kind' New Netflix Show
"Derek," his new series for the streaming service, reveals a softer side of a man who hates people who believe in God, fears fame and says of his friendship with Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld: "They tease me about being poor."
"I’m not doing it for your amusement. I’m doing it for mine."
Ricky Gervais howls with laughter, an extended cackle that his friend Christopher Guest calls “the greatest laugh ever.” Gervais is amused by questions about his latest medium of choice, Twitter, which he uses to lob 140-character bombs at fans and detractors. Religion is a favored topic: “We shouldn’t even need the word ‘atheism.’ If people didn’t invent ridiculous imaginary gods, rational people wouldn’t have to deny them.” Later: “It’s almost as if the Bible was written by racist, sexist, homophobic, violent, sexually frustrated men, instead of a loving God. Weird.” And, more recently, “If God existed, religion wouldn’t.”
The prolific feed, with nearly 5 million followers, is as much a tool for plugging his work — including a new show, Derek, bowing Sept. 12 on Netflix — as it is for his own twisted take on market research. “How you know you’re doing something right is that as many people hate you as love you,” he says, acknowledging gleefully that his atheist rants provoke the most intense reactions. (To consider his musings blasphemous, he adds, he’d have to believe in God; he hasn’t since he abandoned Christianity at age 8.)
For more than a decade, Gervais, 52, has been finessing this image as the king of cringe comedy, mining humor from others’ discomfort for TV shows, films, stand-up and more. If Louis C.K. is the critics’ favorite comic, Kevin Hart the touring dynamo and Jay Leno the industry punching bag, Gervais has carved his niche as the semilovable wiseass in the corner. Says longtime collaborator Stephen Merchant, who got his start as Gervais’ assistant at a London radio station, “He’s your cheeky best friend who somehow gate-crashed the house of showbiz and put his feet up on the table.”
"Original," "fearless" and "smart" are descriptors often employed to characterize Gervais’ work, but they seem just as representative of his comedic philosophy. If asked, he’d add "outsider," likely the result of a career trajectory that didn’t involve working his way up through the clubs or failed sitcoms. Instead, Gervais catapulted onto the scene with his 2001 BBC creation, The Office, which he co-wrote, directed and starred in. At last count, the mockumentary, as brilliant as it was uncomfortable, has aired in more than 100 countries, with seven remakes including the since-ended U.S. iteration, making it easily the most successful adaptation of a British sitcom in 30 years. The show turned Gervais into a bona fide star, a multimillionaire and, most impressively, an icon within the comedian community. Says Larry David, “When I watch his work, I often go, ‘I wish I had thought of that.’
But when the door of his new, still-unfurnished apartment on New York’s Upper East Side opens on this late June afternoon, I can’t help but wonder whether the Ricky Gervais I’m meeting is the provocative prick from Twitter or the thoughtful goofball his friends describe. Will this be the man who famously introduced Robert Downey Jr. at the 2011 Golden Globes with a reference to the Betty Ford Center and described I Love You Phillip Morris as a film about “two heterosexual actors pretending to be gay — so the complete opposite of some famous Scientologists”? Or will Gervais be the sympathetic force on display in Derek, a series about caretakers in a retirement home that’s so gentle and sweet, critics didn’t know what to make of it when it aired on the U.K.’s Channel 4?
Over the course of an hour and a half, hints of both Gervaises emerge, with the man in his uniform jeans, dark shirt and sneakers as warm as he is biting. What becomes clear as he ping-pongs between comical and sincere is the consideration with which he formulates his material, noting that while the subjects he tackles range from uncomfortable (the uneasy comedy of TheOffice and, later, Extras,Life’s Too Short and An Idiot Abroad) to taboo (his unflinching stand-up, in which rape, murder and Hitler are fair game), they never are his target. “I want to take the audience to places it hasn’t been before, otherwise what’s the point?” he says. “I want to lead them through this terrible, scary land because then they’ll come out the other side and it was great. It was a rush. Their parachute opened, and they landed.”
Jerry Seinfeld, who with his wife regularly double dates with Gervais and his longtime girlfriend,Jane Fallon, suggests it’s that ability to take people outside of their comfort zone that sets Gervais apart. Seinfeld compares Gervais to a matador: “Those guys walk out, and they don’t do much. And the more still they stand, the more riveting it is,” he says. “You have a stadium full of people who are captivated. And it’s that same thing: ‘Look at the nerve of this guy.’ And not just that, look at his grace. We all know the pressure, so let’s see how eloquently they can dispose of this very dangerous position they’re in.”
When Derek hits Netflix, viewers inevitably will ask whether the matador has gone soft. The show tells the story of a middle-aged caretaker (written, directed and played by Gervais), who works in a nursing home, accompanied by his pal Dougie (played by longtime Gervais pal Karl Pilkington); a nurse named Hannah; and his “best friends in the world,” the home’s residents. It’s more drama than comedy, and Gervais is betting that his audience is ready for a kinder persona that eschews laughs for introspection and, in certain cases, tears, as it grapples with helplessness and death with a humanity not often seen in Gervais’ work.
He’s still sorting out whether this is an anomaly or a new direction. “As you get older, you start realizing that when you’re young, the most important thing is being popular. Then when you hit adolescence, it’s being clever. Then it’s being funny. And now it’s about kindness, and that trumps everything else,” he explains, noting that he’s left behind the veil of irony that defined his TV efforts including Office and the actors sendup Extras, which won him a best actor Emmy in 2007. There’s no gap between how viewers see Derek, a selfless, slow-witted misfit, and how Derek sees himself — a far cry from David Brent (Office) or Andy Millman (Extras), whose blind spots fueled the comedy.
Before it even aired in the U.K., Derek found itself at the center of controversy. Critics caught a glimpse of the titular character in the trailer and assumed the comedian had found his latest victim in the mentally handicapped. “Gervais mocks the easiest of targets, people with mental disabilities, those without the intellectual capacity to defend themselves,” wrote the Daily Mail. But Gervais denies that Derek is disabled, insisting that, unlike his past characters, this one’s only flaws — a peculiar look, shuffle and childlike naivete — are superficial on purpose.
"It’s so much closer to real life in that it’s serious with funny moments," says Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, who will look to make as big of a splash with Gervais’ about-face as he has with originals House of Cards, Arrested Development and Orange Is the New Black. Although it was Gervais who approached Sarandos about distributing the dramedy — he was turned on by Netflix’s immediacy, footprint and lack of creative interference — Sarandos raves about the series’ depth and confirms that he will air a second season. (HBO, which aired several of Gervais’ previous shows, passed on Derek, turned off, perhaps, by the tonal departure.) For a comic who suggests the Ten Commandments by which he abides are, No. 1 through No. 9, “Thou shalt not bore,” and No. 10, “Thou shalt have final edit,” Netflix seems an ideal fit.
