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A Boor, A Creep, A Bully And An Oaf - What Happened To Ricky Gervais?
David Stubbs , November 21st, 2011 06:24

One-time Ricky Gervais fan David Stubbs asks if The Office was simply a fluke piece of brilliance from an otherwise unpleasant man

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Ricky Gervais describes a scene from his next sitcom, provisionally titled Black Comedy. "Anyway, so, it stars this little fat bloke, right, rich, and he's got this black mate, so, you know, awkward. So here's how it is, right, get this, right, HAHAHAHAHAHA! He's all done up as a minstrel, right, just relaxing at home, doing 'Swanee River' on the old banjo as you do, when the doorbell goes, right, and it's only his black mate! And there he is, all done up as a minstrel, I mean, embarrassing, or what, HAHAHAHAHAHA!! Talk your way out of that! See, it's funny 'cos it's real. That's what's happening to black people every day but no one wants to talk about it. Anyway, his black mate says, "Apologise." But why should I apologise? All right, I apologise. Yeah? Then Johnny Depp turns up, he's all blacked up too 'cos he's playing Nelson Mandela in a (etc)"

What happened to Ricky Gervais? Did he fall from grace after The Office or was The Office actually a temporary, out-of-character, ascension to grace? Has he been spoiled by success, or has success merely allowed the true Ricky Gervais, in all his self-obsessive, disconcerting unpleasantness, to be given free rein and full exposure? Why does that opening, italicised paragraph seem more probable than satirical?

Gervais's latest sitcom, Life's Too Short, is currently midway through its run. Car crash TV doesn't do it justice; watching it, week after week, is like standing by a foggy motorway, looking on as consecutive cars slide on the same patch of black ice, one after the other, careering sickeningly into the rear bumper of the one in front, and being helpless to do anything about it but grimace.

Life's Too Short is not entirely unfunny; the stand alone celebrity segments do actually work, by and large, even if the shtick has become cloyingly over-familiar. As for what's wrapped around these pellets of comic relief, however...

In The Office, much of the comedy derived from Brent's excruciating, backfiring attempts to showboat playing out in front of stunned, mute, unsmiling co-workers. That device is much used in Life's Too Short, which stars Warwick Davis as himself, a hapless little person with a modest IMDB history of bit parts in blockbusters, desperately casting around for acting work, any work, as well as coping with tax problems and an impending divorce. However, whereas in The Office, you were doubled up with laughter, with Life's Too Short, you, too, the viewer, are stunned, mute, unsmiling. This is someone's idea of a joke? How was this ever commissioned? Yes, we understand it's A Ricky Gervais Production – Davis is so obviously a Gervais proxy - but beyond that, what the hell is it supposed to be?

While giving a lead to a dwarf in a high profile series is ostensibly "progressive" (and Davis doubtless, understandably, glad of the work), the comedy, which is constantly at the expense of his height, feels, well, arrested. Even in the dark, pre-political comedy days of the 70s - when Asians were considered inherently amusing, when no fat woman could enter a scene without a bassoon striking up, when a TV bulletin warning about a local rapist on the loose would see a sitting room spinster sigh and remark, "Chance would be a fine thing!" - Rudolph Walker had to pay for making a similar breakthrough to Davis's as one of the first lead black characters in a UK sitcom (Love Thy Neighbour). His success came at the cost of him enduring the continual taunt of "nig-nog" and "sambo"; and even back then, audiences and execs would have winced at the indignities Davis undergoes for our supposed amusement. The nadir of this comes in the episode four, in which he's locked in a bathroom because the door handle is too high, falls out of his car because his seat is too high, and can't reach an item on a high shelf, despite his frantic clambering, because, well, the shelf is too high.

Perhaps this is some triple-axle attempt at post-post-postmodern irony, an ultra-sophisticated comedic in-joke that has tied itself up in such obscure knots it only seems crass to the un-knowing, the obtuse. Well, that'd be me because from where I'm sitting it looks like we're supposed to be laughing at a guy for being "too" short.

What's even more confusing is that, whereas in The Office, there was a naturalistic plausibility to the action (and inaction), the overlapping, halting dialogue and half-glances from work station to work station, that exquisitely judged sensibility seems to have drained away entirely from Gervais's post-Office work. For a show whose surrounding tagcloud is bound to throw up the words "political correctness", the characters in Life's Too Short are mystifyingly bereft of that quality, and all the common courtesy and sense of shame it entails.

