Gervais achieved mainstream fame with his television series The Office and the subsequent series Extras, both of which he co-wrote and co-directed with friend and frequent collaborator Stephen Merchant. In addition to writing and directing the shows, Gervais also played the lead roles of David Brent in The Office and Andy Millman in Extras. Gervais has also starred in a number of Hollywood films, assuming leading roles in Ghost Town and The Invention of Lying. He has performed on four sell-out stand-up comedy tours, written the best-selling Flanimals book series and starred with Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington in the most downloaded podcast in the world as of March 2009,The Ricky Gervais Show.
He has won multiple awards and honours, including seven BAFTA Awards, five British Comedy Awards, two Emmy Awards, three Golden Globe Awards and the 2006 Rose d'Or, as well as a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination. In 2007 he was voted the 11th greatest stand-up comic on Channel 4's 100 Greatest Stand-Ups and again in the updated 2010 list as the 3rd greatest stand-up comic.In 2010 he was named on the TIME 100 list of the world's most influential people.In 2010, Gervais became the first British person to host the Golden Globe Awards in 14 years; he returned to host in 2011 and is signed on to host in 2012.
Gervais, along with siblings Larry (born 1945), Marsha (born 1948), and Bob (born 1950),was born and raised in the suburb of Whitley in Reading, Berkshire. Gervais's father, Lawrence Raymond 'Jerry' Gervais (1919–2002), a Franco-Ontarian, emigrated while on foreign duty during the Second World War from London, Ontario, Canada. Jerry met Gervais's mother, Eva Sophia M. (née House; 1925–2000),during a blackout,and they settled in Whitley. She died aged 74 of lung cancer.
During Xfm London's The Ricky Gervais Show and in further newspaper interviews with The Independent, Gervais noted that he believes his birth was unplanned due to the age difference between his youngest sibling and himself. During one interview with The Independent, Gervais tells the author that even his mother admitted his birth was unplanned.He has claimed that his father was "drunk when he filled in the birth certificate", leading to the unusual spelling of his middle name.
Gervais has stated that his upbringing and childhood were stable and trauma-free, with a high level of honesty and openness between his family members. He claims that his family, "much like The Waltons", made fun of each other regularly.
Gervais attended Whitley Park Infants and Junior Schools and received his secondary education at Ashmead Comprehensive School, before moving on to University College London in 1979. He arrived to study biology but changed to philosophy after only two weeks and earned an upper second-class honours degree in the subject. During his time at UCL, he met Jane Fallon, with whom he has been in a relationship since 1982.
In 1983, during his final year as a student at UCL (University College London), Gervais and his friend Bill Macrae formed a pop duo, Seona Dancing. They were signed by London Records, which released two of their singles—"More to Lose" and "Bitter Heart". The singles failed to break the top 40—with "More to Lose" charting at number 117 and "Bitter Heart" peaking at 70 in the UK singles charts.Despite not being successful in the UK, Seona Dancing did manage to score a hit in the Philippines with "More to Lose".
Gervais later worked as an events manager for the University of London Union (ULU),where he continued working until he took a similar job as "head of speech" at Xfm London.
Needing an assistant, Gervais interviewed the first person whose curriculum vitae he saw. The CV belonged to Stephen Merchant. During the interview at a local pub, Merchant agreed to do "all the boring stuff" because of his experience in media studies while Gervais "mess[ed] around".In 1998 Gervais was made redundant when the station was taken over by the Capital Radio group.
Gervais was music adviser for the BBC drama This Life, which was being produced by his girlfriend, Jane Fallon. He and Merchant also contributed sketches to BBC Radio 1's The Breezeblock in 1999 and 2000.
On 5 December 2005 Guardian Unlimited began offering free weekly podcasts featuring Gervais, Merchant, and Pilkington. Throughout January and February 2006 the podcast was consistently ranked the number-one podcast in the world; it appeared in the 2007 Guinness World Record for the world's most-downloaded podcast, having gained an average of 261,670 downloads per episode during its first month.On 20 February 2006, after the conclusion of the twelve-podcast series, it was announced that all future episodes would be available from Audible.com at a "nominal fee" (later, these had to be called audiobooks in accordance with iTunes policy). Two more series—-each with six podcasts—-were released between February and September 2006.