"Some execs are great, and they save projects, but I don’t want that because I don’t want my projects to be saved. If I made it rubbish, I want it to be rubbish," says Gervais, acknowledging a disdain for such things as focus groups. He and Guest (Best in Show) like to tell a joke in which one Hollywood exec says, “What’d you think of that new movie?” And the other one replies: “I don’t know. I’m the only one who’s seen it.” As he peers out at his 12th-story view, Gervais attempts to defend his “control freak” tendencies that largely have prevented him from working within the studio and network system. “It’s not because I think what I do is perfect,” he says. “It’s because if I didn’t do it that way, I wouldn’t be doing it at all. Someone else would. It’s like getting a model kit, then getting someone else to build it for you. What’s the point? I want to make it.”
Sarandos reveals he’s had conversations with Gervais and his team (including WME and the U.K.’s United Agents) about other collaborations, too, though it’s not clear where the comic will find the time. In addition to Derek's second season, which he'll begin filming in November, he's preparing material for another stand-up tour and plans to sign a record deal for his Office character, whom he recently revived through his YouTube series Learn Guitar With David Brent. The installments began as a stunt for charity, but Gervais hopes they will be the basis for a movie about Brent trying to make it in the music industry. Nearer term, he’s rehearsing with a band for high-profile charity gigs at year’s end. Additionally, Gervais is in talks to direct, write and star in another film and has aspirations to play a villain (think the Riddler) in a superhero movie. One show that’s off-limits, though, is the Oscars. “It’s a thankless task, and it’s not right for me,” he says, joking that he did enough damage during his three years as Golden Globes emcee.
Although Gervais’ brand of comedy can venture into offensive places, as many suggested it did at the Globes — “It wasn’t a room full of wounded soldiers,” he quips of the star-studded audience he attacked — those close to Gervais insist he lacks the darkness that defines most comics. “Unlike the stereotype of the comedian who is crying on the inside and laughing on the outside, Ricky is laughing on the inside and laughing on the outside all of the time,” says Sarandos, one of many who shares tales of three-hour dinners in which Gervais has the table in hysterics.
Guest says he and Gervais had hoped to collaborate on a project, but after renting a hotel suite in New York for a week to brainstorm ideas, they found they had made little progress. “It was like 10-year-olds working and ordering room service. We did nothing at all except make each other laugh,” he says. When they’re not together, the two observational comics will take pictures of people on the street and e-mail them to each other. (Gervais says they’re often drawn to the sensible person being confused by the bizarre person: “If there’s a crazy person doing a jig, and we look over and see a businessman looking confused, that’s the picture.”) Gervais also sends shots of himself playing different characters to Guest, who sheepishly admits he has more pictures of his friend on his iPad than he does of his children.
When asked to describe what time with Seinfeld and David entails, Gervais says: “They tease me about being poor. They have me in the middle, and they throw money above my head for me to jump up and try to catch.” He waits a beat before confessing, through his famed cackle, that that couldn’t be further from the truth: “They’d both be horrified to hear I even joked about that.” Horrified, perhaps, but given Gervais’ humor, it’s hard to imagine anyone would be surprised.
Like many comics, Gervais developed his persona as a way to get noticed in a large family. Born the youngest of four to a laborer father and housewife mother in a working-class home 40 miles west of London, Gervais found that being funny got him attention. Although his parents since have died, he has remained close to his siblings, along with their children and grandchildren. “It’s like Honey Boo Boo during Christmas,” he jokes of the boisterous brood that has inspired the Flanimals children’s books he writes and the film adaptation in the works. “I open the door, and they come out of everywhere and go through my bag looking for money. I enjoy them, but then I get to go home.” Press Gervais on why he and Fallon haven’t married or had kids, and he deflects: “I see people walking around with 12 kids with no shoes. The question should be: Why are they allowed to have children?”
Gervais’ early adulthood was marked by a short-lived stint as one-half of a new wave pop group, Seona Dancing, followed by years in radio. “We lived in terrible places,” says Fallon, who met Gervais while they were studying at University College London. “There was one studio apartment above a dodgy sauna that had no heat, but it was the only place we could afford. I was focused on finding work, but Ricky was unsure about what he wanted to do.” It would be well over a decade before he and Merchant would launch The Office. By the time he became a star, Gervais already was 40.
"When the first check came through for The Office, it ruined it a bit. I thought, ‘I didn’t do it for that,’ ” he notes of his guilt, before snickering, “I got over it.” Those checks have grown larger, allowing the couple to split time between London and New York, but Gervais suggests their day-to-day lacks Hollywood glamour. Most evenings, he and Fallon are parked in front of the TV with a bottle of wine and their cat, Ollie, as they watch the Scandinavian versions of The Bridge and The Killing. (Other Gervais favorites: Arrested Development, Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Wire.)
Although Gervais’ onstage persona would suggest otherwise, he insists he’s yet to fully come to terms with the effects of his own notoriety. Shuddering at the mere mention of the term “celebrity,” he disdains fame for its own sake, a topic that has informed much of his work, from Office to Extras toLife’s Too Short. “I didn’t want to be lumped into those people who are living their life like an open wound, anything to be famous,” he says, as repulsed by the “stars” as he is by the population that props them up. “It’s like they see no difference between Kim Kardashian and Robert De Niro. They’re people with money on red carpets or on their telly, and they don’t distinguish.”
Ask him what he’d like to be remembered for, and he’ll say only those projects for which he entirely was responsible. That leaves out acting gigs in films like Ghost Town and March 2014’s Muppets Most Wanted, in which Gervais, an avid fan of the franchise, stars opposite Tina Fey as a villain. “Ricky’s got this ability to straddle the line very seamlessly between acting in something and acting slightly outside of it,” says Muppets producer Todd Lieberman, revealing that Gervais will sing and dance in the film. “He’s kind of winking and nodding to you that he’s doing this thing that’s funny, but you’re in on the joke with him.” Adds Disney studio chairman Alan Horn: “It’s hard to find that elusive balance between being irreverent, a little cheeky and sardonic and still being warm and vulnerable, but there’s something about his delivery that does both.”
Though he’s not prepared to give up acting in other people’s movies, Gervais is at a point where it only makes sense if he can do so without it interfering with his day job, which he jokingly refers to as “downloading” his brain. He begins churning out ideas when he wakes up, usually around 9, often hitting fever pitch during his daily half-hour runs. And he suggests he’s platform-agnostic with regard to where they land, as happy to create videos for his YouTube channel as he is to launch TV shows. (He’s similarly agnostic when it comes to how they’re consumed: “I don’t care about bootlegging. I just want people to see what I do, and chances are I’ve been paid for it already,” he adds with a smirk.)
