We're entering awards season, which means the Golden Globes are almost here! Ricky Gervais will be returning as host this year and we're looking forward to more of his jokes about celebrities and on-stage drinking. We sat in on a conference call with him where he talked about the Globes, The Office and The Ricky Gervais Show.
How surprised were you and how quickly afterwards did they invite you back?
Gervais: Well, the strange thing was, they said during the show, "Great. We'd love you to do it again." And I went, "Well let's see. It's not over yet." But then I saw the ratings went up about 18% or something, so I thought it was in the cards. I like the jeopardy. It's live, and there's a quarter of a billion people watching and a room full of the most powerful people in the world. I like that jeopardy. I love it. So that's my extreme sport. That's what gives me an adrenaline rush, thinking it could be the end of my career.
How did you feel that things went last year? Were there things you learned from it that you'll apply this year?
Gervais: Yes, that's why I'm doing it again. I had such a great time, but like anything you do for the first time you go, "Oh, let me do it again. I can do it better." It's like the first time I had a go at golf, I wanted to go around again, because I said, "No, I can do it now. I can do it now." So, yes, I want to give it one more go and really throw away the shackles of worry. I don't mean I'm going to go out and again get drunk and, you know, have absolutely no planning or input. But I think I can certainly have more fun with it, and I think I can have more fun with the room as well. If you noticed, all the lines are about the people that are about to come out. And I've realized I can reference anyone in the room. So I'm going to have even more fun with it, push the boundaries a little bit more. I think you always should. And, you know, what's the worst that could happen? I didn't expect to be invited back a second time, and I certainly won't do it a third. So I've got nothing to lose.
You don't think you'll have such a good time hosting that you might be tempted or NBC might tempt you?
Gervais: Well, no. But then, you know, I was tempted to do a third season of The Office. But hopefully I'm going to leave it just right and that's my plan. The truth is, I don't think I should be doing it at all. I'm not a host. I'm not a presenter. I do these things for fun. I don't even count these things as part of my career, really. I'd have had to invent the concept of award ceremonies to be as excited about them as I am about doing The Office or Extras or whatever. But I suppose I want this to be great and go out on a high. If I'm bad, I shouldn't do it again; and if I'm good, I shouldn't do it again. So that's the thinking, really.
I loved the reference to Extras during your last hosting gig, when you made the comment to Kate Winslet about the Holocaust. I'm hoping you're going to have some more stuff like that coming up.
Gervais: Do you mean references that no one understands? I've got loads of those. Yes, that was an episode of Extras where Kate Winslet played a twisted version of herself, of course, and she was only doing a Holocaust movie to win an Oscar. And it came true, which was, I honestly couldn't believe my luck when that happened. A funny thing actually happened at the Globes before that, and Tom Hanks was telling me that he was listening to the radio, and they were playing a clip from the Extras that Kate Winslet was in. And she was saying, "Yes. I mean, you know, do we need another Holocaust movie?" And he thought it was an interview. He didn't realize. He hadn't seen the show. So he thought Kate Winslet was on the radio saying she'd only done a Holocaust film to win an Oscar. And he went around telling everyone, "What is she thinking? What is she thinking?" And then his producer said, "Tom, that must've been a clip from the show." And he'd spent the whole day going around telling people that Kate Winslet had lost her mind.
Do you worry about offending the people you make jokes about?
Gervais: I think people know me now, and I think comedy comes from a good or a bad place. And I think however cheeky or out there I am and to whatever taboo subjects and dark places I take them, I think they know it comes from a good place with me. The last thing I want to do is genuinely offend anyone. I couldn't live with myself. So I want the victims of the joke to like it as well. I don't see any victory in going out and being awful and shocking. That's too easy. I mean, it's 5 o'clock on network TV. People couldn't believe I went out with a beer. So if that's still shocking in this day and age, there is no victory in just being shocking. I think you've got to be interesting and engaging and, you know, I try and do it with a twinkle in my eye and a smile on my face. So hopefully I can go even further this year and still not be chased out of the country.
But you still enjoy getting shocked gasps as much as laughs? Why?
