Ricky Gervais Defends Controversial ‘Life’s Too Short,’ ‘Derek’ British TV Shows

Jul 2, 2012 12:23pm

“The original idea was Karl cycling with Warwick in a basket,” said Ricky Gervais, trying to describe his latest project, a new series of the bizarre globe-trotting show “An Idiot Abroad.”

Karl is, of course, Karl Pilkington — Gervais’ one time radio producer turned comedy side kick. And Warwick is Warwick Davis, the star of “Life’s Too Short,” the bittersweet tale of a dwarf actor.

“When I first pitched this to Karl,” Gervais said. “He didn’t say, ‘that’s a ridiculous idea.’ He said, ‘So I’m doing all the f—ing peddling?’”

Ricky Gervais seems to revel in the comedy of the unkind. Remember the Golden Globes? Ever seen the  “Ricky Gervais Show”? Poor Karl is the butt of jokes. You won’t yet have seen Gervais his latest pilot for a show called “Derek,” about an odd ball guy who works in a retirement home. The episode has received mixed reviews, with many believing it is offensive to the mentally challenged. Gervais did not agree.

“I’m the creator of ‘Derek,’ he’s a fictional character and if I say he’s not meant to be disabled, that’s the end of it,” he said. “If he was autistic, I’d get Dustin Hoffman.”

“The Office” is what made Gervais’ career. The sitcom started out in Britain and spread across the globe, most notably to the United States where actor Steve Carell took the starring role and Gervais stayed behind the camera. As the American version heads into its ninth season, Gervais said he is “less and less” involved.

“I’m involved in the sense that, you know, I cash the check every month,” he said, before cracking the signature Gervais leery smile. “I couldn’t resist,” he added.

Gervais is now very successful, very rich, and, of course, very famous.

“I remember a journalist rubbed me up the wrong way, ‘The Office’ had just broken, she said, ‘So, what advice would you give to other people who want to be famous like you?’ And I went, ‘I’d tell them to go out a kill a prostitute,’” he said. “There’s no difference between fame and infamy these days. You can do something horrendous and be famous. That’s not the point. Fame is an upshot of what I do.”

And, he insisted, his comedy is not cruel. “Everything I do is planned and considered,” Gervais said. “And, you know, I angst about these things when I’m in the writing process. Is that OK? Why is that OK?… You’re allowed to laugh at a dwarf for being pretentious, but you’re not allowed to laugh at a dwarf you don’t know because he’s a dwarf. Do you know what I mean?”

The comedic creator resides in Hampstead, a luxurious neighborhood in London, with Jane, his partner of 30 years, and said he often comes up with new ideas while on his daily run.

“I come home every night after a run and I’ve got a new sketch or a scene or a stand up routine, and I usually say to Jane, ‘What do you think of this joke?’ And she says, ‘Please don’t tell that in public,’ and I know it’s good.”

Tune into “Nightline” TONIGHT at 11:35 p.m. ET to see Nick Watt’s full interview with Ricky Gervais, including his take on “Life’s Too Short” and “Derek.”


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Credit: Victoria Thompson/ABC

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