"I just want to get inside of people’s heads and make them think. There’s nothing better than hearing, ‘I listen to your podcast every night before I go to sleep,’ or ‘I’ve watched Derek 10 times, and I’ve cried every time.’ That’s better than any award I could get,” he says, as a grin washes over his face. Suddenly, Gervais the provocateur has re-emerged: “The next time I win one, I want to go: ‘This isn’t for my fans. This is for those that don’t like me. Eat that.’ ” He pauses again, pleased with the idea. “I’ve got to do that. That would be good, wouldn’t it? Yeah, I’ll do that.”
10 reasons why Ricky Gervais would love Bishop's Stortford
AFTER comedy god Ricky Gervais revealed on Twitter his potential love for Bishop’s Stortford, we’ve come up with 10 things that might entice him to the town.
The 52-year-old award-winning star of TV’s The Office, Extras andDerek spoke of his latent feelings for Stortford in a tweet last week (August 1).
He wrote: “Do you ever wonder what places you haven’t been to are like? I think I’d love Bishop’s Stortford but I have no idea why.”
It came during an exchange on the social media site with Boring Tweeter, who mentioned Stortford in a tweet.
Gervais, who has more than 4.9 million followers on Twitter, asked: “Wow. Have you been to Bishop’s Stortford yourself? If so, what stood out for you?”
Boring Tweeter responded by extolling the virtues of the car park at the Rhodes arts complex – “Great access and clearly marked lines” – and the “cracking” Pizza Hut – “I saw a van parked outside there once. I think it may have been unloading.”
So here’s our 10 reasons for Ricky to give interesting and not-at-all-boring Stortford a shot …
1. As an admirer of such archives as the Cumberland Pencil Museum in Keswick and the British Lawnmower Museum in Southport, Ricky could visit Bishop’s Stortford Museum, which is on the site of the former family home of the town’s most famous son, the ardent colonialist Cecil Rhodes, who was the first ever chairman of diamond company De Beers and the founder of Rhodesia.
2. Bishop’s Stortford is the only town in England recognised by the Department for Transport as being interesting enough to warrant narrowing a motorway. The M11 from London to Cambridge is three lanes in both directions until junction 8, the turn-off for Stortford, where both carriageways are then reduced to two lanes.
3. Stortford has a castle mound. No castle. Just a mound. Soon after local government reorganisation in 1974, East Herts District Council discovered Waytemore Castle had been built without planning permission. A retrospective planning application by the Normans was defeated and the castle was ordered to be pulled down. The mound is out of bounds all year round, except on carnival day, when you can climb the 59 steps to the top and see all the way across the Causeway car park to Waitrose.
4. Stortford is the only town in the world that has failed to sustain a McDonald’s, a KFC and a Pizza Hut, all of which have quit town centre premises in recent years.
5. Like London, Paris, New York, Budapest and many other fine cities around the world, Stortford has a river running through it. Unlike London, Paris, New York, Budapest and many other fine cities around the world, visitors to Stortford wouldn’t know it because it lies hidden as a result of town planners insisting on creating a Grand Canyon effect by allowing high-rise apartment developments along its banks.
6. Stortford was home to the first ever Holland & Barrett store. Hence the abundance of nettles.
7. Glenn Godfrey, lead singer in 1980s New Wave synthpop trio Heaven 17, used to go out with a girl from Stortford and was seen walking along North Street once. Talking of celebs, Nurse Gladys Emmanuel from Open All Hours used to live up Windhill. Russell Brand used to go to school here, too. Jamie Oliver’s been seen in the Sainsbury’s at Thorley Park.
8. Stortford has a multi-storey car park. Well, we say “multi” … it’s got two floors.
9. Stortford has a fine yet dwindling collection of pubs, including the Boar’s Head (popular with kerb-crawling fans of the Rev Spooner), the Tanner’s Arms (hang on … that one’s shut), the George (no, that’s a Prezzo now), the Robin Hood (erm … Indian restaurant) and the Half Moon (yep, that’s still going), which has a brilliant room out the back which would be ideal for a low-key David Brent gig (ask Gemma behind the bar about hire rates).
10. The town’s newspaper, the Herts & Essex Observer, continues to be produced from the same premises where it was first published in 1861, when Queen Victoria was on the throne and Abraham Lincoln was US President. Different news team though … on the whole.
I’m loving having a YouTube channel to dick around on. I know I’ve always dicked around, whether on radio, TV or at the Golden Globes, but with this it’s actually expected of me.
I discovered that this is the best thing about Twitter too. Just playing; mucking about for the hell of it. Although, I could technically count that as work. Dicking about should be tax-deductible for me.
Let me explain. Scientific studies of creativity have basically concluded that it can’t be taught, as it is a “facility” rather than a learned skill. Putting it very crudely, creativity is the ability to play. And, to be able to turn that facility on and off when necessary. This makes perfect sense to me. Everything I’ve ever written, created or discovered artistically has come out of playing.
Stephen Nachmanovitch said that, “Creative work is play. It is free speculation using materials of one’s chosen form.” Basically mucking about with the stuff you have in front of you. Experimenting with it, seeing what happens, and keeping the stuff you like I guess. In fact Scott Adams said, “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”
You have to let yourself go to be creative. Children possess this quality but then seem to lose it as they are told, “it’s not the done thing”. Pablo Picasso summed it up well; “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up”.
The answer is simple. Never grow up. I don’t mean don’t become an adult with responsibility and the weight of the world on your shoulders. I simply mean if you’re writing or directing give yourself enough time to play. Play the fool. Goad. Shock. Laugh. Trip over something that isn’t there. Try something. And never be afraid to fail. That failure is useful too. It’s just another building block.
Fame can curb your playful streak in the same way as adulthood, as it is another form of societal pressure. This is dangerous as comedy at some level always has an element of undermining normality. The reason fame can stifle this is because reputation suddenly matters more. Now, it’s not just some idiot annoying everyone in the pub, it’s that idiot Ricky Gervais. I didn’t care about strangers thinking I was an idiot before because they didn’t know me. Now, they think they do. But, I’ve realised something. As important as reputation is in this case, it’s still only what strangers think is true about you. Character is who you really are. Only close friends really know you and that’s all that counts in the end.
