Newsnight Review discussed Ricky Gervais one man show Animals at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London.
(Edited highlights of the panel's review)
He has won everything this year in terms of comedy. His position reminds of something that Jerry Seinfeld went through. He goes back to stand-up as there is a sense that unless you do that you are not a true a comic. Ricky Gervais never was a stand-up in the first place. I don't think he entirely succeeds. The best moments are the moments when he digresses somewhat from animals, what David Attenborough left out and you get a sense there of who he is, what he's interested in, the things that make him laugh, rather than him trying to make other people laugh. For me the show didn't go far enough with that kind of openness, which I think would have revealed and taken him further as a comedian.
It's a strange show. It's kind of much on one level. His career has had the opposite trajectory; most people prove themselves in the club. It has happened with everyone from Ben Elton to Peter Kay. The audience come to see him and bring a lot of baggage and come to see David Brent. A lot of the show doesn't work, but the reason they laugh is that they think he is sounding like David Brent.
He obviously had cobbled the show together and it looks like it. I'm sure that Eddie Izzard doesn't cobble his shows together. Watching Ricky Gervais you thought, "Oh, yeah, you can more or less do this." I cannot see why he is on stage. The worrying thing is that a lot of the material is so banal. He deconstructs Genesis and tells us that it is not literally true, which is about 400-year-old as a starter. He produces a book of homosexual animals. There was a whole series about that on Channel 4 and stand-ups use that to make jokes for the next three years. There is nothing wrong with it, but it's a bit flat.
I think that comedy has to stand in honesty. There is not enough of that in this production. It doesn't mean that it's bad. But the reason that people are discontented about it, it doesn't feel that it says a great deal. It's odd, not in direct comparison with The Office, but that felt brutally honest as satire as sitcom. Here we have the opposite, the creator stands back from his creation, he equally stands back from himself.
Be he opens up with a video show, the video show is about somebody having a wank. So the initial thought of the show is I am a wanker. That is odd.