Interview: Ricky Gervais

A version of this interview with Ricky Gervais first appeared in the London Evening Standard here in October, 2017. Since this was published Gervais has said that the working title of his latest project revealed below is now "After Life". 

"Even I can’t talk about myself for an hour,” says Ricky Gervais as he sits down in his Hampstead office to talk about himself for an hour. Meet the new improved Gervais, whose world tour of his latest show, Humanity, reaches London this week. More mature, more thoughtful, still opinionated and, of course, still talkative.

When I arrive, the photoshoot has just finished, which is a shame because I was going to suggest that Gervais, not averse to commenting on Trump, as you will read, take a knee in the pictures. Though I did express concern that, at 56, he might not be able to get up again. This prompts the first of many outbursts of his trademark hyena laugh before he gets more serious.

“People taking a knee deserve a round of applause. They are brave enough and they might get into trouble but I think that’s what a real hero is. If you think you won’t get into trouble then there’s nothing heroic about it. I don’t know what Trump has to do to lose his supporters. It’s like a religion. He’s a school bully. This last six months has been crazy. He has said so many things that we can’t keep an eye on them all. He’s like he’s an emperor, he does what he wants.”

Humanity finds Gervais tackling topics including Trump, Brexit, cancer, blasphemy and also his family and how laughter was so vital growing up in Reading. It is his most personal set yet. 

A memorable anecdote about his brother Bob, 11 years older, almost makes you wonder if he is the truly talented Gervais sibling. “I realised what an influence Bob was on me growing up. The point of life was to have a laugh, that was the men ... the women carried on working! I wanted to be clever but being funny came first. That’s how you know someone is clever. They don’t come out and tell you Pi to 13 places — they tell you a joke.”

Both of his parents were funny. “My dad was very dry. He didn’t say much, he’d hide behind his paper. I remember the family was round once and my mum said, ‘He’s not put any money away for his funeral’. He just replied, ‘Bury me in the garden’. Mum was funny because she told the truth. I remember when I was 12 I asked her why my brothers were so much older than me and she just went ‘Because you were a mistake’.”

He tweeted his support for Labour at the last election but keeps party politics offstage. “I think everyone is political these days but I don’t come down on one side or the other. The only side I take is clever versus stupid. Any line taken out of the context of the show would be horrendous but now I don’t care.” He has no time for people who say they are offended. “Saying ‘I’m offended’ is meaningless to me. It’s like saying, ‘I’ve got a pain in my leg’. What’s that got to do with me?

Interview continues here.

Picture: Rich Hardcastle

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