It doesn’t mean you’re not more careful though. Tiny things can get taken out of context and you’re often on your guard with this in mind. There seems to be a real us and them battle with artists and critics. An artist moaning about critics is like a fisherman moaning about waves. Tough. They’re there. They’re there because artists are there. And in some cases vice versa. I think that’s because there’s limited space for successful creators.
It’s no lie that some critics have never tried or have failed at the thing they now offer “advice” on, but that doesn’t mean that some of them aren’t right sometimes. Some great ones are right a lot of the time. And yes there are some great critics. Sure, there are shitty critics. But fuck me there are shitty artists too. There are artists so shitty they couldn’t even be critics (that’s a joke by the way). You could say, “what’s the point in critics?” Good question. I’d like to answer “no point at all” to be honest. But actually I think there is a point to them, and it’s this — they simply add to the debate. Just like chatting with friends, just like this little thing I’m writing now.
The point of art is to make a connection. If people talk about it, it’s succeeded in a way. People have assumed that, because I don’t listen to critics, or take studio notes or whatever, that I think I’m perfect and have never made any mistakes. This could not be further from the truth. Making the mistakes is the point, is the fun, is the important bit. But they have to be my own. The writer Rita Mae Brown said, “Creativity comes from trust. Trust your instincts. And never hope more than you work.” The only difficult bit about this is getting final edit. So much creativity is stifled by people who “know better”, or by fear of failure, and before you know it, your goals have been twisted and you’ve forgotten what you set out to do.
I know many journalists in interviews have considered me combative, defensive and pedantic. They’d be right. But I bet they’ve never been misquoted. It’s infuriating. And I’m careful in interviews because that’s the last bit of influence I have on the result. They have the power of the edit. With Twitter I’m much more laid back because my side of the story is out there in black and white too. There’s a lovely equality about it.
Everyone is famous on Twitter. Everyone has their platform. There are downsides to this and sometimes the internet seems like everyone is just emptying a drawer out of the window, but that’s freedom of speech. You can’t censor things based on quality. Nor should you. To each his own. I’ve been critical of this sort of non-regulation in the past and I think I described forums and chat rooms as graffiti. Well maybe Twitter is just another big toilet wall, but there’s as much clean space and spray paint as you’ll ever need. What are you going to do with it? Create something or destroy someone else’s picture?
So, The Muppet Movie is unbelievable fun. No surprise there. What is a surprise, is how you bond with puppets. I actually find myself thinking about them and laughing at something they’ve said. Like it was their idea to say it?
I know you shouldn’t have favourites, but I love Pepe & Constantine. I’ve said too much.
Derek continues to pick up devoted fans. Thank you. There’s a real cult nature to it. I don’t mean in a scary “I take half their salary” way. I just mean, people are quoting it and starting their own fan sites and stuff. It’s a nice feeling.
I’m picking up a vibe similar to half-way through the first series of The Office. Although the ratings are slightly better actually. The Office got an average of 1.5m for the first series, which is about what Derek is getting on the night. But because of 4OD (Channel 4’s catch-up service) its episode average doubles that over the week.
TV habits are changing. Which is why Netflix is perfect for a show like Derek. For anything slightly fringe or culty or a just a bit different, word of mouth is everything.
One of the most frequently asked questions is “Is it scripted?” The answer is “Yes”. A lot of people thought The Office was improvised too. This is a testament to the wonderful naturalist acting from the cast. Karl has surprised a lot of people. He’s also caused the conspiracy theorists to raise their heads again, saying ‘We knew it. An Idiot Abroad is scripted too then.” Haha.
Here is a picture of Karl & David learning their lines.
Here’s a sneak peek of Episode 3 (By the way, the frog in this clip actually belongs to Karl. He was showing Jane and me round his new house and I spotted it in the garden. I said “We’re using that in Derek.” And we did.)
Week two hundred and forty-seven - January/February 2013
As I am currently filming the new Muppet Movie I am unable to do any chat shows or radio interviews to publicise my new show, Derek. It starts on Channel 4 in the UK on Wednesday the 30th of January and airs later this year around the rest of the world on Netflix.
Luckily, we conducted an interview on set with the main cast and transcribed it into the following blog which The Huffington Post will now publish to its hundreds of millions of wonderful, intelligent, comedy-loving readers.
I should start by saying it’s very difficult to talk with any certainty of mutual understanding about a series which hasn’t aired yet, but I’d like to give a couple of pointers. Here goes.
Is Derek a comedy or a drama? I get asked that a lot. Even after people have seen it.
I say, “What do you think it is?”
They say, “Well I laughed a lot but I cried as well. I’m just not sure if it was a drama with funny bits or a comedy with sad bits.”
I usually then say, “Derek is whatever you think real life is. Is your life a drama with funny bits or a comedy with sad bits?”
The answer doesn’t matter really. What matters is if you enjoy it… for whatever reason. Because it made you laugh, because it made you cry, because it made you think or even because it made you angry. Ha ha.
As long as it made you “something”.
For me, personally, it’s my favourite thing I’ve ever created or worked on. I love Derek more than any other character. In fact, I wish I were more like him.
I wish everyone was. It’s a show about kindness. It’s funny and sweet and deals with the real issues of everyday life. I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like it. The performance that Kerry Godliman gives as Hannah may be the finest piece of character acting I’ve seen. And Karl Pilkington as Dougie makes me laugh every second he is on screen. Kev played by David Earl is a lovable train wreck. You wont know whether to hug him or take him to the vet to have him put down. The uncaring outside world popping in and out will boil your blood and the residents will break your heart.
Q: What inspired you to write Derek?
A: Everything comes from character. The Office came from David Brent, and Extras came from Andy Millman, and this comes from the character of Derek.
Q: Is his care home a world that you know well?
A: Yes. Half my family are care workers. My sister works with kids with learning difficulties. My sister-in-law works in a care home for people with Alzheimer’s. And four or five of my nieces work in old people’s homes. I always write about what I know. I worked in an office for 10 years, and so I wrote about it in The Office. For the last few years I’ve been working in the media and dealing with fame, and so I wrote about that in Extras. Cab drivers always say to me that there’s a great comedy to be written about cabs. They’re right. But they should write it, not me, because I don’t work in a cab and they do. It’s irresistible to want to talk about what you do.
Q: Where does the character of Derek come from?
A: He was originally a satirical stand-up device. He sees things very differently from the rest of us. He can say funny things because he does it will innocence and sincerity. He is like us when we were eight. He is like us before we discovered lying and competition and selfishness and started to shut up when we were excited in case it looked uncool. He has everything sorted.
Q: What are Derek’s key qualities?
