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EDITIONS
Monday, 16 December, 2002, 13:37 GMT
Gervais and Kay playing for laughs
Ricky Gervais
Ricky Gervais plays David Brent in The Office

The 2002 Comedy Awards have hailed Peter Kay and Ricky Gervais as the new Kings of Comedy. BBC News Online takes a look at the two stars of stand-up and television.

Although there is a distinctly North-South divide between Kay and Gervais, there are many similarities as both are writers, directors and the acting stars of their own show and draw on their backgrounds for their work.

Peter Kay thrives on his Northern roots, often bestowing great plaudits on his home town of Bolton.

Peter Kay
Peter Kay bases much of his work on his background
The 29-year-old emerged as a new young talent with That Peter Kay Thing for Channel 4.

The show centred on a series of episodes including one set in a bingo hall and another about an ice-cream seller.

Kay has previously worked in a bingo hall so was able to draw on the people he met for his characters.

'Shabba'

In the bingo episode, Kay played several characters including the club manager, fire safety officer Keith Lard and even a female bingo fan.

Following on from that came the series Phoenix Nights, set in a fictional northern working men's club and run by wheelchair-bound Brian Potter, played by Kay.

Also starring in the show are Kay's co-writers Dave Spikey, who plays entertainer Jerry St Clair, and Neil Fitzmaurice, who takes the part of Ray Von.

The show has produced a host of catchphrases, which adorn fan T-shirts, including "put the big light on", "shabba" and "garlic bread" - which would be complete nonsense to non-devotees.

Since bursting onto the scene, Kay has been joking that all the profit he makes will go towards buying his mother a house.

And he has now embarked on a mammoth 130-date sold out tour, which he has called My Mum Wants a Bungalow.

Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant
Gervais co-writes with Stephen Merchant [R]
Kay is also famous for his John Smith beer adverts, including one about a diving competition where Kay, who does not have the most athletic of physiques, jumps into the pool as the commentator shouts "top bombing".

Ricky Gervais, who is also touring his stand-up show, has cornered the market in uncomfortable comedy with The Office - a show that makes you cringe with embarrassment.

Gervais, 40, plays David Brent, a middle manager at paper company Wernham Hogg, whose main drive is to be everybody's friend and a motivator - something he fails in every respect.

Set in Slough, not far from Gervais' home town of Reading, the show has gone from strength to strength, with the first series breaking the record for the fastest-selling comedy DVD.

Oggmonster

The final episode of series two was left with a cliffhanger after Brent begged not to be made redundant from Wernham Hogg.

But Gervais has promised Brent will return, although it is unknown whether he will just come back for a one-off or a whole series.

Gervais started his broadcasting career at XFM, where he has now returned to do a Saturday afternoon show with his writing partner Steven Merchant - who had one cameo as Oggmonster in The Office, for which his costume made him unrecognisable.

Gervais was one of the regular guest commentators on Channel 4's The 11 O'Clock Show, probably best remembered for creating Ali G, for which Gervais did not win particularly fond reviews.

And there was little attention paid to his chat show - Meet Ricky Gervais.

But The Office, which he writes and directs with Merchant, really brought him to the attention of the public and the critics, who could not heap enough praise on him.

The Office is one of those shows you either love or hate, that is not necessarily heavy on the gags or one-liners.

But it has captured the imagination of viewers - possibly because each one knows or has known a boss like David Brent.

See also:

15 Dec 02 | Entertainment
30 Jan 02 | Entertainment
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11 Dec 02 | England
31 Jan 01 | Entertainment
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