As the champion of atheism, British comedy, and put-down humor, it makes sense why Redditors love Ricky Gervais. It also makes sense that when he tells Reddit to ask him anything (AMA), they have a lot of questions. Reddit's inquiries were personal, funny, and often lewd, and Gervais responded in kind. He also discussed his new show Derek, which has already aired in England and will come to Netflix on September 12th. The mockumentary comedy centers around Derek, played by Gervais, a sweet and bumbling nursing home worker. Here are some of Gervais' best quotes from the AMA, some about Derek, and some about...other things.
On who would play the lead in a movie about Gervais:"Daniel Day-Lewis would play me as a baby. He can do anything. Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt are fighting out for me now. And Meryl Streep will play me after the sex change. I haven't told you about that, have I?"
On his current favorite shows: "My favourite shows of the year are House of Cards, the Scandinavian versions of The Killing and The Bridge, and my guilty pleasure is everything MMA. Ultimate Fighter is amazing."
On whether Derek was based on his experiences: "The situation certainly is. Half my family growing up were carers of some sort, mostly retirement homes (stroke, Alzheimers), and Derek is like my fictional superhero of an everyday gentle outsider. I suppose they're all little fables about kindness. And possibly, a love letter to my lovely, poor and humble family growing up."
On which The Office boss would survive longer as gladiators in ancient Rome (Gervais played the UK Office's boss David Brent):"Brent lasts longest. Because he begs for his life, and then stabs Michael when he lets him up."
On his worst experience:"I saw Louis CK naked."
On his favorite comedians:"Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Dave Allen, and a couple of new boys heading towards that list like Louis CK and Doug Stanhope."
On his favorite snack:"Cheese on toast has got to be right up there."
On what he would do as King of England:"I'd probably invade a country. A smaller, weaker country. One that can't defend itself and is helpless. With lots of gold."
On his infamous bathtub selfies:"I like my baths really deep and hot. But washing everything only takes a few minutes. So I thought it would be a waste to just flush all that water away. So there was nothing else to do but take pictures of myself trying to look as horrendous as possible. Oh my, what have I started?"
On his greatest accomplishment:"I fought a bear once. But it started crying, so I let it off."
On the moment when he became a celebrity in America:"I guess winning the Golden Globes for The Office in 2004 against all odds started it all. When I went up to collect the first award, Clint Eastwood was overheard to say 'Who the f**k is that?'"
On being known as Reddit's "King of the Atheists":"I prefer 'God of the Atheists.'"
Read the rest, including the questions Gervais chose not to answer, here.
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When you get a chance to talk comedy with someone who hasn't just made a living out of it, but has based his entire life off of it, you're going to walk away with a few noteworthy pearls of wisdom. This was certainly the case in my conversation with Mike Birbiglia, whose semi-autobiographical feature film Sleepwalk with Me reaches theaters on Friday.
The standup comedian has turned an important moment in his life into a book, a one-man show, and now a movie, chronicling his ascension to the standup spotlight in three different media, and earning and achieving different things with each. The core of the story, no matter if it is being told on a stage or a cinema screen, is about the sharing of personal experience, be it funny, painful, or what have you: Birbiglia identifies this focus on the personal to be something that comedy embraces today. How did it become this way, and where will it go in the future? He has his theories on those, as well.
Mike Birbiglia: From the time I started writing the one-man show… that was, like, eight years. And it’s interfacing in the king of all media: movies. Everybody sees it. Everybody has an opinion and weighs in. It’s actually too much to take in. It’s too many outlets, and too much stimuli. What I’m finding is, I’m starting to understand when those big actors like Sean Penn or whoever are like, “I don’t read reviews.” That actually makes sense to me now. It didn’t make sense before. With my play, it got reviewed by twenty outlets, or thirty outlets. But the movie — hundreds of outlets are writing about it. It’s just strange.
Are there any other differences, creatively, between writing your story as a play and turning it into a movie?
Yeah. It’s very different. It’s very much more cinematic, obviously. The dreams are very cinematic. The sleepwalking is very cinematic. It’s a more immersive experience. That’s why I really want people to see it in a theater. One: it’s very immersive, and we spent a long time on the cinematography. Our cinematographer, Adam Beckman, is very brilliant, and did a great job with it. And two: laughter. I’ve seen people watch it alone, and I’ve seen people watch it in a group. You’ve got to watch it in a group. Laughter is a communal activity.
So you’re saying this in terms of films in general?
Yeah. That’s why I love seeing films at festivals. The rooms are packed, and you’re experiencing it like it’s the theater.