A: At one point, Kev says, “In the past, I lied, cheated and took the shortcut. But if it wasn’t for Derek, I’d be dead.” Derek is scruffy and people dismiss him. But he has taken the only shortcut that works: kindness. He is pretty perfect because he possesses the only thing that matters, which is kindness.
Q: Is kindness one of the predominant ideas behind this show?
A: Absolutely. If there is a theme, it’s kindness. Kindness trumps everything. And that’s why the main characters have to be outsiders and losers. They all have to be deficient in everything except doing the right thing. They’re still better people than you if you’re not kind. Derek is so non judgmental but he sees through bullshit too. He only has one agenda- “What’s the right thing to do?” And he doesn’t even know it’s an agenda. He’s just “good” and nothing takes his eye of the ball. He sums it up in episode 6 when he says “I don’t think it matters if there is a god or not. I’ve met people who believe in God that are good and that are bad. And I’ve met people who don’t believe in God that are good and that are bad. So, just be good. I’m good. Not cos I think I’ll go to heaven but because when I do something bad, I feel bad. And when I do something good, I feel good.”
Q: Can you please explain the situation of this comedy to us?
A: In any sitcom, there have to be two ingredients. The first is that the characters have to be trapped, either literally or psychologically. Look at Porridge or Bilko or Steptoe and Son. The other ingredient is that the characters have to be a family, either literally like The Royle Family or Only Fools and Horses, or metaphorically, as in Dad’s Army. They have to be fighting outside forces together. In Bilko, for instance, they have the attitude that, “We’re all in this together. It’s us against the world.” While in Only Fools, they are joining forces to fight the economy.
Q: So what are the characters in Derek struggling against?
A: They’re fighting the outside world. They often say, “No one cares”. So I have a lot of uncaring intruders coming into the care home. A council man comes in and he clearly doesn’t care. And sons and daughters drop off their parents, and immediately start looking at their watches. They are all outsiders who don’t care. They are a stark contrast to the people who work in the care home.
Q: What is the family at the heart of this show?
A: The residents and the care workers are one big family. Dougie is the dad, Hannah is the mum, Derek is the good son and Kev is the disappointing son.
Q: Did some reviewers’ knee-jerk criticism of the pilot annoy you?
A: Yes. People criticised the show before the pilot, but that was because they hadn’t seen it. Everything I have done has polarised people, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I hope that watching Derek might help viewers reassess their attitude to older people.
Q: Do you think Derek is a great role model?
A: Definitely. Superheroes fight evil, and in Derek I wanted to create a superhero who leads by example. He’s terrified by spiders, but he would never harm one. He says, “I could never hurt a living thing.” He is the same with people. He’s so sweet - out of the mouth of babes.
Q: Should we all aspire to be like Derek then?
A: Absolutely. He is the best person I know. He’s better than all of us. He’s funny and sweet and kind and sincere and helpful and enthusiastic and honest, and that trumps everything he isn’t. I love Derek!
Q: How did Ricky recruit you to play the role of Dougie?
A: We were out having something to eat and he said to me, “I’m doing this new series called Derek. Do you fancy being in it?” He’s always saying that – he got me to do a couple of lines in Extras. I replied, “It’s nice of you to ask, but you know I’m not an actor. Why don’t you get someone who knows how to do it?” I felt guilty about the idea of taking the job from a proper actor. But Ricky persisted, telling me, “All you have got to do is be yourself”. I thought, “I can do that!”
Q: Please outline your character for us.
A: Dougie is me if I hadn’t had any luck. Although he hasn’t been very lucky, he always tries his best. Deep down he still knows that life is basically rubbish, but we can’t do anything about it.
Q: How does he regard his job at the nursing home?
A: As much as he moans about his job, part of him likes it. It gives him a sense of worth. Like a lot of people, the highlight of his week is Friday when he gets paid. But despite his complaints, Dougie knows he has to keep working. In fact, he thinks that everyone should work. He hates scroungers and people who come to the nursing home hoping to benefit from their relatives’ wills. He’s always complaining about Britain’s Got Talent and people who don’t want to work for a living and just look for an easy life.
Q: How did people react to the pilot of Derek?
A: My dad is a pretty good critic – he is not afraid to tell me if he thinks something I’m in is bad. But he really liked the pilot. The show messes with your emotions – it makes you laugh and cry – and there is not much around like that.
Q: What is your take on Ricky as a director?
A: He’s incredible. It’s amazing how he knows exactly what he wants in every scene. He is able to explain what you’re doing wrong, and you just get on with it. It’s over before you realise you’ve done it. It never gets to the point of him screaming and shouting. When he says to me at the end of a scene, “That’s all right”, I think, “I got away with it again!”
Q: What do you think of Ricky as an actor?
A: Ricky is a brilliant actor. I find it odd watching him act because I know him so well. Even though I know what is coming in every scene, he still does things that leave me with a lump in my throat. I know it’s only acting, but it still gets a great reaction. Whenever he does that, I always think, “I can’t do that. I’m going to get found out here!”
Q: Do you think Derek can help change society’s view of older people?
A: It’s a nice thought that after watching this viewers might be more pleasant to old people all of a sudden. It’s probably not going to happen. But if this show makes one or two people change their view of older people, that wouldn’t be at all bad.
Q: Does this mean a new career for you as an actor?
A: No. This is not a new line of work from me. I’m not looking to become an actor. I still don’t feel like a proper actor. Kerry is a proper actress. When you’re doing a scene with her, you’re looking over your shoulder and thinking, “Blimey, she’s really good”. The hardest part is remembering the lines and trying not to laugh. Ricky is determined to make me laugh all the time – that must drive the crew mad!
Q: Have you got a lot out of this job?
A: Yes. I’ve learnt a lot, and it’s been a great experience. Ricky has been great. From the start, he’s told me, “You can do it. What are you worried about?” I suppose I can’t believe my luck. I’ve got no qualifications, but I’ve been given this great opportunity and I want to make the most of it. I suppose Ricky didn’t go to drama school, either. In the end, if you can convincingly be that person onscreen, what does it matter?
Q: Finally, have you enjoyed working on Derek?
A: Yes. I’m a bit rubbish at knowing when something is good. But if it goes out and I can say, “I wasn’t as bad as I thought I would be”, then I’ll be happy. Until then, I’ll be thinking, “I shouldn’t be here!”
Q: Please describe your character to us.
A: Hannah is the manager of the care home. She is very passionate and devoted to her job. She’s a very loving person who doesn’t want to judge at all. That’s quite a rare trait. It’s sometimes difficult to manage not to be judgmental. But Hannah just doesn’t judge people at all, and that makes her a very good carer. It also makes Kev’s presence manageable!
Q: Are there any similarities between you and Hannah?
