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Ricky Gervais Interview conducted Thursday 18th November 2004

It’s been just over a year since we last interviewed Ricky Gervais (read the interview here), but such a lot has happened to him in such a short space of time. In just twelve months he has won two golden globes, gained worldwide fame (even if he won’t admit to it!) and has also been on tour with his second stand up show. Not bad going hey?? Now that The Office door has firmly shut (the DVD has just been released), it is time for Ricky to move on. Early this year he played several sell-out shows which tackled the controversial area of Politics. A couple of months later Ricky released his first book called Flanimals, and once again he showed that he has the Midas touch! With two DVDs released in November we thought it was about time we caught up with Ricky. Read on to find out what he had to say (we have also included audio files in case you want to listen to his answers as well).

Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais

DVDAnswers: Well, it's been just over a year ago since we interviewed you last.

Ricky Gervais: Was that about the Christmas specials? Or about Animals?

DVDAnswers: Yeah you were working on the Christmas Specials and Animals was just about to come out on DVD

Ricky Gervais: Oh right yeah.

DVDAnswers: A lot has happened in the year, would you consider it a successful year?

Ricky Gervais: I never really project like that, just because I do projects that I am interested in. I have to think of the business side of things because myself—my own work—and Steven with The Office, we do our own work really. We do worry about deals and we worry about the font, and we worry about point of sale. It's part of the whole thing. There's no point spending three years doing something and then some prat comes along and does it in a funny font, or puts out a photograph that you don't like. We are very conscious about that, and basically that is three hours a day saying no to stuff. No we don't want to do crap birthday cards with messages on. So what happens is someone else goes out and does an awful drawing, and someone else makes six quid. I still don't want to do them, but I wish that someone else wasn't doing them either. So it is trying to control that. Do you know what I heard today that a poster of Brent is [indistinct] Che Guevara on student walls. I wonder what one it is? My fat face while they are trying to study Maths… that must be off-putting!

DVDAnswers: Do you think you have come to terms with your new found stardom, or is it still a bit of a cultural shock?

Ricky Gervais: That's not stardom. Stardom is Tom Cruise. Stardom is teeth and hair and suits and red carpets. Mine is my work which has intrigued a few people. No it is fine.

DVDAnswers: Yeah, but come on I saw posters of you everywhere when I was in London last week

Ricky Gervais: That's for Politics? That's alright, people think that's Che Guevara. They are thinking he's making a comeback. [laughs]

DVDAnswers: What DVDs have you bought this year and which is your favourite?

Ricky Gervais: Oh god. We get pretty much all the major ones off Amazon. Leave out things like Bridget Jones and stuff like that; but I watched Troy the other night, which is fun. These aren't the greatest films ever made but they are fun. They kill a couple of hours when "Boxing Academy" has finished and I am waiting for "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!" to start. There's some downtime!

Ricky Gervais: Now I've got Sky Plus, I probably watch less telly, but it is more selective. I've got the odd evening so I love watching DVDs. I watched the whole of "Murder One" again, which I hadn't seen in ten years. That is officially the best TV series of all time. "The Simpsons" is the best TV show of all time. "Murder One", the original series, is the best TV series of all time.

DVDAnswers: That leads me very conveniently onto one of my other questions. We have heard a rumour that you will be appearing in The Simpsons. Is that true?

Ricky Gervais: Matt's asked me, and I am working with him for  some ideas. I don't want to do it for the sake of it, so I don't want to crowbar myself in. I don't think I want to play myself because, I don't know really, I don't think I'm famous enough. I don't want to be Brent because that'll only work as a fictional character in a fictional thing. So, we just think of a character and... I got an email the other day from Al Jean the producer saying we’ll just work on it.. any ideas and stuff, which is nice. I said that there is no rush and they are the same so it's a long ball game as they say, and I am very excited about that. Also, "Arrested Development" have also asked me as well. That's my new favourite show of the moment. I'm trying to find time to do that.

DVDAnswers: What control do you have with your DVDs?

Ricky Gervais: Total. Absolutely total. Same with "The Office". Myself and Steve did "The Office" from beginning to end; we chose the extras, we filmed the extras, we edit it ourselves, we worry about the font, we chose the front cover. With "Politics" I chose that image, decided to do it, set a photo shoot up. We did that with the same photographer that did "Animals" (Ray Burmiston). I filmed all that footage on tour with Robin. Then I interviewed Carl. Obviously the content is totally mine. I write the show, totally by myself, and then down to picking the quotes on the back.

DVDAnswers: So why did you choose the image for the Politics show?

Ricky Gervais: Well we’d been thinking about it, and as soon as I decided on that image, I started using that image for the live work because I though that would be a good brand recognition. You know you always think about it.

DVDAnswers: How long from start to finish does it take to produce a DVD? Please give our readers a quick insight into what goes on when creating a DVD.

Ricky Gervais: It starts from pretty much when you film it to when it comes out. So we filmed it in about July and then you’re dabbling ever since. Right down to the wire really. Then I do my own interviews. That's why I can only do one project. Actors can flip from one project to the next. I've seen actors finishing their job and then calling their agent asking what they have got tomorrow. By the time actors have arrived on-set, me and Steven have been writing it for a year and a half, casting it. When they leave, we have got to edit it, we have got to worry about the schedule, and then we have to argue with schedulers, then we have got to set up interviews. I would never have it any other way; I would rather be completely responsible for one thing, than dabble in six.