Take the a passer by who starts videoing Davis in the street because, "you know, it's funny, a dwarf carrying a box". (He eventually ends the scene by falling over because, HAHAHAHAHA, the step into a building is too high.) Johnny Depp unabashedly treats him like a performing circus freak, Gervais himself, as himself, refers to him as the "inch-high detective", etc. Sure, dwarves might well encounter these attitudes, but all the time, from absolutely everybody? This has no accordance to reality – rather, it's like Gervais has tried to bake up his own Curb Your Enthusiasm, but got the ingredients all wrong.

Is this the only way you can garner laughs from little people in a sitcom - constant reference to their littleness? No. Here's an example of how it should be done. Mickey Abbott, Kramer's occasional sidekick in Seinfeld.

It'd be wrong to suggest that Mickey's height doesn't in some way contribute to the comedy; there's a tall/short thing going on, and Mickey's volcanic irascibility comes better and funnier from a little dude. But in this clip and his appearances elsewhere in Seinfeld, the laughs come from non-height related physical business and the sheer strength of Mickey's character, especially in cahoots with, or set off, Kramer.

In Seinfeld we trust. In Gervais, we do not. I parted company with the Karl Pilkington podcasts. For many, Pilkington's quasi-autistically bizarre take on the world was reason enough to chuckle. But if he was a funny enough character in his own right, why on earth did he need Gervais and Stephen Merchant riding shotgun with him, constantly making with the "How mad is that?" commentary and manic guffaws? Surely it's not for a show's co-creator to provide all the laughter in its laugh track. Surely it's for us, the audience, to decide how "mad", or whatever, your comedy is. Moreover, it felt like schoolboy baiting, as if Pilkington were some shambling creature with a rope round his neck, roped in to amuse the sixth formers with his hilariously untutored, eccentric utterances. (Though again, it was confusing. Is he for real? Is Pilkington Pilkington, or "Pilkington"?)

Gervais has always had a thing about "special", or "challenged" types. Here's his Derek Noakes, from a 2000, pre-Office sketch.

This feels modern, insofar as it's a downbeat parody of reality TV but while it's strong on bathos, it's utterly without pathos. The Satie music is there as a joke. We're not meant to sympathise with this Noakes creature, or find anything noble or moving in him; he's just a futile fucking idiot. Worryingly, that's what we're invited to find funny. You can too well imagine Gervais did, as he conceived him. HAHAHAHA! It's as if there's some residual lump of schoolboy cruelty in his soul. It's like one of his balls never dropped.

HAHAHAHA! That laugh, see, that's the problem. Now, Gervais is indisputably educated in comedic matters. He's got great taste and cultivated opinions in comedy. Unlike most comedians, however, who, being so good at what they do are not easily moved to laughter, Gervais laughs with grating, high-pitched frequency. It doesn't seem to take much to set him off his inner, giggling adolescent.

Which brings us to "Mong-gate". No need to revisit the rights or wrongs of that issue. There's a debate to be had about context, connotations, public and private use of certain words. The problem with Gervais is that he conducted himself so shiftily and aggressively in the hoo-hah that followed, throwing out cliched, ad hoc accusations to his detractors of being "uptight" and, worst of all, referring to the "humourless PC brigade", the sort of phrase the scoundrel resorts to when even the last refuge is closed. His excessive defensiveness made him appear unengagingly boorish, and, worst of all, unsure of his own ground. Again, can we trust this man? He seems a bit . . . haywire. And a bit of a boor, and a creep, and a bully, and an oaf, too – the worst sort of boor, creep, bully and oaf, in that he knows much better than to be a boor, creep, bully and oaf.

Though, like Stewart Lee, I believe Political Correctness to be absolutely a good thing (remembering, as I do the dark days of "Chance would be a fine thing!"), comedy should naturally be fearless, nothing should be off-limits. It's comedy's prerogative to be transgressive. But you don't just charge in like a Frankie Boyle into a china shop of sensitivities. For that sort of thing to work, you need to be operating from an absolutely sound and stable moral core. In other words, to do non-PC comedy, you need to be PC as fuck - the way South Park's Trey Parker and Matt Stone are at heart, or, as brilliantly demonstrated in this clip from Louis C.K.'s new "reality" sitcom Louie. This is how the grown-ups do it.

