Ricky Gervais

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Ricky Gervais

A rare moment where Ricky isn't laughing.
Date of Birth 25 June 1961
Place of Birth Reading, Berkshire
Education University College London
Occupation Actor, Writer, and Director
Partner Jane Fallon
Parents Lawrence ("Jerry") and Eva Gervais
Children None

Ricky Dene Gervais (born 25 June 1961) is an English comedy writer, director, and performer from Reading, Berkshire, England. Gervais achieved mainstream fame with his award-winning BBC2 television programme The Office, which he co-wrote and co-directed with long-time friend and collaborator Stephen Merchant. In 2005, Gervais and Merchant returned with a new sitcom, Extras, which won a Golden Globe for Best Comedy. Ricky's profile increased further when he was given a three-year stint as host of the Golden Globe Awards themselves. In addition to writing and directing sitcoms and films, Gervais and Merchant formerly hosted a radio show and have recorded a number of podcasts with their friend Karl Pilkington.


Gervais came from humble beginnings, a working class family living in Whitley, Reading on a council estate. His father Jerry, a French-Canadian from London, Ontario, Canada, emigrated to England during World War II where he met his wife, Eva. Jerry worked as a labouror and Eva was a housewife. Gervais is the youngest of four siblings and he has often remarked about how he thinks he was an accident, since he is 11 years younger than his next eldest sibling.

Gervais speaks fondly of his upbringing; he often remarks that although they were not wealthy, as a child he always got what he wanted for Christmas as his mother would “get it out the catalogue and pay for it the first year.”<ref>The Ricky Gervais Show, Xfm London, 22 December 2001</ref> From an early age Gervais developed an interest in science. He received a microscope set at the age of 10 or 11 and at age 13 he swapped one of his brother-in-law’s records for some chemicals<ref>The Ricky Gervais Show, Xfm London, 20 April 2002</ref> .

Gervais and Bill Macrae of Seona Dancing.

At the age of 8, Gervais became an atheist after his brother asked him why he believed in God. His mother’s reaction to the question caused him to question his beliefs and he said, “Within an hour, I was an atheist.”<ref>"My Argument with God" from Bestlife [1]</ref> Gervais has always been outspoken about his atheism. In June 2008 he became an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society. He joined Richard Dawkins in December 2008 as a special guest star for Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People: A Rational Celebration for Christmas, hosted by his friend, Robin Ince.<ref> Ricky's Blog [2]</ref>. Since joining Twitter, one of the major themes of Ricky's tweets has been his atheism.

Gervais attended Ashmead School before moving to University College London. He changed his course of study from biology to philosophy because biology was 40 hours a week, and philosophy was only 7 hours.<ref>Inside the Actor's Studio 19 January 2009</ref> It was at UCL where Gervais met his long-term girlfriend Jane Fallon, with whom he has been together since the mid 1980s. After his time at university in the late 1980s Gervais shared a small, one room flat with his girlfriend. It was at this time when the infamous sink story <ref>The Ricky Gervais Show, Xfm London, 08 December 2001</ref> took place. Gervais first told this story on Xfm and has since told it as an encore for his standup tour and on various chat shows.

Animal Rights
Gervais has always been a proponent of animal rights. He supports an animal welfare organisation, the WSPA, and has shared his views against fox-hunting and bull fighting on several occasions. He has also written to Prime Minister Gordon Brown urging him to implement a fur-free policy at the Ministry of Defence. Gervais is against the use of real Canadian black bear fur in the Bearskins used by the Foot Guards. The letter can be found on the PETA website. Gervais has also been involved with the Wildlife Aid organisation that serves to rescue, rehabilitate and release wildlife in the UK.<ref> Ricky's Blog [3]</ref>

Personal Life
Gervais currently lives in Hampstead, London with his girlfriend of 25 years, British television producer and best-selling author, Jane Fallon. They do not have any children, but Gervais has a pet cat named Ollie that was given to him by his friend, Jonathan Ross on his chat show. Gervais also had a pet salamander named Tel, but it died. When asked by a journalist what three things he would save in a fire, Gervais joked and said he would save his cat, his salamander, and one of the twins. The journalist did not catch the joke and printed his response. Three months later in a different interview, another journalist asked Gervais what the twins were named.


