The 2016 mockumentary David Brent: Life on the Road was a far cry from Ricky Gervais' hit BBC television series The Office. But that has not dented the confidence of the controversial Englishman. The comedic actor has a habit of offending at large. And, while he has not received an invite back to host the Golden Globes again, Gervais had time to chat to Variety about the movie and his take on the news at large.
Holding a 66% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the Special Correspondents star brought back his David Brent character after a long hiatus, only making a small cameo on the US television version alongside Steve Carell. Brent's obsession with fame and celebrity clearly spoke to Gervais and with the election of Donald Trump, the Englishman knew the time was right to bring him back.
"That was sort of the point, really, for people to catch up on an old friend," started Gervais. "It’s a fake documentary but I deal in realism. And I suppose there’s parallels to real life where everyone wants to be famous. He had a bit of fame at the turn of the century, and we thought he’d go away. But now fame is a different beast and people don’t give up. And it’s easier to be famous because people are willing to do anything to be famous. There’s no difference now between fame and infamy. We’ve just seen the host of The Apprentice become President of the United States."
Cult of Reality TV to Blame: Ricky
Pointing out some parallels between Trumps' Inauguration speech and that which Tom Hardy's character Bane gave on The Dark Knight Rises, was Gervais shocked or surprised by any of this?
"And I’m not shocked. A year ago, I would have been horrified," he remarked. "But then again, the things he said running up to this…if any other politician or any other world leader had said it, he would have resigned. He confessed to abusing women and that wasn’t enough. There is no greater role model in the western world arguably, so what happens when a guy is caught for attacking a woman and says, 'My president said it was all right?' It’s off the charts."
With reality television still a dominant presence on the small screen, does he see a connection between Trump's rise and this popularity?
"I do sort of blame reality TV in a way because we are all made from our input. He’s a man who wants to be famous. Donald Trump has more in common with David Brent than he does with JFK or Lincoln or Roosevelt. He’s not even a smart man who had to work for it. He’s not particularly erudite or educated or caring. He wants to be famous, he wants to be loved. I’m not saying that makes him a terrible president or it’s the end of the world, I’m just saying he is different from other presidents and he is a product of the last 50 years of people wanting to be famous. It’s like he wasn’t satisfied with having $5b and running companies, he had to be on telly every possible moment."
People Were Worried Over Globes Comments, Not Him
From Mel Gibson to Johnny Depp or Madonna, Ricky Gervais did not care who he poked fun at on the podium of the Golden Globes. As he explained, the Life's Too Short creator always wants to push the boundaries of celebrity culture and expose it for what it is.
"The Office was about a man who wanted to be famous. Extras was about a man literally on the first rung of being famous. The Golden Globes was a study in fame to me," said Gervais. "I was shocked by how worried everyone was about what I would say. I just don’t get it. It was a shock that people were that sensitive or that worried about what a little fat guy from Reading said about them. I always like to sort of play with that."
Identifying his heritage and the differences between dry English wit and American humor, Gervais feels like he has a licence from his background in comedy.
"I think its staple of British comedy, even more than American, we always try to bring down authority. There’s something we’re trying to undermine when people take themselves too seriously. It was reflected in the remake of the American Office. It’s more hopeful. Americans are told you can grow up to be the next president of the United States. Brits are told to not even try, who do you think you are? It’s funny because my sense of humor is British but my comedy is American. I embrace both things."