Talk about having your cake, eating it, sicking it up and eating it again. It runs the gamut. It's teeteringly homophobic, hilarious, repugnant, sombre and enlightening by turns, with a punchline, delivered by the most reactionary guy in the room, that's thoroughly earned. Louis C.K. you can trust. This is "edgy" all right, but expertly wrought, educative even. Now you know about flaming faggots, and aren't likely to forget.

Interestingly, Gervais appears in the first series of Louie as a doctor who cracks up at his own, bad-taste AIDS jokes. Handled properly in this context, he's funny. Gervais, of course, has been very successful in America. He straddles the Atlantic. And that, maybe, is what's happened to Gervais. He's been allowed to get away with slack, self-indulgent, repetitive comedy that speaks more about his hermetic social set and dubious mindset than it does to us, the audience. He gets away with it because of the Brand Recognition surrounding his name and overweening presence and, because no one at the BBC is big or bold enough to lob stuff like Life's Too Short back at him and tell him to try harder, be better. Do that, you suspect, and it's bye bye Ricky to America for good, where he's more appreciated – a terrifying thought for Beeb execs.

Funny, when he was fat, Gervais's comedy was a great deal more lean. Now that he's gotten buff, his comedy has gone flabbily to seed. He's been coasting, not challenging himself. If he ever wants to recapture the form of The Office, he needs to give himself a proper look in the mirror and shape up. But who's going to make him?

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Luke
Nov 21, 2011 11:58am

This article is perfectly timed and well sourced. Life's Too Short is one dimensional and truly terrible, whilst using all the hammy conventions which Gervais continues to phone in.

A huge problem with LTS (apart from the easy pun title that has absolutely no relevance) is that the awkwardness stops being mesmerising, and is just plain unwatchable. I know he's trying, but Warwick is a really terrible actor.

Elsewhere, I haven't caught any of Louie - where have I been?! Looks fantastic.

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Alastair
Nov 21, 2011 12:32pm

Interesting article - and I agree that Extras Season 2 and Life's Too Short were hugely disspointing. Like the you, I also got fed up with the tone of the podcasts.

However, I think you are making the mistake that people often make with The Office. It wasn't all Brent. It was good because of Brent - but it was loved because of Tim and Dawn. There was genuine heart in there - I cried in the Christmas special when Dawn opens the present with the 'never give up'. That's the stuff that made it special.

I don't think that this is so much a fluke as a lack of focus. When they want to, Gervais and Merchant can still do that. I thought Cemetery Junction (often overlooked for some reason) had some great characters and a good deal of warmth too it. The skill is there - what's dissapointing is that the focus seems too much to be on celebrities and causing outrage.

I'm desperate for Gervais and Merchant to write a sitcom that doesn't have them or Barry from Eastenders in and is just a new idea. I think if they were challenged to do that they would come up with something interesting. However, as you say, they are now in the position where anything they want made will get made.

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Ian
Nov 21, 2011 12:33pm

Some kind of candid-camera show where Ricky Gervais places objects tantalisingly out of reach for his pet dwarf would've been more honest, because that's basically what Life's Too Short is - Gervais indulging his love of cruelty and using his shop-worn irony to protect him from the criticism he deserves. The promo material was literally Ricky and Steve Merchant pointing at Warwick Davies and laughing. It's a cheap excuse to chuckle at a small bloke falling out of a car every week (this seems to happen every episode, ignoring the fact that most dwarves only fall out of a car three or four times before they learn and have almost certainly got the hang of it by the time they reach middle age).

Oh, I forgot the parts where he indulges his own ego having celebrities come on and get embarrassed by the comedy master. And to laugh at the little guy obviously.

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Rich
Nov 21, 2011 12:42pm

Gervais has built an entire career out of humiliating and embarrassing people for entertainment, why you would feel that his current output should be anything other than that is a little beyond me. He may be confident enough to more crass and direct about where he derives his comedy now, but it's been the same since I first saw him on the 11 O'clock show.

He's an odious creature who has never gone beyond the teenage bullying of the ginger/fat/disabled whatever kid in class purely for the thrill of knowing that he's stripped someone of their dignity.

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Will
Nov 21, 2011 12:51pm

The only person I know who thinks Ricky Gervais is also the only person I know who happily admits to voting for the Tories.

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Tatty Divine
Nov 21, 2011 12:54pm

The Office owes a lot to Merchant. I followed him a few years after on to the BBC Training Scheme. He has become legendary. One of the first things they do in that course is send you on a directors course.

