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Wednesday, 30 January, 2002, 07:48 GMT
Why Ricky Gervais loves Office life
Ricky Gervais in The Office
Gervais has become a star as the loathsome David Brent
By BBC News Online's Rebecca Thomas

Comedian Ricky Gervais - star of hit BBC comedy The Office - has a philosophy when it comes to finding fulfilment from a career.

Life's too short, he says, to settle for second best.

"Don't do things just for the money, that are half-baked or you're not sure about," Gervais says in his soft, laid back tones.

"It's better to do only one good thing in life than 18 average ones. So many people end up regretting their lives but at the end of day you realise so little actually matters."


David Brent is a sad idiot, going through a mid-life crisis and suffering a job he is not proud of

Ricky Gervais

It's a sound strategy and one Gervais, 40, could claim to embody himself. A self-confessed sloth and late-starter, having flitted from job to job, he only found his niche in comedy at the age of 36.

And the last laugh is definitely on Gervais because as The Office's David Brent - a man who refuses to admit his career aspirations have failed - he has gone from being little-known to being a star.

Sitcom The Office - filmed to look like a docudrama and without canned laughter - centres around the petty goings-on among the staff of a paper merchants in Slough.

Inconsequential issues - such as who owns the stapler - are blown out of all proportion. But manager Brent takes his lack of importance to loathsome extremes.

Rebecca Thomas
Gervais: Looking for an easy life

He swaggers around being boorish, patronising, thinking he is a well-respected wit when in fact everyone hates him.

Gervais, who also co-wrote The Office with Stephen Merchant, has no sympathy for his monster Brent.

"He likes to think he is a great person and is popular and has to tell you about it," Gervais sniggers.

"Really, David Brent is just a sad idiot, going through a mid-life crisis and suffering a job he is not proud of.

"But there is no need to feel sorry for him. People like him are thick-skinned and don't feel pain like the rest of us."

Observation

The Office makes you guffaw but it also makes you squirm. Even while relishing the depths Brent sinks to, you often sense his behaviour and environment are quite close to home.

Gervais says that this was exactly the point of The Office. Beyond its initial purpose to entertain, the show is designed to strike a chord of familiarity.

"It's a comedy of recognition and observation and everyone can see something in it," he says.

The Office
David Brent makes his long-suffering staff's life a misery

"It's saying if you are not happy do something about it. Don't just moan for 45 years then retire with eight people signing your card and saying: 'Do drop in.'"

Gervais' own experience of office life involves seven years spent as an entertainments manager for a student union.

And he stresses he has nothing against office culture, only the way people get sucked in at the expense of their dreams.

His own fantasy was to be a musician. He played in an 1980s band called Seona Dancing and then managed the band Suede.

After trying - and giving-up - stand-up, Gervais opted for presenting on independent radio station XFM - where he still does a Saturday show.

Bigot

It was here that he discovered his true comedic talent. "I'm not very good at music and find stand-up just too hard," says Gervais.

"But comedy, I find easy, and everyone knows I would rather get money for old rope than hard rock."

Ricky Gervais
Gervais: First love is music

And from the audience's point of view, Gervais' laziness has paid off. Firstly, he brought us the ranting bigot on Channel 4's satirical news comedy the 11 O'Clock Show.

The bigot turned a sensible discussion on racism or feminism, for example, into something quite disturbing.

And now, David Brent is almost as unlikeable a comedy "star".

But though we might think a pattern is emerging, Gervais says there is still a lot to learn about Brent.

The second series of The Office is about to go into production and says Gervais: "As much as you think you know David Brent, you have only met him for three hours - the second three hours will be much more revealing."

The squirming populace can hardly wait.

See also:

16 Dec 01 | TV and Radio
Skinner crowned TV comedy king
13 Aug 01 | TV and Radio
Connolly backs TV satire
24 Dec 01 | TV and Radio
2001's TV: Making the news
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