The A-Z of Ricky Gervais

With new dates now announced for his blockbuster Armageddon tour, here’s your handy guide to Reading’s biggest export

A is for After Life

Ricky Gervais’ most recent TV show is the one you’ve probably cried the most at – a three season Netflix dramedy about a man who decides to do whatever he wants after losing his wife to cancer. It’s lighter than it sounds, but only just. As of December 2022, the show is officially the most watched British comedy in the world. 

B is for BAFTAs

Winning 10 of his 17 BAFTA nominations over the last two decades, Gervais now has a mantlepiece groaning with gongs – also including two Emmys, three Golden Globes and two British Comedy Awards. 

C is for Cats 

Follow Gervais on Instagram and it’s wall-to-wall Pickle. His beloved Siamese, Ollie, died in 2020, but he adopted Pickle soon after fostering her in 2022. Gervais is also a keen animal rights campaigner, often using his profile to fight trophy hunting and illegal wildlife trading. 

D is for Derek

Also, he once named a new species of Asian black bear, “Derek”… Writing and starring in his 2013-2014 series at the time, the bear was a nod to his most marginalised comedy character. The story of a care home worked who “loves animals, Rolf Harris, Jesus, Deal Or No DealMillion Pound Drop, and Britain’s Got Talent“, Derek found mixed reviews – but earned Gervais another raft of award nods.   

E is for Extras

Less divisive was the most eagerly awaited follow-up in comedy history – a show borrowing all the edge and pathos of The Office for a smart meta-sitcom that rinsed Gervais’ new contact book of famous friends. Extras ran for 13 episodes between 2005-2007, and everyone still has their favourites (filthy Kate Winslet? Horny Harry Potter? Creepy Patrick Stewart?).

F is for Flanimals                   

When he’s not writing hit sitcoms and stand-up shows, Gervais is writing books about imaginary monsters. There are now eight different books in the Flani-verse, sitting in Gervais’ bibliography alongside The David Brent Songbook.  

G is for Golden Globes

Golden Globes 2012 - Ricky Gervais Opening Monologue

“You say you’re woke, but the companies you work for, I mean, unbelievable: Apple, Amazon, Disney. If ISIS started a streaming service, you’d call your agent, wouldn’t you? So if you do win an award tonight, don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech, right? You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg. So if you win, come up, accept your little award, thank your agent and your God, and f*ck off”

It’s opening monologues like that that booked Gervais the hosting gig at the Golden Globes five times. To be fair, that one was the last time they asked him…

H is for Humanity

Social media, animal rights and Caitlin Jenner were all in the crosshairs for Gervais’ 2018 stand-up tour (filmed for Netflix at London’s Eventim Apollo).

I is for The Invention Of Lying

The Invention of Lying (2009) Official Trailer - Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner Movie HD

The first film Gervais directed (before Cemetery Junction, Special Correspondents and David Brent: Life On The Road), 2009’s The Invention Of Lying saw him star as the only man able to lie in a world where everyone can only tell the truth. 

J is for Jane 

Gervais met his wife, Jane Fallon, at university. Fallon went on to be a successful producer (EastendersThis LifeTeachers…) and author (Getting Rid Of MatthewGot You BackFoursomeThe Ugly Sister…).

K is for Karl Pilkington

Where would Ricky Gervais be without his comedy partner, his professional other-half, his muse… Stephen Merchant? Still laughing at Karl Pilkington, more than likely. The wobbly third-wheel of the bike Gervais and Merchant have been driving together since they worked in radio, Karl Pilkington has been the pair’s punching-bag for more than 20 years. 

L is for Life’s Too Short

Working as a sort-of Extras spin-off, Life’s Too Short gave Warwick Davis a chance to lead his own series, playing a version of himself as the head of a small person’s talent agency alongside Gervais (also playing his sort-of-self). Ending with a special episode in 2013 starring Val Kilmer where Davis was given the chance to make a sequel to Willow – the series ended up foreshadowing Disney+ without even knowing it. 