This gives one the thrill of directing a full crew, and most people leave the week with a five minute tape of completely worthless tape that will mean nothing after one and only viewing.

Merchant left with the pilot for The Office.

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Meryl
Nov 21, 2011 12:55pm

In reply to Rich:

Agreed. I liked this article but I'm still gritting my teeth waiting for someone to really rip the shit out of him. Well, a girl can dream.

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Jabes
Nov 21, 2011 1:07pm

uhh, you have seen Extras, right?

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Ugeine
Nov 21, 2011 1:08pm

Good man for the South Park reference, I've always said that Matt and Trey handle race relations better than anybody else currently on television.

I thought this about Gervais to a certain extent. Especially Extras. I always thought it was massively overlooked.

The central joke of extras, that you have this television industry staffed by people who, like the people watching, were actually massively prejudiced and selfish people. It’s got that candid ‘behind the scenes’ feel, but they actually act very mundanely.

Maggie was a brilliant character, and the way she constantly made unwittingly nasty and racist comments were very unconformable and funny as they satirised that very British attitude towards race that the rest of television seems hell bent to ignore.

But then, as Stewart Lee says, if you’re peddling that sort of irony then you’ll get fans that are there because they don’t get the racism. He seems to be pandering to those fans with this latest show. Shame.

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Dan
Nov 21, 2011 1:22pm

Half-arsed counterpoint: wasn't he always like this? His chat show, his 'character' on the 11 O'Clock Show, etc.?

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Lorraine
Nov 21, 2011 1:26pm

Bravo! I could not agree more with this article. Unfortunately, all of Ricky's newer projects rely heavily on the hollywood talent appearing in them, without that element they would be abismal!, but Ricky has sold out big time in order to make those connections, he is so far up his own backside now that he has lost what made him likeable initially, he's going onwards and upwards and not looking back at "those people", and without doubt a total bully!

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James
Nov 21, 2011 1:51pm

It's kind of like a band who's first album is great, second album is OK & the third album is pretty dire. He seems to only have one brand of comedy that's wearing pretty thin..
Or maybe he's so gakked up these days that his comedic judgement has gone west. Would explain the weight loss..

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Meryl
Nov 21, 2011 1:51pm

In reply to Ugeine:

Yeah, but if we're gonna be comparing the South Park guys in this context i.e. ableism... they're pretty fucking terrible.

I did wince at the usage of "quasi-autistically" here, for that matter. Does undermine the point a bit. Didn't we just have that great interview with Paddy Considine in which he pointed out that there is no single personality type for people on the autistic spectrum?

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Tom
Nov 21, 2011 1:55pm

Gervais needs a big fat failure so he wakes up and stops slacking. The problem with vast success is the assumption that you can do anything with apparently little effort. He can't even play himself on screen.

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Clair
Nov 21, 2011 2:20pm

The sad thing is, the relationship between Andy and Maggie in Extras was a delight; real, true, charming and funny. Gervais clearly can do thoughtful, but instead chooses to bury it all in an avalanche of bile that his daft Twitter followers can laugh at.

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Clare
Nov 21, 2011 2:21pm

Taking a pop at Gervais's body image in final para doesn't really serve to underline the point... Is there some residual lump of schoolboy cruelty in the soul of David Stubbs?

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Colmmmmm
Nov 21, 2011 2:24pm

Yeah there's no doubting the genius of The Office, however it was never picked up on how much in thrall the series was to other genuinely groundbreaking BBC comedies - I'm Alan Partridge and The Royle Family.

Extras was everything The Office wasn't (and not in a good way)... And around that time I seem to remember Gervais lambasting puns as 'lazy' comedy. Lo and Behold his next drama series features a dwarf and he calls it 'Lifes too Short'.... The first thing I thought was that the whole premise sounds like something David Brent would come up with (a la 'Upstairs Downstairs') on a lazy Tuesday lunchbreak in Slough.

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MsD
Nov 21, 2011 3:40pm

Great article.

Like Alastair, who comments here, I still hold out hope for Gervais, not just because of Tim and Dawn, but also Brent's new girlfriend in that final episode, offering him redemption through love. Corny, maybe, but it worked, in showing Brent as the lost little boy he was at heart.

RG has undoubtedly suffered from having too much smoke up the arse, let's hope he returns to form.