I guess that’s why you don’t have one-on-one standup comedians.
[Laughs] Although, I have done that! Or pretty close to it. When you’re starting out, sometimes the audiences are quite small.
The melding of fact and fiction. From what I understand, the play is pretty spot on in terms of the authenticity of your life.
Yes, very close.
But is the movie different? You changed the names…
The movie is like… we changed the names, because it’s not my parents, it’s not my ex-girlfirned. All the stuff that you wouldn’t think is true is true, and all the stuff that’s kind of minutia and convenience for the sake of story, is that. My parents don’t live in Long Island, they live in Massachusetts. But in a movie, it makes more sense to have them live closer. Because you don’t want to spend all your time in a car or on the phone … [Long Island] is actually where my wife’s family is from, so I stole the details from that.
How about casting and directing actors playing characters based off people in your real life?
Well, Carol [Kane] I had met in 2008 when I was casting a pilot for CBS based on my life. It didn’t work out, but that’s how I met her. We became friends and I always thought that she would be great. And James [Rebhorn] — our casting director Jennifer Euston, it was her idea. Shes’ really great. She cast Girls on HBO, Veep on HBO. She said, “What about James Rebhorn?” We looked up his reel and watched him. And oh my God. That guy is amazing!
And he’s been in, like, every movie ever made.
He’s been in every movie ever made. Working with both of those veterans is a real learning experience.
You did say that they’re not your parents. But I’m sure it’s rooted in your real relationship with your parents?
Yeah, there are facets of it. I make it bigger, because it’s a movie and you need to get across an idea quicker, essentially ... Casting Lauren [Ambrose], actually, was my wife Jenny’s idea. She had watched Six Feet Under. I couldn’t afford cable TV at that time. So I hadn’t seen it really. Jen was like, “This actress Lauren Ambrose might be really good.” She showed me clips of her, and I said, “She’s perfect.” Because what we needed from that character was someone who exuded strength and humor at the same time. Ultimately in the story, you don’t want to feel bad for the character. If you feel bad for the character after the breakup, it’s no good. It’s not satisfying. But with a person like Lauren, she just exudes that strength and humor, so that you go, “She’ll be fine.”
She did an excellent job. The thing I remembered her from most was Can't Hardly Wait. I think she has grown a lot.
In the beginning of the movie, in terms of your character’s standup, you have the Cookie Monster jokes. And then it shows the evolution to more honest relationship humor. What exactly makes that work?
I actually modeled the comedy career progression after the movie Once. The movie Once did a really good job of showing a character who goes from doing covers to doing originals. That was an interesting progression. He never was bad. Even Matt Pandamiglio. He’s funny in the beginning, but it’s just kind of worthless. It’s like, “Ehh… this guy? Who cares?” As he progresses, he starts being more personal. Essentially going from more generic to less generic, and more personal. That’s why it works. I hate it when in movies, someone goes from being terrible at something to just being great at it. And you don’t quite follow how other than through a montage. But with our movie, I feel like, you kind of get it. You go, “That’s is the same guy, he just kind of clicked with something.”
Most of the comedy is relationship-based in the later acts of the film. I know a lot of your standup comedy, and not all of it is. The thing that got me into your standup was the mattress bit.
Oh yeah. “What I should have said was ‘nothing’.”
Did you feel like the story didn’t do a service to that kind of comedy? It’s still anecdotal, and it’s still real, but it’s not as emotional.
I really love all types of comedy. It’s just kind of where my personal journey has gone. Two Drink Mike is very different from My Secret Public Journal Live, which is very different from Sleepwalk with Me Live. My three albums are very much in evolution. And I’ve been lucky. My fans have come with me in that evolution. I’ll see if they come with me on the film evolution. I love Two Drink Mike. I still think it’s a good album. I like the jokes on it. I feel like you, as an artist, one thing you try to do is avoid doing the same things over and over again. Unless you want to make money. In which case, you keep doing it over and over and over again.
I think standup is bigger than it’s ever been.
What does your movie and its story say about contemporary standup, and becoming a comedian?
It’s funny. I do feel like we’re in something of a comedy boom right now, and it’s completely coincidental that I made this movie in this period. I think that the period we’re in right now is interesting because it’s post-Seinfeld. I love Jerry Seinfeld, but he marked this period of observational comedy, and I feel like it seeped into popular culture. Every commercial was observational. Every poster ad was observational. I think it was oversaturation of that type of humor.