Seona Dancing

Main article: Seona Dancing

Ricky was the lead singer of the New Romantic group Seona Dancing. The group released two singles that failed to break the top 40 in the UK: Bitter Heart, and More To Lose, which became a massive hit in the Philippines in 1985. This came as a great surprise to the band, who had actually broken up the previous year.

"You're an idiot. Play a record."

Before Xfm

In the early 1990s, Ricky did various odd jobs including working in an office, and a stint as events manager at the University of London Union (ULU). Whilst in this job, he, along with Events Managers of two other London colleges, assisted British band Suede in booking gigs and gaining recognition. By his own admission, he was a bit-part player in the bands' early success, as he handed their first demo tape to Saul Galphern of Nude Records, with whom Suede signed. Gervais, along with the two other managers, were fired by Suede after they hired a full-time manager. Gervais was not bitter, and cited the firing as "business, innit." After this, he took a job at London radio station Xfm. He was also music advisor for the popular BBC drama This Life at this time thanks to the show's producer Jane Fallon.


In 1997, Gervais was hired by Xfm as 'Head of Speech'. Upon starting the job, Gervais insisted he have an assistant. He jokes that he took the top CV on the pile, which happened to be Stephen Merchant's. Ricky invited young Steve for an interview, took him to a pub around the corner from the then-Xfm offices on Charlotte St., and told Steve that if Steve did all the work he'd make sure Steve would have a good time. Steve was hired but soon quit when he realised Gervais was going to get them both sacked through his incompetence. Steve moved to a producer's course at the BBC, while Ricky stayed on, only to be made redundant when the station was taken over by the Capital Radio group in 1998. But it was in that short time working together that their friendship and the foundations of The Office were laid. Gervais' character called 'Seedy Boss' had been in-office entertainment, and was an early version of David Brent. When Steve needed a subject for a film he was making on his BBC course, he returned to Xfm and made a short film of Gervais as 'Seedy Boss'. This film would later be used to pitch The Office to the BBC.

From January to August 1998, Ricky and Steve had their own show on Xfm on Sunday afternoons. Whereas later incarnations of their radio shows would be purely conversational, the show's original format was busier and more interactive, with features, guests, phone-ins, and audience interaction through listener's letters. The show ended when the station was taken over by Capital.

In September 2001, following the success of The Office, Ricky and Steve returned to Xfm for a Saturday afternoon radio show. This time they insisted they have a producer. The man who pushed their buttons was Karl Pilkington, and they discovered his genius. The new show ran intermittently, with breaks ranging between one and three months to allow for Ricky and Steve to work on other projects like The Office, Extras and Ricky's stand up. The trio broadcast nearly 100 shows for Xfm between 2001 and 2005.


Main article: The Ricky Gervais Show

In December 2005, Gervais, along with writing partner Stephen Merchant and producer Karl Pilkington, took their radio show chemistry to a new venture in podcasting. The first series was downloaded more than 250,000 times in the first month, earning it a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. Following the cult success of the series, HBO commissioned an animated TV series of the podcasts, which ran for three seasons.


Gervais' mainstream TV debut came in September 1998 as part of Channel 4's "Comedy Lab" series of pilots. His one-off show "Golden Years" focused on a David Bowie-obsessed character called Clive Meadows. He then came to much wider national attention with an obnoxious, cutting persona featured in a topical slot which replaced Ali G's segments on the satirical Channel 4 comedy programme The 11 O'Clock Show in early 1999. Gervais later went on to present his own comedy chat show for Channel 4 called Meet Ricky Gervais two years later which was poorly received and has since been mocked by Gervais himself.