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Chas One
Nov 21, 2011 3:56pm

I totally agree with Mr Stubbs.
I had the misfortune of witnessing Gervais' 'Science' show in Hammersmith last year and was appalled by how lazy, repetitive and self-congratulatory he has become. It appeared that he'd spent half an hour writing new "material" for the show and the accompanying booklet must have taken about four minutes to throw together and was just an excuse to push all his Bafta/Emmy etc. winning products. Worse still, he started out by having a go at fat people, as if he'd always had a gym in his Hampstead basement and hadn't spent much of the recent past as a chubby sod himself; his lame attempt to re-write history perhaps, even though he'll probably always be associated with being overweight as his best work was done while he was fat.
The lowest note was struck when an audience member heckled him with a very well-deserved "You're shit". Rather than dish out a witty riposte, he immediately countered with a bitter rant about how many awards he'd won and that the audience member probably hadn't won any and: "Should I stop working with Stephen Merchant and start working with you now, should I?" Embarrasing.
If I was Merchant, probably the funnier, certainly the most humane member of the team, I'd start to disassociate myself with Gervais post haste lest he be dragged down with him.

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neale howells
Nov 21, 2011 4:24pm

episode two of lifes too short was as brilliant and funny as it gets... probable the funniest thing he has done and i say that because i could not breathe with laughter when watching it... well done all involved no doubt another classic that will go on to win many awards...

www.artistnealehowells.webs.com

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Ryan
Nov 21, 2011 4:33pm

In an attempt to highlight what you view as Gervais 'bullying' comedy, you've actually come off as patronising. You describe Warwick, a man who's appeared in some of the biggest films of all time aas being 'doubtless glad of the work'.
Presumably you are aware that Warwick Davis is a 41 year old man who has lived with Dwarfism his entire life? And presumably you must concede that as the lead actor and co-creator of Life's Too Short (the original idea was Warwick's himself) he is in a better position to decide what's appropriate in representing the life of someone with this condition than yourself?
We are not, as you put it, supposed to be laughing at a 'guy being short'. The joke is clearly Warwick's ego and it's juxtaposition with his size and the difficulties that entails. When he requires help ringing a doorbell, it's not funny because he's too short, it's funny because he feels he has to justify himself to the guy he needs help from.
The way that Davis, Gervais and Merchant have handled Dwarfism in Life's Too Short isn't 'cruelty' or 'bullying' it's the confrontation of the elephant in the room, the removal of the Stigma, stopping looking at disability as 'the other'. We don't have to handle disablity with a whisper and kid gloves, we just have to make sure we're laughing for the right reasons and anyone who properly understands LTS will be.

On a side-note, as I've noticed a few people point out, your use of the phrase 'quasi-autistic' to describe Karl Pilkington really does stand out in a piece about negative portrayal of disability.

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Marilyn Fetcher
Nov 21, 2011 4:33pm

Excellent well-considered assessment of why "Life's Too Short" - and the astonishingly hateful portrayal of Derek Noakes - is abusive, not funny.

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Mark T
Nov 21, 2011 5:01pm

In reply to Chas One:

Can't comment on Life's Too Short - it won't be broadcast in the States until 2012. But I do take exception to your claim that Gervais is "bullying" fat people as if he'd never been fat himself. As abrasive as his humor is, Gervais has always taken the piss out of himself alongside everyone else. I still remember him spilling out of his "girdle" in the series finale of Extras. And recruiting David Bowie to serenade him: "Pathetic little fat man... see his pug-nosed face!"

You may not like the style of Gervais' humor, but I can't think of a time in his career when he wasn't every bit as critical of himself.

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emmz
Nov 21, 2011 7:32pm

I'm not sure I agree with this article. We laugh at Warwick because he is so full of himself (his wife, his career), useless (employing this accountant, the wedding scene - which is hilarious, hadn't laughed so much in a while)... He falls out of the car because it's a huge, polluting 4x4! Why would anyone drive that in the London (?) area? WHY would a "dwarf" have that kind of car?? I never once felt like I was laughing at his size.
I'd say my main disappointment is that it's another show from the duo about actors/the entertainment industry... They've already done it and it doesn't have much to do with the life most people live. I'd give it a chance if I were you (but I've only seen the two episodes...)