What me and — all separately on our own journeys — me and Louis C.K. and Marc Maron, Doug Stanhope, Maria Bamford… a whole lot of comedians have kind of gone against that. We’ve gone in this direction of, “What’s our personal story to tell?” I think there’s a certain way in which, when you do that, when you’re saying something vulnerable about yourself, you’re actually giving a gift to the audience. Because you’re letting yourself be judged in a way that people can just go, “You suck!” And you’re just like “I know! I’m telling you that! I’ve already told you that! I’ve fallen down, and you’re just kicking me!”
The great possibility, if you do it well, is if you tell stories about yourself that are vulnerable, people feel more comfortable opening up about their vulnerable stories. I think that that’s an important thing for people to experience. We see the character do that in this film. It seems like people have, so far, been taking to that aspect of it.
Absolutely. And with the popularity of Louis, and everything you said — why do you think this is happening now?
Partly, because it’s post-Seinfeld. It’s like the opposite of Seinfeld. I think the pendulum will swing again. I’m sure it’ll go somewhere else. It’ll go to absurdist comedy. Or physical comedy. It’ll go somewhere else. Right now it’s here. I’m not sure why. But I think it has to do with — if I were to guess, and I might be completely wrong — but I would say, it has to do with the fact that these days, with technology as it is, you can manufacture almost anything. You can make anything seem like anything. In other words, you can put a series of clips together on the news, and all of a sudden it’s like, “That’s crazy that that person said that!” But they didn’t even say that! It’s just edited in that way.
And there’s CGI, and that changes the game. You see movies, and you’re like, “I don’t even know if that was animated, or if that is real. I literally don’t know!” And I feel like there’s something about confessional comedy that is refreshing in light of that being the cultural norm. There’s something about one person telling a group of people, “Listen to this thing that happened to me.” And you taking them at their word. Somehow, that’s special.
[Photo Credit: IFC Films]
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The controversial comic is currently on a tour of the U.K. but has recalled how a show in Liverpool, England was almost ruined when he downed whisky by mistake and threw up.
Stanhope, famed for his hard-boozing live act, tells Front magazine, "It wasn't from being overly drunk, but I'd ordered a tequila and they brought me up whisky, so my mouth was ready for tequila. I'm not a whisky drinker so my body rejected it like a bad kidney transplant and I just puked all over the stage.
"Here's a note to any young comedians reading this - if you're gonna puke on stage, make sure it's your closing bit. All the funniest jokes in your arsenal aren't gonna amuse people as much as vomiting all over yourself on stage. You can't follow that. I guess I could've followed it by s**tting my pants."
Controversial comedian Doug Stanhope is auctioning off his own mother's ashes. Stanhope is playing a benefit show for the Humane Society of Southern Arizona in Tucson later this month (Dec11) and has included his mother's remains in an after-show sale.
The controversial comedian found fame with his abrasive shows in which he graphically discusses sensitive issues and shocks audiences with his outrageous take on society.
But the self-confessed libertarian is considering hanging up his microphone at the age of 44 - because he's finally found domestic bliss with author/musician Amy Bingaman and now struggles to find enough material to fuel his angry stage routines.
Stanhope tells Britain's Guide magazine, "I've got a great relationship, a nice house, great dogs. We're strongly debating quitting. I don't want to create things to be angry about, I'd sooner start doing happy s**t."
BBC Five Live host Richard Bacon encouraged fans to visit YouTube.com and witness his guest Stanhope's six-minute rant about the former U.S. vice president candidate, during which he attacked her son Trig, who was born with Down's Syndrome.
The radio presenter never made mention of Stanhope's Palin comments and the comic didn't repeat them during the interview that followed on 4 August (11), but Bacon's suggestion that listeners should visit YouTube was enough to upset DSA officials.
They filed a formal complaint to the BBC, stating, "The DSA is shocked that a BBC employee has publicised the work of a comedian which is nothing more than a vile offensive rant and conflicts with BBC guidelines which state a responsibility to protect the vulnerable and avoid unjustifiable offence."
Bacon has since apologised for his remarks, insisting he wasn't condoning his guest's humour, but encouraging listeners to check out why Stanhope has such a controversial reputation.
But the comic is defiant - he has chosen to fan the flames of the controversy by blasting DSA officials on his Facebook.com page.
He writes, "I just wrote this to the site @ email@example.com saying in part 'The best and highest use of your organization's webpage is to give me publicity? How dare you pretend this is about you helping people rather than about your own personal, ego-driven agendas. Remember, you are supposed to be caring for victims, not making victims of yourselves. You are reprehensible.'"