A chilled-out entertainer
|Job||Manager, Wernham Hogg|
|Last Episode||Christmas Special Part 2|
|Portrayed by||Ricky Gervais|
David Brent is a white-collar office middle-manager and one of the principal characters in The Office. He is the general manager of the Slough branch of the Wernham Hogg paper merchants, and the boss to most of the other characters present in the series. Much of the comedy and pathos of the series centres around Brent's many idiosyncrasies, hypocrisies, self-delusions and shameless self-promoting (including, but not limited to, playing up to the 'documentary' cameras present in his workplace).
David was, in the early 90s, the singer/songwriter in a band called Forgone Conclusion who were supported by a little known Scottish outfit called Texas. Very little is known about their output, although David states they used to have a political reggae song called "Equality Street". (Training)
When David was 30, he thought he was in a rubbish job, that nothing good ever happened to him and that things wouldn't change. But then he got promoted and things do change. (The Quiz)
Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.
David Brent is the type of boss who wants to be everyone's friend and mentor. He imagines that everyone finds him very funny and loves being around him, yet still respects him and looks up to him as a boss and even a father figure. He is, of course, spectacularly wrong; his employees tolerate him at best, and are more often than not irritated or nonplussed by him.
One of the key aspects of Brent's personality is his complete obliviousness to how other people actually see him, and he lashes out strongly whenever his carefully built veil of ignorance is pierced (often by outright insulting whoever is nearby). David often asks people how old they think he is, and they tell him the truth, much to his dismay. He also has a need to be seen as being exceptionally good at everything, including playing music, drawing, writing poetry and songs, being a rock star, managing a team, dancing, and even dating and marriage. He especially believes himself to be a remarkably talented stand-up comedian, and rarely misses an opportunity to play up to the cameras; his 'material', however, is largely tedious and hackneyed, and mostly consists of impressions and second-hand comedy routines taken from British comedy shows such as Fawlty Towers and The Two Ronnies. His ultimate fantasy is to "experience the future" and live on and on as an immortal. He also revealed that he was in a rock band called Foregone Conclusion, and has claimed that the Scottish rock band Texas once opened for them at a gig.
Brent has a tendency to promote himself as a politically-correct modern man, but he usually demonstrates an unwittingly offensive attitude towards ethnic minorities, disabled people and women. However, his various attitudes, cringeworthy and insulting though they are, are largely not maliciously intended. They are more frequently the unfortunate result of remarkable ignorance and self-delusion combined with an unfortunate tendency to say the wrong thing at the wrong time, and then to make matters worse for himself when trying to backpedal.
In series two, Brent is given a counterpart, his own boss, Neil Godwin. Neil is everything that Brent isn't: funny, respected, capable, and secure in himself. Brent, recognising this in Neil, quickly grows to despise him, and spends most of series two trying to one-up his nemesis at every point, most memorably with his jaw-droppingly bad dance routine in episode five (which he describes with typical false modesty as "...a fusion of Flashdance and MC Hammer shit").
However, Brent is not 'the boss from Hell'. For all his many unlikeable and contemptible characteristics, he is not without redeeming merit, and is largely depicted as a tragic figure: a lonely and sad man who places more value in his unrewarding job than he probably should. At several points, the audience is actually prompted to feel sympathetic towards Brent (especially in the final episode of the second series as he faces redundancy, and in parts of the Christmas special where he is struggling with life after losing his job and his brief fifteen minutes of fame). These are the few times when we see David Brent actually face the bleak reality of his situation, and try desperately to hold on. These rare moments are readily overlooked by the many real-life office workers who draw comparisons between their own boss and Brent. David makes frequent visits back to the old office, much to Neil's (and Gareth's) dismay. But things start to look up for David when he goes on a series of failed blind dates, one of which turns out to possibly be something better.
- When asked to name his greatest disappointment, he said "Alton Towers".
- Brent's mother is dead and his father is in a home. (The Quiz)
- Brent lives next door to a man named Kelvin who is 32 and still lives with his parents. (The Quiz)
- Brent, like Ricky Gervais, supports Reading F.C.
Cultural impact of David Brent and The Office
- Due to the popularity of the show, Brent's persona has entered British office-life culture as the epitome of the bad boss. He is frequently ranked alongside many of the classic characters of British comedy, including Basil Fawlty, Captain George Mainwaring and Alan Partridge.
- Microsoft UK and Ricky Gervais put together two videos entitled 'the office values' where David Brent is brought in as a motivational speaker. These were leaked online during August 2006. Reportedly, Microsoft was unhappy about the leak, and Gervais hadn't wanted them publically released because it would suggest he was bringing back the character on a longer-term basis.
- In Capcom's video game Resident Evil 4, a character listed in the game's credits as "Manic Brent" appears in two scenes driving a truck. Ricky Gervais's laugh was recorded to be used in these scenes.
- On Wednesday 28 May 2006, David Cameron described British Prime Minister Tony Blair as "the David Brent of Downing Street".
- The divisive dance-punk outfit Does It Offend You, Yeah? take their name from a David Brent quote from Downsize ("Does it offend you, yeah? My drinking?").
- Unconfirmed Internet rumors have mentioned a possible cameo for David Brent on the American version of The Office where he will meet his counterpart, Michael Scott, played by Steve Carell.
|Series 1 Episodes:|| |
|Series 2 Episodes:|| |
|Main Characters:|| |
|Secondary Characters:|| |
Lee | Malcolm | "Oggy" | Rachel | Karen Roper |
|Minor Characters:|| |
Glynn | Gobbler | Jamie | Jeff | Jimmy the Perv | Joan | Oliver | Rowan | Sanj | Simon | Sheila |
Paul Shepherd | Tony | Trudy