A: I’d like to be more like Hannah. It’s nice to play her because she is so kind and non-judgmental. Those are characteristics I’m working on in myself!
Q: How would you characterise Hannah’s relationship with Derek?
A: They are friends who go back many years and have always enjoyed working together. She adores Derek. They have a very lovely friendship, and she thinks he’s a great bloke. Her affection for him is really sweet. What she adores above all else is his selflessness, and she wishes more people would be like him. She has developed this affection for him that he values enormously. They depend on each other - Hannah doesn’t have anything outside work. She feels Derek is one of the kindest people she has ever met. There is an absence of that in society, and he should be celebrated.
Q: Could it ever develop into a romance?
A: No. It’s a platonic marriage. His understanding of that is not the same as yours or mine, and she could never reciprocate it. But it remains a very sweet relationship.
Q: Is there another love in her life?
A: Hannah is a bit unlucky in love. She fancies Tom and fantasises about a relationship with him, but that doesn’t exist beyond her imagination. It doesn’t ever quite get going – sometimes things just don’t have the wind behind them. She’s not enormously confident and gets frustrated.
Q: Do you think it’s a good thing that this show does not always deliver happy endings?
A: Yes. I love the fact that Ricky says things are not always going to turn out how you’d hope. That’s true of a lot of relationships. It’s not due to a lack of will, but sometimes it simply feels like pushing a boulder uphill. Tom and Hannah are very scared of jumping into a relationship, making a horrible mistake and hurting each other. You could have shot them running across Broadstairs beach and leaping into each other’s arms like a glossy, traditional love story. But this show isn’t like that.
Q: How have you found it working with Ricky?
A: It’s been brilliant. He works really fast, so it can go by in the blink of an eye. But there are still tons of opportunities to try out new ideas. Overall, though, we don’t take the mick because it’s so precisely written. Ricky arrived with the characters really well formed – they were very well fleshed out from the beginning. But we are still able to do loads of improvising. Ricky is so creative – it’s a pleasure being able to enjoy his whole world.
Q: What has it been like working on the care home set [in fact, a disused RAF base in Uxbridge]?
A: It’s been great. Broad Hill Residential Care Home for the Elderly is a lovely world, and now it has started feel like my world. It felt very warm and magical and cosy. As the shoot has gone on, this has felt more and more like a real creative bubble. It’s a very nourishing environment. You feel the benevolence and love and affection between the carers and the residents. There’s a lot of tenderness and respect there. That’s been great.
Q: Have you enjoyed working with Karl?
A: Yes, it’s been really good fun. I didn’t know him before, but he is the most unpretentious person I’ve ever met. I don’t know how he has remained so unaffected.
Q: Do you think this series could help to overturn a few stereotypes about older people?
A: Yes, I think it could help audiences view older people differently and be more respectful towards them. I don’t think we’re very respectful towards the elderly at the moment. We’re scared of old age. But people forget that old people were once young. Sometimes you hear youngsters say, “You mustn’t swear in front of that old man,” but the old man replies, “swearing was not invented just 20 years ago, you know. I wasn’t always old.” It’s about keeping a young mind. We’re obsessed with youth in this country, so it is great to see a show like this that celebrates older people.
Q: You also have a very successful career as a stand-up comedian, don’t you?
A: Yes, it’s great because it means I always have something to fall back on. It makes me more relaxed when I’m acting, because I know if I have a quiet period, I can always go back to stand up. They’re both forms of performance, but very different worlds.
Q: You are recording an episode of Live at the Apollo soon. How will you prepare for that?
A: I’ll sit on a tiny box in the foetal position for a day, dribbling [laughs]. No, I’m sure I’ll have a mild panic attack and then just get on with it. I have played the Hammersmith Apollo before, when I supported Micky Flanagan, and it’s a lovely room. Sometimes bigger crowds are nicer than smaller ones, because the laughs spread out across the venue. It can be tremendous fun. It’s a great thing to do.
Q: Finally, do you see a long future for Derek?
A: Absolutely. It’s not just about Derek and Hannah. It’s about all the residents. So many lovely characters reside at the nursing home, and they all have amazing stories. It could go anywhere. There are endless tales still to be told.
Q: You still occasionally work as a gardener. What made you switch to acting?
A: Ricky gave me an opportunity, and you have to give it a go, don’t you? In my head, I’m still a gardener. So when you’re offered a job in a sitcom, you think, “I’ll give it a crack, and then I’ll go back to the gardening!”
Q: We need to talk about Kevin.
A: Kev is a bullsh*itter. He’s lazy, but quite confident. He’s like a dog that no one strokes. He just sits in the corner and wants to be fondled, but just gets ignored. I wouldn’t want to send my own parents to a place where someone like Kev worked! But he also has a softer side, and he looks out for Derek.
Q: Please tell us more.
A: Kev is also pretty seedy. I do a stand-up character called Brian, and he can be seen as quite sleazy. In his writing, Ricky has taken it to the next level with Kev. He is properly dirty! It’s great fun talking about rude bits 24/7.
Q: Are there any similarities between you and Kev?
A: No, not now. But he does remind me of myself in my 20s, when I did virtually nothing, and came up with all these excuses. Then something clicked, and I realised that time was running out. I thought, “I’d best get on with it now”, and I did.
Q: Did you do any research into the character?
A: No. Ricky asked me to do a bit of research, but I’m afraid I forgot! The character talks about a lot of dirty things, but don’t worry, I didn’t go on any unsuitable sites. I just imagine things!
Q: What is Kev’s relationship with Dougie like?
A: Kev and Dougie argue all the time, but they’re still like brothers. If someone is giving Dougie hard time, Kev will step in because it feels like the brotherly thing to do. They get on each other’s nerves, but they will always defend each other.
Q: What are Ricky’s strengths as a writer?
A: You just have to look at his past work. The Office is quite good – in fact, its pretty much perfection! Extras is great, too – I don’t want to go on because Ricky will get a big head! He is simply very good at his job.
Q: How have you found it being directed by Ricky?
A: He’s a brilliant director. I have mainly worked as a stand-up in the past, and I don’t necessarily see myself as an actor. But he gives me a lot of room to play, and he doesn’t mind if I mess things up from time to time. There’s no pressure to nail it on the first take. Sometimes I might laugh instead of being serious, and Ricky will just make that part of the show. I can’t imagine what it would be like to work with a stressful director. I think I would walk off and a huff and go home! But we have such a lot of fun making this – and that’s all down to Ricky’s great skill as a director.
Q: Do you think a nursing home is a good setting for a comedy?