In late 2006 three more free podcasts were released. Together called "The Podfather Trilogy", they debuted individually at Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. These three were known by Ricky and Steve as "The Fourth season". In October 2007 another free full-length podcast was released through iTunes; this podcast was originally given out for free during a performance of Gervais's Fame tour in London. On 25 November 2007 Gervais, Merchant, and Pilkington released another free full-length podcast, which lasted just over an hour.
Gervais has contributed to the BAFTA-winning The Sketch Show (ITV), penning several sketches. His mainstream-TV debut came in September 1998 as part of Channel 4's "Comedy Lab" series of pilots. His one-off show Golden Years focused on a David Bowie–obsessed character called Clive Meadows. Gervais then came to much wider national attention with an obnoxious, cutting persona featured in a topical slot that replaced Ali G's segments on the satirical Channel 4 comedy programme The 11 O'Clock Show in early 1999, in which his character used as many expletives as was possible and produced an inordinate amount of politically incorrect statements. Among the other regular featured comedians on the show was Mackenzie Crook, later a co-star of The Office. Two years later, Gervais went on to present his own comedy chat show for Channel 4 called Meet Ricky Gervais; it was poorly received and has since been mocked by Gervais himself. The Independent newspaper has described Gervais as "obsessed by his own celebrity", but adds, "Who wouldn't want to be Peter Lawford in a comedy Rat Pack?" in reference to Ricky Gervais Meets...; the article, however, also describes him as "a very funny man" who "created one of the great sitcoms." The Guardian's Chris Tryhorn explained the "few gripes" he had with Extras, "particularly in the second series". "You can forgive Gervais a certain arrogance after the success of The Office, but..." He remarks on the confused tone of the series, taking in the clash between the broad comedy of characters Barry (Shaun Williamson) and Darren (Stephen Merchant), and the apparent parody of this style with When The Whistle Blows, and "given their total indulgence of Gervais, the BBC is portrayed as interfering, its comedy department run by a rather crudely stereotyped gay couple".
Throughout this time, Gervais also wrote for the BBC sketch show Bruiser and The Jim Tavare Show, and he had cameo roles in Channel 4's sitcom Spaced; it is speculated that the cameo is indeed The Office character David Brent. However, both series of Spaced finished airing before The Office premiered. Gervais also appeared in a few of Channel 4's 'Top 100...' list programmes, and he voiced the character of Penguin in Robbie the Reindeer's Legend of the Lost Tribe. His voice was redubbed for the US market.
On 5 January 2006 he interviewed Larry David in a one off special, Ricky Gervais Meets... Larry David. On 25 and 26 December of the same year Channel 4 aired similar specials in which he interviewed the actor/comedian Christopher Guest and comedian Garry Shandling. There are no plans for further episodes of "Meets...", although editions with John Cleese and Matt Groening were recorded in 2006 for broadcast in 2007. A source claimed, "The Shandling experience put him off for good".
Gervais guest-starred in an episode of The Simpsons entitled "Homer Simpson, This Is Your Wife", which aired on 26 March 2006 in the United States, on 23 April 2006 on satellite station Sky One in the United Kingdom (first appearing on terrestrial television in 2010), and on 18 July 2006 in Australia. He is the only British comic to write and star in a Simpsons episode. The episode was the highest rated in Sky One's history, arguably because of its extensive promotion, which revolved around the angle that Gervais was the episode's sole writer (and the first guest star on the show to also receive a writing credit for the episode of his appearance). Gervais clarified the extent of his input in a joint interview (with Christopher Guest) for Dazed and Confused magazine (January 2006): "No, all I did was put down a load of observations on an email and they made it look like a Simpsons script. I'm going to get the credit, but I think everyone in the industry knows it was a joint effort". Asked in a separate interview about how his idea for the episode (in which Homer swaps Marge on a game show) came about, Gervais replied:
I've always been fascinated with reality game shows but I think it was my girlfriend's idea. We watch Celebrity Big Brother at the moment, we watch I'm a Celebrity, Get Me out of Here... we watch all those reality TV shows — The Office came out of those docu-soaps".