DVDAnswers: Now onto a few questions about the Office, What is your own personal favourite moment from the Office?

Ricky Gervais: Oh, about five flipped through my mind.

DVDAnswers: Ok, five will do, what are they?

Ricky Gervais: OK. I think there's a rape up there; me begging for my job back; Tim taking off his mic at the end of six; when I see the woman coming with the chiffon scarf I go "Oh for f**k sake!" when I am disappointed by my blind date; I love it when Tim and Dawn say cheerio over "Take That".

DVDAnswers: Why did you choose that particular song?

Ricky Gervais: I think it is the best ballad pop song. I think "I Want You Back" by the Jacksons is probably the most perfect pop song. I think Take That's "Back For Good" is the best fusion of pop and ballade, it's just so perfect. Everything was right. It was their massive definitive song as well. And yet, you would hear it at a disco at Christmas. It didn't seem too contrived or smaltsey.

DVDAnswers: Who's idea was it to introduce the character of Anne, and was she based on anyone you know?

Ricky Gervais: We thought that up until then the nasty flawed characters had all been men. The last series saw men as boys and the women as adults, and they are the sane ones. So we thought, one, we wanted to give Tim a new nemesis that was worse than Gareth, and we thought it would be funny if it were a pregnant woman. A pregnant woman who thinks the world revolves around her because she's pregnant. So he can't even argue back, like he does to Gareth. He's trapped, so it is even worse. She's boring, she's awful, she's conceited, she's offensive, and you can't have a go at her because she's pregnant. It was an awful situation and the clock is ticking, this is a pregnant woman who is doing up her family and talking about herself, and he hasn't even got a girlfriend. There's cuts between her and Dawn holding a baby.

DVDAnswers: The commentary on the Christmas DVD will appeal to many fans. However, why did you choose to only commentate on the 2nd episode?

Ricky Gervais: I imagine it is pretty torturous to do and to listen to. So, it's forty-five minutes of drivel. So if you can sit through that and you want more, then there is something wrong with you.

DVDAnswers: My favourite extra on the Christmas DVD has to be the Golden Globes featurette. Does it still surprise you that the Office won two awards?

Ricky Gervais: Yes, of course. The most surreal moment of my career. Knowing that we wouldn't win and then being smug in the limo on the way back. "Just got a couple of Golden Globes obviously... yeah sure". Yeah it was overwhelming. That was a nice little feature wasn't it?

DVDAnswers: What are your best memories from the night?

Ricky Gervais: I couldn't take my eyes off Jack Nicholson. He is the most charismatic, coolest... he’s like a patriarch, it's like it's his house and he has invited a few friends around. It's amazing. Oh, I know my favourite memory, but I didn't hear it first-hand. Lots of sources told me that Clint Eastwood, when we went up for the first time, turned to the person next to him and said "Who the f**k are they?"

DVDAnswers: Yeah that is shown in the featurette and looked really funny!

Ricky Gervais: That is my favourite.

DVDAnswers: For people who haven’t seen you in stand-up before, what can they expect? Also how does your Politics show differ from the Animals one?

Ricky Gervais: I don't know. It's grown up, so I think get children, vicars and pregnant women out of the room—it may be bad for them. It's firmly tongue in cheek in the sense that the conceit is that I am one of those comedian that thinks he can change the world and give a little bit back. And of course I come down on all the wrong angles so the targets are the wrong targets, they’re not the conglomerate businesses or General Pinochet. They are Thora Hird, Stephen Hawking and Gandhi. I think once you know the place where the comedy is coming from, you can laugh at what you would think were quite harsh taboo subjects without guilt because it's a persona and I stand by the jokes. The jokes tick all the boxes; they are true comedy conceits, and not just shock tactics for the sake, and not being offensive for fun. I think there is a lot of honesty in it as well, the stories that I say are true, are true. The way I get things wrong and completely go off, and the flights of fantasy and I’m the idiot. I think people are intelligent enough to go with you, so I think on the whole, 99% of people enjoy it for what it is, and will not be confused.

DVDAnswers: Did you find it easier to write material for the Politics show?

Ricky Gervais: No probably harder. I was trying to make it more stripped down, and in a way more disciplined in what I was trying to achieve, and I was trying to be a better stand-up. I had to embrace a little bit more as well, because with Animals I went out and did a show and almost denied the fact that I was famous, whereas in this one it was ridiculous for me to deny it for too much longer. I had to sort of embrace that part of my life because they were gonna see someone now that has won two Golden Globes and was in the paper every day when there was a survey about office desks. I had to try and incorporate that without it looking like a celebrity buy in, without it looking like I was cashing in on my TV career. Not that I ever cashed in on anything, I'm too lazy. I think you've got to do about sixty gigs and sell out stadiums to cash in. I do one in each town and think that will do, right film that. I really enjoyed it and I am really pleased with Politics. It’s better than Animals I think.