A: Definitely. In fact, I can’t believe there has never been a sitcom written about a nursing home before. It seems like the perfect situation. All the residents have these great stories. They’re so interesting. They have lived the most amazing lives. They are also incredibly young at heart. One day I had to come in here and tell a lot of jokes from my stand-up set, and one 91-year-old resident in particular really loved it. Often older people are forgotten about. I hope this might help some people change their mind about the elderly.
Q: Do you feel there is potential for more series of Derek?
A: Absolutely. I think there would be lots of new places to take these characters. It would certainly be good fun to go deeper inside Kev’s head and see more of what he thinks about. And the friendship between Derek, Dougie and Kev could definitely be expanded.
Q: Finally, what have you learned from doing this job?
A: The fact that you have to overcome your own fear. It’s very easy to say no to lots of things. But I’ve discovered that you have to have a crack at things. You may fail at first, but then you realise that you’re not dead and just have another go. I love acting. When you get it right, it’s great fun. It’s just playing. It also beats digging a ditch, which is what I do with the rest of my life. It’s a lot easier than that, I can tell you.
So, not long now till Derek premieres on Channel 4.
The rest of the world will have to wait a little while and watch it on Netflix. If you missed the pilot or just feel like watching it again, you can now see it on 40D. We’ve also made a documentary about the making of the series…
Week two hundred and forty-four - December/January 2012/13
You may have read that I have accepted the lead role in the next Muppet movie. I didn’t so much accept it as jump at the chance. I fucking love The Muppets. (I’ll probably have to tone down my language for Disney.)
We start filming in January. I can’t wait. I’ll be hangin’ with those cuddly little critters all day.
Talking of Muppets, my little social experiment ended this Christmas. The Idiot Abroad specials went down a storm, becoming Sky One’s biggest show of the year again.
If you haven’t got Sky the DVD is out now in the UK. [Amazon link]
It premieres in the US on Science Channel, 19th January - then around the world in over 150 other territories. It’s been a blast. Thank you.
I tried to give a feel of the mood more than anything too specific. It’s not that I didn’t want to give too much away but rather that I didn’t want to give people the wrong end of the stick so to speak. It’s quite difficult to describe. Even in broad terms, to be honest.
Is Derek a comedy or a drama? I get asked that a lot. Even after people have seen it.
I say, “What do you think it is?”
They say, “Well I laughed a lot but I cried as well. I’m just not sure if it was a drama with funny bits or a comedy with sad bits.”
I usually then say, “Derek is whatever you think real life is. Is your life a drama with funny bits or a comedy with sad bits?”
The answer doesn’t matter really. What matters is if you enjoy it… for whatever reason. Because it made you laugh, because it made you cry, because it made you think or even because it made you angry. As long as it made you something.
For me, personally, it’s my favourite thing I’ve ever created or worked on. I love Derek more than any other character. In fact, I wish I were more like him. I wish everyone was.
It’s a show about kindness. It’s funny and sweet and deals with the real issues of everyday life. I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like it. The performance that Kerry Godliman gives as Hannah may be the finest piece of character acting I’ve seen.
And Karl Pilkington as Dougie makes me laugh every second he is on screen. Kev played by David Earl is a lovable train wreck. You won’t know whether to hug him or take him to the vet to have him put down. The uncaring outside world popping in and out will boil your blood and the residents will break your heart. Or you won’t like it. Haha. One of the two.
Some lovely people can’t seem to get their head around the fact that scenes aren’t necessarily deleted because they’re no good. They’re usually deleted because of time restrictions. We shot about 90 hours worth. That’s a lot of great stuff that simply can’t be used. DVD extras I say.
I was a surprise guest at The Sun Military Awards this week. I wasn’t expecting it to be so overwhelmingly moving. I think I had something in my eye. Or I’m pregnant. Anyway, it was emotional. And fun actually. That my friends is what you call a great attitude. Humbling.
Week two hundred and forty-one - November/December 2012
Another week spent putting the final touches to Derek.
It’s turned out very well indeed. You’ll be the judge of that. I guess what I mean is, it turned out how I meant it to. That’s all I can ask for. I can’t really influence the vote any more than that. I can try to get as many people to see it as possible, but that’s all. I would like to say that it’s my personal favourite thing I’ve ever done. I can’t explain why. It just is. Hope you like it.
Karl came into the edit to watch a bit and stayed and watched all six. I was so glad he loved it. He’s great in it. Everyone is, but I’m very proud of his performance. I created the character of Dougie by imagining what Karl’s life would be like if he hadn’t got into media, came to London, and met me. Haha. Showing him it, I felt like the Ghost of Xmas ‘Alternative Present.’
A lot of buzz about An Idiot Abroad 3 this week too.
It’s slightly different from previous series in a few ways. Obviously Karl has got a little mate this time. It’s a 3 part special. And it’s one long journey: literally and emotionally. It also really ramps up from week to week. Ep 1 is quite gentle comparatively. They’re sort of getting to know each other. It kicks off a bit in ep 2. And ep 3 is fucking mental. Best episode of every series I’d say. And quite sweet even. Anyway I hope you enjoy that too.
I was in the edit trying to finish Derek, doing press for An Idiot Abroad 3, getting together the set for my little Scandanavian arena tour, starting a new movie script, and annoying fundamentalists on Twitter. The last one is more of a hobby, but very time consuming. Haha.
It’s also shopping time. Jane’s birthday in December starts the ball rolling then Christmas takes over. To make it easier, last year we initiated “the list”. We have to do a long list of things we want and the other person buys some of them so you’re still not sure what you’re getting. It really helps. This was the list I made of presents I wanted…
Jane looked at it, laughed, and said, “Now do a proper one.” Maybe she was just trying to throw me off the scent. I pretended to fall for it. I am going to call my monkey butler Ernest by the way, and I will train it to carry stuff for me.
I had a few days off from editing Derek to go and be one of the headline acts at The New York Comedy Festival.
I kicked off the festival with an Audience Q and A and a live interview with John Hodgman at The Town Hall. I enjoyed it so much that I’m thinking of doing a string of similar events across the country.
It was the armchairs that clinched the deal. “Stand Up” is fun but “Sit down” is more comfortable.
The following night I performed at the Stand Up For Heroes Benefit.
It’s always an amazing night of music and comedy, and a truly humbling experience.
Springsteen played as usual and auctioned his guitar. He did an acoustic version of “Tougher than the rest” that sent a chill down the spine.
I was also in town plugging my new app JustSayin’ and letting Americans know that ‘Derek’ is coming exclusively to Netflix next year.
