Since the original British run of The Office propelled them out of obscurity and into the comedy big leagues, Stephen Merchant has largely existed in the shadow of his friend and creative partner, Ricky Gervais -- the gawky Samwise to his jerky Frodo. Initially, his sidekick status was something as a hindrance as much of the attention and acclaim that greeted The Office and later Extras was directed at his co-writer. But in the long run, being in the background has probably paid off for as Gervais has steadily gone from being the life of the party to the guy nobody wants in the room (courtesy of those initially funny, then disastrous Golden Globes gigs), Merchant's career prospects and public persona have remained largely unchanged. He's still the gangly guy who practices the same brand of awkward humor as his buddy, but seems far less mean about it.
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