DVDAnswers: I’ve heard that you only plan to do one more stand-up show, is that true?

Ricky Gervais: Well I'll certainly do one more. It might be the end of the conceptual stand-up, so I might do the odd charity gig or do some of the things I have been very disciplined not to do, just go out and chat about stuff, but it’ll be the last of the conceptual ones. It’s called Science—you need three for the box set.

DVDAnswers: As you can probably tell from my voice I am a Welshman. You have many fans in Wales, so can we expect you to bring your shows to the Welsh people?

Ricky Gervais: No I missed out a whole big chunk. Basically, I missed out the whole west-hand side of Britain, I didn't do Liverpool, Wales, the West Country where I’m from, I didn't do Devon, Cornwall, I think the furthest West I got is Oxford. And it just happened to be that way. I sort of chose six cities because of commitments. Next time I’m definitely going to do it. I’m going to do Wales, I'll definitely do somewhere like in Bristol, Bath or Devon. Yeah I will, absolutely.

DVDAnswers: Was the bad guy character you played in Alias what you expected, he wasn't that strange was he?

Ricky Gervais: Oh he was, he was a terrorist!

DVDAnswers: Ok, normal was the wrong choice of words!

Ricky Gervais: Well exactly. He’s normal because I played it naturalistically. It was a man holding a government, threatening to blow everyone up with a bomb that cannot be defused. I think he was pretty bad! I was surprised they dressed a super terrorist in a chunky knitted sweater and a platted shirt. It felt like Gyles Brandreth had wandered into a Vogue shoot—everyone else was Armani and black leather! It was a bit of a baptism of fire, but I thought I would give it a go. It was a bit of fun really, it's nice to be the guest.

DVDAnswers: Do you plan to do anything similar in the future?

Ricky Gervais: Yeah, there’s some things I’d say yes to because I’m a huge fan, but I could go around America for the next three years popping up as a butler or the buddy, and it is great, and it’s flattering, but it’s a diversion. What I do is write comedy, so I want to get back and do that really.

DVDAnswers: What do you think about Jennifer Garner saying that you were her favourite guest star of the entire series?

Ricky Gervais: Did she say that? That's very nice. Believe it or not, but it's nice to have people say nice things about you than nasty things. That's nice to know that people enjoyed, I really enjoyed it, everyone there was really nice to me and I had a really good time. Oh, that's excellent, its better than going he was a prat—because I am, I muck around all the time, so I wouldn't be surprised if they said he was the worst guest we ever had because he screwed around like a fat forty-year-old child. As it was they must have quite enjoyed me acting like Terry Scott [laughs].

DVDAnswers: So what can we expect from you in the future? What can we expect from the TV show “Extras”?

Ricky Gervais: Yeah, that will be filming after Christmas and that will be out next Summer. I'm also going to be signing a film deal soon for Flanimals, which is a Hollywood movie. Creating the film around the Flanimals creatures like a big budget thing, which will be nice. I've already started writing Science, so busy enough!

DVDAnswers: Were you surprised by the success of your Flanimals book? I heard that Amazon have stated that people who have been buying the Office DVDs have been the ones buying your book as well?

Ricky Gervais: Yeah, but the thing is, I think that because bookshops will put it in "Humour" and I think it should be in "Children's Books", it's a children book. If you're getting that thinking you'll be getting Monty Python or something, you’re gonna be upset. It's a fun book for kids, it is on two levels but I think you've got to know that it's meant to make eight year olds giggle as opposed to eighty year olds. No, I'm not surprised of the success of it because I put the work in.

DVDAnswers: Yeah I remember you mentioning it a year ago, when I spoke to you last?

Ricky Gervais: Someone said the book was an overnight success, and I went “Yeah, and it only took twenty-five years.”

DVDAnswers: I noticed that you're being interviewed by Jonathan Ross again this Saturday?

Ricky Gervais: Friday

DVDAnswers: Sorry my mistake! Do you do any preparation before appearing on his show, do you know what sort of questions he is likely to ask?

Ricky Gervais: It's ludicrous. No course not, I don't even do a pre-interview with Jonathan. What you do in pre-interviews is, "Can I ask you about this?" and I go "yeah, yeah, yeah". No, with Jonathan, no absolutely nothing. The last two times he interviewed me for about forty minutes—most of it both knowing we couldn't put any of it out. We either swear too much, say ridiculous things, libel people for the studio audience, or just bicker. But it's fun. I think the people at home miss the best bits, but it's great fun yeah.

DVDAnswers: Is there any truth in the rumour that you will be moving over to Radio 1?

Ricky Gervais: No, no truth about that!

DVDAnswers: Well, that's all the questions we have for you.

Ricky Gervais: Brilliant thank you very much. Cheers.[/b]

Our thanks once again to Ricky for taking time out of his hectic schedule to talk to us. Just in case you were not aware, Ricky has two DVDs propping up the charts this year. First off is The Office Christmas Specials (see our review here) which concludes the popular BBC series, and he has also released his Politics show (see review here). There is no doubting that Ricky is one of Britain’s finest comedians and this year he has released two DVDs you cannot afford to miss!

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