Gervais, a longstanding Simpsons fan, presented a segment to mark the show's 20th anniversary on BBC Two's The Culture Show on 16 June 2007. Recently on Gervais's blog it was announced that he will be returning to The Simpsons and will feature him doing a skit based on his recent controversial performance at the 2011 Golden Globes. It is unknown if he will be writing the episode this time around.
Gervais has also guest-starred on Alias (appearing in the third-season episode "Façade") as Daniel Ryan, a former Royal Navy bomb-disposal specialist turned rogue Irish Republican Army bomb-maker. He has said about the appearance, "I did an episode of Alias, and I can't watch it. Me being serious. I can't watch it".
Gervais made a cameo appearance on Saturday Night Live in a Digital Short during which he claims that The Office was adapted from a Japanese program of the same name (with Steve Carell reprising his role as Michael Scott). The sketch re-creates scenes from the American and British pilot episode with Japanese elements (although in an exaggerated way). "It's funny", Gervais laughs at the end, "because it's racist".
Gervais was a guest judge on Jerry Seinfeld's NBC show The Marriage Ref alongside Larry David and Madonna.On 1 April 2010 Gervais made his first appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on NBC.
As of April 2011 he has made 18 guest appearances on the Late Show With David Letterman on the CBS network.
In April 2010 it was announced that Gervais and Stephen Merchant will be writing a new show, called Life's Too Short, which they described as, "A cross between Extras and Curb Your Enthusiasm and One Foot in the Grave but with a dwarf. That is out and out funny." The show will star actor Warwick Davis as himself, as well as Gervais and Merchant.
In August 1999, while on a BBC production course, Stephen Merchant had to make his own short film. He chose to make a docu-soap parody, set in an office. This sketch later formed the basis of the interview episode.With help from Ash Atalla, Merchant passed this tape on to the BBC's Head of Entertainment Paul Jackson at the Edinburgh Fringe, who then passed it on to Head of Comedy Jon Plowman, who eventually commissioned a full-pilot script from Merchant and Gervais.
The first six-episode series of The Office aired in the UK in July and August 2001 to little fanfare or attention.Word-of-mouth, repeats, and DVDs helped spread the word, building up huge momentum and anticipation for the second series, also comprising six episodes, in September 2002. The second series topped the BBC Two ratings, and the show then switched to BBC One in December 2003 for its final two special episodes.
Extras had its debut on the BBC on 21 July 2005; it received its premiere on HBO in the United States in September 2005. Written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, the sitcom ran for twelve episodes and starred Gervais as Andy Millman, a background artist. Millman is more self-aware and intentionally humorous than Gervais's The Office character David Brent.
Guest stars on the first series of Extras include Ross Kemp, Les Dennis, Patrick Stewart, Vinnie Jones, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Stiller, Kate Winslet, and Francesca Martinez. A second series began on 14 September 2006 in the UK and featured appearances by Daniel Radcliffe, Dame Diana Rigg, Orlando Bloom, Sir Ian McKellen, Chris Martin, Keith Chegwin, Robert Lindsay, Warwick Davis, Ronnie Corbett, Stephen Fry, Richard Briers, Patricia Potter, Sophia Myles, Moira Stuart, David Bowie, Kate Winslet, Robert De Niro, and Jonathan Ross.
Gervais (right) with friend Jonathan Ross at Live 8 in July 2005.
A Christmas special of Extras aired on 27 December 2007 in the UK and on 16 December 2007 in the US, featuring guest appearances by George Michael, Clive Owen, Gordon Ramsay, Jonathan Ross, and David Tennant.
