After Life has guaranteed his place at the very top of the pantheon of those who make us laugh and think.
The very first time I saw Ricky Gervais was in the late 90s, hosting a tiny segment of a popular comedy show.
And it made no impression on me. None whatsoever.
Unlike Sasha Baron-Cohen, whose Ali G character immediately resonated with me in the way in which he humiliated established politicians by asking the most asinine questions imaginable, I don’t think many people walked away watching the Reading born agent provocateur in the 90s, thinking that he was the best thing since sliced bread.
And this was the dominant view, until word of mouth of the brilliance of the first season of The Office began to spread in 2001. And only then, did our man really take off.
The format of The Office, which was a sort of documentary on an unremarkable organization, situated in an unremarkable part of England — slough — allowed Ricky Gervais to unleash his comedic gifts on us.
His character, David Brent, was a walking, talking, cringe-fest, whose attempts at humour, leadership and philosophy made him look like an absolute idiot. As much as you wanted to reach for the remote control to switch channels, you got sucked in, watching Brent commit one faux pas after the next, whether it was about the reasons for naming his dog after Nelson Mandela or trying to undermine his better looking and more competent colleague, our man had the entire nation hooked on his material like no one since John Cleese.
And it came as no surprise that this show made Gervais an overnight superstar, which led to the format being sold to America, with Steve Carrell in the lead role.
But I was a bit sceptical as to whether his style of comedy, which had no exclusion zones on race, gender, sexuality, life, mental health and fat folks would find an audience in America.
And much to my surprise, it did.
From his very first acceptance speech at the golden globes in 2006, when he talked about being from “ a little country which used to run the world before you” to his now infamous monologue at the same awards show in 2020, in which he skewers Hollywood’s finest, we see…