Ricky Gervais, Joking About Death
Ricky Gervais is back with a second season of The Office and as a five-time host of the Golden Globe Awards, where his cringe-worthy jokes made both celebrities and audiences of the show at home slightly uncomfortable. But the 58-year old comedian enjoys raising eyebrows, and in his mind, everything can be joked about – including death.
After Life is returning for a second season on Netflix. What can we expect? What is new in Tony’s miserable life?
‘My brother died three weeks ago but I watched it anyway’ and I realized that everyone is grieving. I realized that everyone in the world is grieving like Tony. They just don’t talk about it. People don’t go up to strangers and say: ‘I am really miserable.’ So this was an opportunity to open a conversation. Every day, I would get hundreds of tweets about people coming through it. I still get them. When it came out, my agent got 300 letters. Now that never happens. No one writes letters anymore. So people really felt connected.
Why do you think that is?
Why do you think people think Tony is funny?
He was burdened with a conscience. He was nice to his dog. He was nice to his nephew. He was nice to the old lady. Basically asking the question: ‘If you lose everything is life still worth living?’ That was the big question. I realized that people can go through anything if there is hope and I wanted on the poster this time to be ‘hope is everything’. Because in this one it is the same but he is trying to be at a new stage. There are seven stages of grief. We hit the ground running. We saw that he had been through shock, anger, denial. All those things. I think this one starts with him going through stage four which is bargaining with the world. So he is going ‘fair enough, what can I do to become a nice person? How can I help the people to help me? I can still be an asshole to assholes, but I am going to use my power for good.’ So that is how the second one starts.
color:black’>After Life is about death and grief. Were you worried about this? Were you worried that people would get your sensibility because death might not be funny?
Derek, one of the big themes was about being at the end of your life. It was existential. He was turning forty and asking: ‘Am I making the most of it?’ Everything is existential. Even my children’s book Flanimals is a bit existential. It is about the futility of life and the cruelty of nature. In this, it had actually happened. A man has lost everything and ‘is life worth living?’. What I was worried about was: will people be able to cry and laugh immediately after. And they can! They just can because they are human beings. We do it all the time. You can get a bad text and then laugh. We do it all the time. We laugh at funerals because someone tells a funny story. We can do it. We can handle it. I don’t know why we are so worried about people writing fiction when real life is ten times worse.
Your character is pretty bitter. How is your personal outlook on life?
And I think to leave the world even just a little better. If you stay in someone’s caravan or apartment, everyone knows that you should leave it as you found it – or a little bit better. Leave it just a little bit better and I want to be in the balance. I want to leave my corner of the world as nice as I found it, if not a little bit better. That is all.
How do you feel about the Coronavirus? Do you think we should use humor to deal with it?
And we will all be fine. If the worst thing that happened was that people joke about bad things what an amazing society. It is not the joking about the bad things that is the problem it is the actual bad things.
You hosted the Golden Globe Awards in 2020 for the fifth time and apparently for the last time. What makes this gig so satisfying for you?
That is not true at all. I have put a lot of work into these gags, and I make sure they are bulletproof because it is going to go around the world and it is going to hang around forever. I think that people also know that I am not beholden to anyone in the room. I don’t care what producers or studios think of me, because I create my own labor and that is very exciting for an audience because they know I cannot be bought. I don’t care. I don’t care what they think of me. I try to keep it fair and sharp and all that. So it is a great gig for me. It is a really great gig for me.