Couch Potato Pickings
I’m feeling quite excited about Cemetery Junction, opening next week here in the UK. Written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, it promises to deliver some tantalising new tastes of the Gervais genius and that’s enough to get me off my couch and into the not so local cinema to see it.
Since capturing everyone’s attention with The Office – possibly the best sitcom ever – Gervais has gone from strength to strength.
I must add that Merchant was co-creator of The Office and Extras, but Gervais has made an impression with his on-screen presence in a way that Merchant hasn’t.
I was reminded of Ricky Gervais‘ talents last weekend when I decided to watch The Invention of Lying, written by Gervais and Matthew Robinson and starring Gervais in the lead role (Merchant wasn’t involved in writing but does have a brief cameo role in the movie).
This film didn’t get the best reviews, so I wasn’t expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised.
Amittedly this movie doesn’t possess the edgy humour levels of The Office or Extras (perhaps we have Merchant to thank for that), but it was comical nevertheless. For me, it was yet another example of Gervais’ seemingly boundless creativity. So far (with the exception of his stand-up which left me cold) this guy has remained fresh and groundbreaking.
So, The Invention of Lying – it’s set in a world where everyone tells the truth and tells the tale of one man (Gervais) who fabricates a story to make his dying mother feel better, and becomes a global phenomenon when his small fabrication is taken literally by eavesdroppers.
I found the movie remarkable for the way it presents a somewhat controversial concept in such a surprisingly low key and light-hearted manner. It is actually an edgy religious satire – potentially deeply offensive, potentially offering food for thought. But somehow it comes across as innocent comedy and the food for thought is more party nibbles than hearty debate fodder.
So what is it about Gervais that makes him such a genius? Is it his knack for observational comedy? Is it the way he milks the humour out of his various aspirational characters? Is it his expertise with witty dialogue? Is it his comic acting?
It’s probably all of the above, but what I personally find most attractive about this man who famously refers to himself as ‘the fat man from Reading’ is his mastery of the art of self deprecation.
I think there’s something wonderfully appealing about self mockery and Gervais does it with bells on.
It’s a clever approach, as there are plenty of vultures out there eager to get their claws into successful celebs of his ilk wherever they can. And while Gervais is by no means fat, the man is fractionally on the wrong side of slim and and marginally on the wrong side of tall. What a cunning ruse to attack himself 100 times more effectively than they ever could! I think this is what I admire about him most.
So, here are my favourite Ricky Gervais self deprecating moments:
- Extras Season 2
Actor Andy moved on from extras work in season 2 to become the star of his own cliched sitcom. His peers accuse him of selling out and ostracise him at a private members club. He and his pal Maggie get talking to David Bowie
Gervais’ first big Hollywood role sees him playing a dentist with the ability to see ghosts. Read more about that here. Gervais probably anticipated a bitchy American press so promoted Ghost Town in self-deprecating mode, reportedly saying “just what America wants – a fat, British, middle-aged comedian.”
When he was received with open arms, he apparently commented that America “seems to be ready for a fat, British, middle-aged man, and I should add ‘with bad teeth’ to the list.”
- The Invention of Lying
When middle-aged Mark Bellison (Gervais) goes on a first date with the beautiful Anna (Jennifer Garner), she tells him quite openly that he is not relationship material because he’s a ‘short man with a snub nose.’
So, will there be any great Gervais self mockery moments in Cemetery Junction?
I guess I’ll have to wait patiently until next week to see…
The Invention of Lying is currently available on demand on FilmFlex and available on Sky Box Office until Sunday 11th April
Ghost Town is showing on Sky Movies Comedy on Sunday 11th April at 1.40pm and 10.45pm
Cemetery Junction opens in UK cinemas on Wednesday 14th April
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