Throughout this time, Gervais also wrote for Bruiser, the long-lost BBC sketch show, and cameoed in Simon Pegg's sitcom Spaced. A home-made pilot for The Office made with Xfm cohort Stephen Merchant surfaced in 1999/2000, and was bought by the BBC. The first series of The Office garnered low ratings, but through word of mouth and critical acclaim, rated highly during its repeat run. A second series was commissioned and went on to achieve higher ratings and critical acclaim. Two Christmas specials were then aired, to even higher ratings. The show remains the highest selling British comedy DVD ever. The Office has been remade in seven countries to date, France, Germany, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Russia, and the United States

Gervais and Merchant followed up the success of The Office with another award-winning show, Extras, which first aired on 21 July 2005. Like The Office, Extras ran for 12 episodes and a Christmas special. Although Gervais toyed with the idea of returning to make another special for Extras, the duo ultimately decided to stay with their proven format and moved on to other projects.

Gervais guest-starred on Alias in 2004, appearing in the third-season episode "Façade" as Daniel Ryan, a former Royal Navy bomb-disposal specialist turned rogue bomb-maker. He has said about the appearance, "I did an episode of Alias, and I can't watch it. Me being serious. I can't watch it." Further guest appearances on television included his episode of The Simpsons, which Gervais himself wrote; a cameo on Sesame Street in which Ricky sang a lullaby for Elmo; a recurring role on Louis CK's comedy Louie, in which Ricky plays Dr. Ben; and an episode of Family Guy in which Ricky voiced a dolphin.

In 2010 Gervais teamed up with radio cohorts Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington to produce An Idiot Abroad for Sky1, a travelogue involving Karl visiting the seven wonders of the world. Ricky took a back-seat in this project, mainly appearing over the phone to mock Karl during his journey. The show was a success, and series two began in 2011 to even bigger ratings. A three-part special ended the show in 2012.

In 2011 Gervais and Merchant released a new sitcom for the BBC called "Life's Too Short" starring Warwick Davis. Unlike previous projects, Gervais opted out of the lead role and instead the show was centered around Davis' fictional life. The show did not receive the acclaim of The Office or Extras, but Gervais maintained that he felt it was one of the funniest things he had made, and an Easter special was announced for 2013.

In 2012, Gervais reprised the role of Derek after a rediscovered old sketch involving the character was posted to YouTube. Ricky had promised the character to Channel 4 earlier in his career, and a pilot was broadcast in 2012. A full series was then commissioned for 2013, which Ricky wrote, directed and starred in.


Stand Up

Gervais performed stand-up in the UK in 2003 with his show Animals. His Politics show followed a year later. Both of these shows were recorded for release on DVD and television broadcast. The third and final part of the themed live trilogy was Fame in 2007. FAME sold out throughout the UK in under 10 minutes.

Gervais took FAME to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where he created controversy through his high pricing of tickets (£37.50), and his presence alone seemed counter to the purpose of the Fringe Festival, ie, for new and unknown acts to be seen.

Gervais appeared in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV, as himself in a comedy club, and as an interviewee on the radio station We Know The Truth. For this, a special 3-minute act from Fame was recorded and fully motion-captured.

In July 2008 Gervais performed a total of 7 gigs in Los Angeles and New York for his Out Of England tour. He warmed up for 2 charity shows in Brentwood before taking his act to The Kodak Theater in Hollywood and Madison Square Garden in New York. The show was a combination of his three previous shows and was filmed for an HBO special.

Gervais debuted his next show, Science in 2009 in selected cities in the UK. He also performed material from Science at the 2009 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He performed his fourth UK tour in 2009-2010 which included three dates at Wembley Arena. In addition, Gervais returned to Madison Square Garden in New York and the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles in May 2010 for a second Out Of England tour.

In September 2011 Ricky announced that he is working on his Fifth stand up show titled "Humanity". He also plans to do another HBO special.


Gervais released a children's book in 2004 entitled Flanimals. Following the success of this book, he released its sequel More Flanimals in 2005. Flanimals of the Deep was published on the 5 October 2006. These were followed by Flanimals: Day of the Bletchling and a visually impressive Flanimals: Pop-Up book. Flanimals is illustrated by Ricky's friend Rob Steen.