M is for Muppet

Sesame Street: Celebrity Lullabies With Ricky Gervais

We’re not being mean, Gervais starred in the 2014 film, Muppet’s Most Wanted, as the criminal accomplice of Kermit The Frog’s evil doppelgänger. But the film wasn’t the first time Gervais had acted with muppets – cameoing on a 2009 episode of Sesame Street to sing a lullaby with Elmo that all about the letter N…

N is for Night At The Museum 

After convincing Ben Stiller to make himself look like an angry idiot on Extras, Gervais returned the favour in 2006 by playing the bumbling British museum manager in Stiller’s family fantasy film. The movie was a box-office hit, and Gervais ended up starring in both sequels.  

O is for Office

Most Awkward Interview Ever - David Brent - The Office - BBC

The one that started it all. Not just for Gervais either, since The Office changed everything for TV comedy. There were only ever 12 episodes of the original British mockumentary (plus two specials), but David Brent’s legacy is still going strong – with 13 international versions on constant repeat around the world, including the Gervais produced American version, which became one of the highest rated comedies of all time.  

P is for Politics

Gervais recorded his sold-out Politics tour at London’s Palace Theatre in 2004, and the show is still a hit on streaming platforms. Not really covering any actual current affairs, the set was more about the time Ricky was mistaken for Johnny Vegas. 

Q is for Quotes

Famously controversial (see “G is for Golden Globes…”), Gervais usually finds his biggest detractors in the tabloids, where whole stand-up routines are trimmed down to their most shocking punchlines. The best Ricky Gervais quote is the only one that works in or out of context: “Just because you’re offended, doesn’t mean you’re right…”.

R is for Religion

If Christianity has Jesus, Atheism has Ricky Gervais. Working trust in science over faith in religion into nearly everything he does (from Wall Street Times essays and countless interviews, to shows like After Life) Gervais is a proud atheist who probably won’t be booking any church gigs. 

S is for Suede

Seona Dancing - More To Lose (Razzmatazz, 07/06/83)

In another timeline, Ricky Gervais is a popstar. Forming new wave pop duo Seona Dancing with Bill Macrae in the late 80s, Gervais released two singles (‘More to Lose’ and ‘Bitter Heart’) after being signed by London Records. Unfortunately, that was about as far as he got. Segueing into management instead, Gervais briefly looked after Suede before they were famous. 

“When he made it on TV, I did the longest double take,” remembers Suede’s Matt Osman. “He was always a really sarky bugger, he really was. I’m really glad he’s a comedian rather than a manager because he was a f*cking sh*t manager…”

T is for Twitter

U is for UCL

Gervais earned his degree in Philosophy from UCL – sharing his alumni status with the likes of Adele, Jo Brand and Coldplay (who he later called “nice, funny, normal people who are trying to be excellent…”)

V is for Veganism

“Animals don’t have a voice,” says Gervais. “But I do. A loud one…”  

W is for Water  

Ricky Gervais - Extras (sparkly water scene)

X is for XFM

After he finished uni, Gervais worked as Head Of Speech for XFM where he hired Stephen Merchant as an assistant. After they were both canned in a takeover from Capital radio, they started working on the script that would eventually become The Office. Honestly though we’re just grateful there’s an easy entry here for the letter X. 

Y is for YouTube

The only channel where you’ll get to learn guitar with David Brent, listen to a talking Guinea Pig and watch the best bits of the old animated Ricky Gervais Show.

Z is for Ziggy Stardust

Gervais was a lifelong Bowie fan when he asked him to cameo in Extras, and got his email address after bumping into him backstage at the BBC. Needing a new song for Bowie to sing on the show, Gervais wrote the lyrics to ‘Funny Little Fat Man’ and sent them to Bowie, asking if he wouldn’t mind writing the music (“I’ll just knock off a quick f*cking ‘Life on Mars’ for you, shall I?” he remembers him joking). The song went on to be a highlight of the show, and became the last filmed performance that Bowie ever recorded. 

David Bowie - Funny Little Fat Man (Extras - Ricky Gervais)

Ricky Gervais has announced new dates for his Armageddon tour in 2023. Find tickets here.