The reason I went with Netflix is because I believe it’s the future of TV. Viewing habits are changing and people are insisting on everything On Demand. Also, as an artist you want the maximum number of viewers with the minimum amount of interference from a broadcaster. The Netflix figures are really impressive and I have absolute artistic freedom. And finally, they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I can’t tell you the deal, but I worked it out at 28 times what I made from the first series of The Office. Ker-ching. I mean… art… Ker-Chart.
I did my 23rd Letterman appearance, (which was probably my favourite one so far), and The View. I told Barbara Walters to shut up. She took it well. They even invited me back to co-host. I said yes. I also promised the SNL lot that I’d host next year. I’ve been invited to do it so many times but I was never available, but I’m going to do it next year whether it coincides with me plugging something or not. It might even be better if I don’t have to restrict it to jokes about the movie or TV show I’m flogging. Pure fun. You’ll be the judge of that.
COMEDIAN Ricky Gervais says he will never censor what he wants to say and insists that not even the threat of arrest will stop him.
“I’m going to say what I think,” Ricky, 51, told us at the launch of his new show An Idiot Abroad 3, which begins on November 30 on Sky1 HD.
“Offence is relative. It’s not about right and wrong – it’s about feelings, so it’s hard to say someone is objectively wrong,” said Ricky, whose last big spat came last year when he used the term “mong” for those with Down’s syndrome.
“[Someone] can still be an idiot and say something horrendous but if they haven’t broken the law it’s a little bit weird. I don’t think being an idiot is against the law.
“Some people believe in ghosts and God and I think that’s very strange.”
Got to New York a couple of days after Sandy hit. My neighbourhood was completely unaffected but some parts are still without power and pretty devastated.
The attitude is fantastic though. People are getting together to help each other get back on their feet and saying stuff like “there are people a lot worse off than us.” New York bounces back fast and stronger than ever.
If you fancy donating to you can text REDCROSS to 90999 which gives $10 to the American Red Cross. Thanks.
Central Park lost a few old trees but is back to its glorious self now. The first day it reopened it was just full of people running round enjoying life again. I’m sure I saw a dog laughing.
This little fella was assessing the damage to his home…
I’m making my 23rd appearance on Letterman this week. I hope to try to convince Americans that they can’t vote for a man who believes the answers to all our problems can be found in a magic hat.
It’s great and builds nicely to the best episode of all three series I’d say. (You’ll be the judge of that.) It’s a three-part epic adventure following the footsteps of Marco Polo from Venice to China. It’s quite filmic in that there’s an added element to the narrative with Karl and Warwick’s relationship.
I’m thinking of doing an edit where you can watch it as one long movie. Maybe for the DVD.
My other job this week of course was editing Derek. I’d say it’s 70% there. I have the same feeling I had when I was making The Office.
A mixture of excitement and fear. It’s certainly a return to real observations about normal life.
It’s probably even more real than The Office in some ways but with more drama. People keep asking me if it’s a comedy, a drama or a comedy drama. I guess the answer is it’s what ever you think real life is.
A lot of Ricky fans are screaming, “Is there anything that The Rickster used to wear (at either end of his body), that he has signed and put on ebay for auction?”
It’s turning out swell, as they say in America. Well, they did in the 1930s anyway.
My first mistake was casting people who will beat me to the BAFTA this time. Imagine if Karl Pilkington won an award for acting. It would be a bigger travesty than when I did. He’s great in it, I must say. Everyone is, but just his little gimp face makes me laugh before he even says anything.
Also finished An Idiot Abroad 3. We even started on the director’s commentary for the DVD. At one point Karl said, “The Chinese language is just a noise.” I quickly pointed out that Karl is a lovely bloke, without a malicious bone in his body, whose words sometimes bypass the brain. It’s a very funny commentary though. Lots of arguing and moaning if you can imagine that. Haha.
The launch of my little app, Just Sayin’, went very well and we’ve had hundreds of thousands of downloads already and we haven’t even started the promotion properly yet. Thank you. I even got Karl on it. He moaned about apps, Twitter and fan sites and the internet in general. Nice target marketing there. Unbelievable.
I’m doing my 23rd Letterman appearance to talk about it next month, along with The View so it should really start taking off in a big way hopefully. Please download it here.[iTunes App store link]
Oh, and it’s free by the way. Ricky Gervais: PHILANTHROPIST
Week two hundred and thirty-four- September/October 2012
Spent the week editing Derek.
At first I was depressed about having so much wasted stuff, because each ep had to be cut from 40 or 50 minutes down to a measly 24. Then, not only did I remember how insatiable the appetite for DVD extras and exclusive web material is these days, but also that the more great stuff you have to throw out the better the finished product is. I went through the same with The Office. And that turned out quite well.
Karl came in to watch the rough edits. He loved them… He actually laughed all the way through. I’ve never seen him do that before. The only time I’ve even heard him say he liked something was the animation. I think he was also very relieved. He was very nervous about acting at all, and even though he got more confident during the filming, and even got to really like it, he was still very anxious about watching himself in the finished article. He had nothing to worry about. He’s fucking brilliant in it.
Here he is all chuffed…
He had another little rant about the internet though. He said he wanted to “thump people who leave comments on forums in the ‘ed.” Haha. “I wish I could turn the internet off and see ‘em panickin’.”
He also got annoyed at people on X Factor: “They all say ‘I’m different.’ No you’re not. You’re the same as the last fuckin’ nob ‘ed that was just on.”…
When he’s right, he’s right.
In general though he’s the happiest I’ve ever seen him. He’s buzzing about the new Idiot Abroad and says that meeting the conjoined twins in India was the best thing he’s ever done. It is quite amazing TV. The questions he asked them are stunning. That’s all I’m prepared to say for now.
Week two hundred and thirty-four- September/October 2012
So, I didn’t win an Emmy. I was up for my Golden Globes hosting against LL Cool J (Grammys) & Neil Patrick Harris (Tonys) who won.
But I did hand a couple out. During one part of one of my presentations a big booming voice from the heavens said something like “cue FX”… someone had obviously faded up a live mic in the control room. It made me jump and so of course I said, “I’m an atheist, but that scared me”. Always nice to say the A word on primetime US network TV.
Seeing this sign on the way didn’t teach me anything
Fellow scumbag Jon Stewart won for the squillionth time and here he is after looking very pleased about it. I sent this picture to him and he said he looks like that because he just realised we all die. Haha.
After the show we were whisked off to the HBO party as usual. It’s the only place to be.
I bumped into Michael J Fox and Jane Fonda. I know Michael but I’d never met Jane before. She introduced her self by saying, “Hello, I’m Jane Fonda.” I laughed and said, “Yeah..I know.” How sweet is that?