Gervais: Because I think comedy and drama are different branches of the same tree. You know, it doesn't matter whether you're watching a horror film or hearing a joke, it's the surprise that's the good bit. It's the bit you didn't expect. And as I said, I don't consider myself just a comedian. People watch things I do and they go, "That wasn't very funny." And I want to go, "No, it wasn't meant to be. It wasn't meant to be." Some of my favorite things, they're not belly laughs. They're just watching with a warm feeling. You know, The Office wasn't just a comedy. We purposely took out some jokes. We took out some big events. We took out some great plotlines because it interfered with the reality or it interfered with the romance or it interfered with the existential mood of the piece.
The American version of The Office has a lot of changes coming up this season as Steve Carell exits the show. Can you comment a little bit about what viewers might expect as the season wraps up?
Gervais: Well, I won't give anything away about the show, but I think viewers can expect if The Office carries on it could be as good. And there's a lot of talk about who's going to replace Steve Carell. You should never think like that. You shouldn't think who's replacing Steve Carell. Steve Carell is an actor. You should think who's replacing Michael Scott.
What are the chances we could get Darren Lamb [from Extras] to lose his job at Carphone Warehouse, become the boss, and Karl Pilkington [from The Ricky Gervais Show] can come in as assistant to the regional manager?
Gervais: Well, the chances of both of those in either order are slim to none. Karl certainly wouldn't take it. I mean, it takes all of my efforts for Karl to do anything. Karl is looking forward to being old so he doesn't have to do anything. He actually said that. Steve [Merchant] wouldn't do it and nor would I. The thing is, me and Steve get paid for doing nothing, so why would we work for it, you know? We've made so much money off Steve Carell. He's like a big goose that lays golden eggs for us. Now we need some other schmuck to come along and get up at 6 o'clock every day for seven years.
Can you tell us more about the second season of The Ricky Gervais Show?
Gervais: It is, I think, the most fun thing I do, and I remember back when I just did it for a laugh to sit in a room with Karl Pilkington and try and expose his beautiful mind to the world. It's better than the first. I mean, the first got better and better, I think. And this sort of started where it left off, but it's much better. We've really hit the ground running. And we've taken a lot more liberties with the direction of the piece. It really adds to the audio now. In the first one we were quite cautious that we didn't want to take away from the audio, but now we know what adds and subtracts and everything we've done really adds to it.
Would you ever use new material or is it always going to be straight from the podcast?
Gervais: We will, yes. I mean we don't want to waste the stuff we've done, because there's still stuff we haven't reached and we want to get out there because there's stuff that I want to see animated. But, you know, if we were lucky enough to do Season 3 or 4, we certainly want to do some bespoke stuff. And we've got some stuff that we haven't released it yet, and we'll do it especially for that, do some one-off specials. But yes that is the plan.
You know, one of the shows getting a lot of awards is Modern Family. What do you think of shows that have adopted that Office style of mockumentary?
Gervais: Well, I mean, any show that people say was influenced by your work is honestly flattering. On the other side, I didn't invent that genre. You know, I stood on the shoulders of giants. The Office wasn't the first fake documentary. It wasn't the first sitcom without a laugh track. It wasn't the first sitcom to cast unknowns. It wasn't the first sitcom to have flawed characters. It wasn't the first sitcom to look at the minutiae of life. But it was the first to probably have all of them in one sitcom. Someone said today that we reinvented the sitcom, which I'm very happy with that rumor going around.
But again, it's a double-edged sword, because I remember when The Office came out, one journalist said, "This is as good as Chekhov." And I thought, "Oh, no. Well now we're in real trouble." And sure enough, the next year when the special went on television, one journalist said, "This is sub-Dickens." I'm like, "Really? Like, we're not as good as Dickens?" No we're not. They were surprised this sitcom isn't as good as the greatest storyteller over the last 300 years. You can't win. You have to take the rough with the smooth. For every five-star review, anything I've ever done has gotten a one-star review, too, and everything in between. For everyone who thinks The Office is the greatest most important sitcom of all time, there's someone who thinks it's the worst sitcom they've ever seen, and they want to gouge their eyes out rather than watch it. For everyone thinks that I'm a funny man, some people want to run me over in a tractor.
The Golden Globes air Sunday, January 16 on NBC. Check out our complete coverage.
Watch TWoP's editors discuss their Globes picks and predictions in this segment airing on the New York Nonstop cable news channel:
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