Ricky Gervais as Bertram Pincus

Gervais' first film role was in 2005 in the animated feature Valiant where he did the voice for the character Bugsy. In 2006 Gervais appeared briefly in the Christopher Guest film For Your Consideration as Martin Gibb, a slick studio executive for the film within a film, Home for Thanksgiving. Gervais also had a small role in the film Night at the Museum in 2006, where he played the museum director, Dr. McPhee, opposite Ben Stiller. Gervais rounded out his small cameo roles in 2007 when he appeared in the film Stardust as Ferdy the Fence with Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer.

In 2008 Gervais appeared in his first leading role when he played the misanthropic dentist, Bertram Pincus, in the romantic comedy Ghost Town. Gervais then went on to co-write, direct, and star in the upcoming film The Invention of Lying (formerly titled, This Side of the Truth) where he plays Mark. In this high concept comedy, in which the gene for lying never evolved in humans, Gervais plays the first man that can lie. It premiered on 21 September 2009 in Los Angeles and opens in the UK and the US on 02 October 2009.

Gervais also made a cameo appearance in Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian in 2009. His film Cemetery Junction (formerly titled The Man from the Pru) which was co-written by Stephen Merchant was filmed in the summer of 2009. It was released in the UK on 14 April 2010 and went straight to DVD in the US on 17 August 2010.

Gervais provided the voice of a robot dog in Spy Kids: All the Time in the World, and had a cameo that was cut from the 2011 film The Muppets. Ricky will provide a voice for upcoming animated film Escape From Planet Earth, and will play one of the leading human roles in 2014's The Muppets... Again!.

Gervais is also working on an animated version of Flanimals which is currently announced, but yet to begin pre-production.


In 2010, Gervais hosted the 67th Annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles, California. Prior to this appearance, the ceremony had not had a host in 15 years. Gervais' biting humour did not sit well with some observers, but he was invited back the following year. In 2011, Gervais' jokes created what appeared to be a storm of controversy, with commentators such as Piers Morgan suggesting that he had been given a verbal bashing from the organisers for going too far with his jokes. Gervais denied that this happened and defended his jokes, believing that famous actors would not be offended by such jibes.

Gervais returned for the 2012 ceremony, but insisted that it would be his last appearance as host of the Golden Globes.


Gervais opened a Twitter account in 2009, but posted only a handful of tweets before quitting because he couldn't see the point in using the site when he had his blog. However, in 2011 Gervais returned to Twitter and he has since been prolific in his use of the networking tool. Ricky often posts about his upcoming shows and stand-up gigs, but also tweets about his atheism, Karl and how to handle criticism. In 2012 Gervais began tweeting 'bathpics' - photos of himself pulling grotesque faces which are exaggerate by the bathwater. These became so popular that during an appearance on Conan, Ricky and Conan O'Brien stripped to the waist and took a live bathpic together.

Ricky's Twitter page did attract controversy for his persistent use of the word 'mong'. After vehemently defending his right to use the term, Ricky relented on his stance and apologised, stating he did not realise that such a word was still used to abuse disabled people.

Ricky currently has a following of over four-million people on Twitter.

Other Appearances

Main article: The Fight

Gervais fought Grant Bovey in 2002 for charity. It was televised by the BBC.

Main article: Concert For Diana

Gervais introduced Elton John and did a rendition of "Freelove Freeway" with Mackenzie Crook.

Gervais has also made 11 appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman. He made a brief appearance on Saturday Night Live to present a digital short that parodied The Office in Japan. Gervais went off the script when he commented that the short was "...funny because it's racist." Gervais also attracted attention as a presenter for the 2008 Emmy Awards. He improvised a bit of banter with Steve Carell in which he demanded his Emmy from the previous year. This appearance sparked rumours that Gervais would host the Academy Awards in 2009, yet he explained that he had not been formally asked, he was merely on a list of potential hosts. He, in fact, did not host; Hugh Jackman did.


For his work on The Office and Extras, Gervais has won 7 BAFTAS, 2 Emmy Awards, 3 Golden Globes, and 5 British Comedy Awards. For a full list of nominations and awards for Gervais, see Awards: Ricky Gervais.

External links