On 10 June 2006 Gervais and Merchant were seen in a specially-filmed promotional sketch for the second series, in the middle of BBC One's World Cup football coverage. This time Gervais did not perform his famous dance. Instead, Merchant did a take-off of the Crouch Dance, recently popularised by England striker Peter Crouch.
Some have suggested that Gervais is influenced by Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Larry Sanders Show in making Extras, particularly in the format of celebrities making fools of themselves or subverting their public personas,and in the Gervais joke of someone making inappropriate remarks in front of a member of a minority. He has interviewed both Larry David and Garry Shandling, creators of these shows, on Ricky Gervais Meets...
The Ricky Gervais Show is an animated TV show that debuted on US cable network HBO on 19 February 2010.In the UK, the first season began airing on 23 April 2010 on Channel 4. The show was developed using original podcast recordings from The Ricky Gervais Show starring Gervais, Stephen Merchant, and Karl Pilkington. After receiving a loyal and enthusiastic following in the US, Cable channel HBO recommissioned the show for a second season, due to air in 2011.
The original audio show was broadcast in November 2001 on radio station Xfm, and aired in weekly periods for months at a time throughout 2002, 2003, 2004, and mid-2005. In November 2005 Guardian Unlimited offered the show as a podcast series of 12 shows.Throughout January and February 2006 the podcast was consistently ranked the number one podcast in the world; it appeared in the 2007 Guinness World Record for the world's most downloaded podcast, having gained an average of 261,670 downloads per episode during its first month.By September 2006, according to the BBC, the podcasts of the series had been downloaded "nearly 8 million" times.
Gervais made some attempts at stand-up in the late 1990s, but his first successful show took place at the Cafe Royal, as part of the 2001 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Titled Rubbernecker, the show also featured Jimmy Carr, Robin Ince, and Stephen Merchant.
Gervais later toured the UK in 2003 with his stand-up show Animals. The Politics tour followed a year later. Both of these shows were recorded for release on DVD and television broadcast. The third part of the themed live trilogy, Fame, took place in 2007. It started in Glasgow in January and ended in Sheffield in April. Blackpool reported selling out of tickets within 45 minutes of them going on sale.More dates were added.
Newsnight Review's panel saw Animals during its Bloomsbury run and covered it in January 2003. They were not favourable, with Private Eye editor Ian Hislop being the most explicit in his criticism. After this, Gervais closed each show by calling Hislop an "ugly little pug-faced cunt". Further coverage on Newsnight Review has been overwhelmingly favourable, with the panelists playing themselves in promos for the second series of Extras. Panel regulars Germaine Greer, Mark Kermode, and Mark Lawson also appeared as themselves reviewing When The Whistle Blows in a series episode. Critic Mark Lawson is a great admirer of Gervais and Merchant, having interviewed them extensively for television, print Front Row, and the Edinburgh International Television Festival.
Fame was the subject of some controversy in January 2007 when Gervais told a story, ostensibly about how people will do anything to become famous, to a Scottish audience.The story referred to a question asked of Gervais five years earlier by a reporter: what could someone do to become famous like you? To which he replied, "Go out and kill a prostitute". He followed up with the punch line, "I won't do that bit in Ipswich", referring to the December 2006 murders of five prostitutes in Ipswich. The joke drew criticism from the father of victim Tania Nicol: "These days, they want to make a joke out of anything. I feel he's just being uncaring, quite honestly". Gervais defended himself: "I do want people to know that that happened five years ago and is not related to anything now. That is the problem with comedy, a joke that is funny today can be a terrible faux pas tomorrow".
Gervais's fourth show was entitled Science, and commenced with an eleven date tour in August 2009 at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in Glasgow.The show opened to little critical praise.Writing for The Independent, Julian Hall gave Science two stars out of five, stating that is was Gervais's "most disappointing" offering yet.The DVD for Science was released on 15 November 2010.In November 2009 he headlined the sixth annual New York Comedy Festival at Carnegie Hall, New York.
Gervais has begun writing his fifth stand-up routine, to be titled Humanity.