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Chunkalicious
Nov 21, 2011 10:22pm

Dreadful, pretentious article. Someone should tell Dave Stubbs that the cool kids are getting bored of the Gervais backlash bandwagon, and he should move on and see if he can get a head start on whichever celebrity Media Guardian have got lined up a kicking in December, lest his hipster credentials be permanently revoked. Well, either that, or create something original of his own.

Anyone up for a fisk? Let's see...

Stubbs writes:

"What happened to Ricky Gervais? Did he fall from grace after The Office or was The Office actually a temporary, out-of-character, ascension to grace?"

Yes, that meteoric plunge from grace punctuated only by seven BAFTA's for Extras, a record breaking series of podcasts, four sell-out stand-up tours and An Idiot Abroad, Sky One's highest rated show. There but for the grace of God, eh? Idiot.

"Gervais's latest sitcom, Life's Too Short, is currently midway through its run."

There have been two episodes. Of seven. You fail maths forever. As well as journalism.

"watching it, week after week"

There have been two episodes.

"is like standing by a foggy motorway, looking on as consecutive cars slide on the same patch of black ice, one after the other, careering sickeningly into the rear bumper of the one in front, and being helpless to do anything about it but grimace."

There have been Two. Fucking. Episodes. Christ alive! Why, oh why, are you so rabidy champing at the bit to condemn a TV show which has BARELY STARTED? Seriously? Why? What's your ulterior motive? I refuse to believe that a sitcom could generate such emnity in a sane person in a mere two episodes. So what else is it?

Don't worry, it's a rhetorical question. It's clear what the real problem is. You don't like Gervais, and because you're not a talented enough journalist to sustain an objective stance, you're letting your personal distaste cloud your opinion of his latest project. Which, lest we forget, has barely started.

Say, who remembers the first two episodes of Fawlty Towers? Or Only Fools and Horses? Or even The Office, for that matter? Not I, and I own the complete box sets of all three shows. When, in the history of television, has a new show EVER been judged as harshly as Life's Too Short? You, and other critics, are displaying your double standards as gleefully as a deviant in a nudist camp waving an obvious, prosthetic schlong.

"While giving a lead to a dwarf in a high profile series is ostensibly "progressive" (and Davis doubtless, understandably, glad of the work), the comedy, which is constantly at the expense of his height, feels, well, arrested"

Someone needs to learn the difference between the subject of a joke, and the target of a joke. I defy anyone to cite a single joke in either of the first two episodes which pokes fun at Davis' height, rather than the preconceptions other characters have about it.

"The nadir of this comes in the episode four, in which he's locked in a bathroom because the door handle is too high, falls out of his car because his seat is too high, and can't reach an item on a high shelf, despite his frantic clambering, because, well, the shelf is too high."

Have you had a chance to watch these scenes in context? Or are you just going off the same YouTube teaser clips as everybody else? If the latter, I would venture that you don't have anywhere near enough context to judge the appropriateness of the jokes, and I would cite your entire article as proof you wouldn't understand it if you did. If the former, I would expect these jokes actually fall into a similar vein as the slapstick moments in episode one, which mock not Davis' height itself, but the "Small Man Complex" which deludes him into thinking that an SUV is a practical car for a 3ft 6in dwarf.

The article is too long and tedious for further dissection. I'll leave you with the observation that The Office, for all its plaudits, was a commercial and critical disaster when it first premiered. As with most things that are just a shade ahead of the curve, it took the critics a few weeks to catch up. There's no reason to believe the same thing won't happen with Life's Too Short.

And in what universe is "Quasi-autistically" not offensive?

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Jack
Nov 22, 2011 12:01am

"Funny, when he was fat, Gervais's comedy was a great deal more lean. Now that he's gotten buff, his comedy has gone flabbily to seed. He's been coasting, not challenging himself." - Making a direct correlation between Gervais weight and his comedy success... gee Stubbs, you're a fucking genius. Seems to me like the only bully/oaf here is you. If you're going to make an argument against Gervais, make it an intelligent one.

Life's Too Short is hilarious. Warwick Davis is brilliant in this comedy. His mannerisms and comedic timing bring his egotistical character to life. I absolutely love it and can't wait to watch more episodes.

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Marvin Cultren
Nov 22, 2011 3:00am

Is it considered a necessary CV item to have written an anti-Gervais article now? Seems like Gervais' clumsy boundary pushing and an incomplete grasp by the media of the euphemism treadmill have created a lovely circle jerk.

Now if only any of that had to do with the work.

Look at The Office on its merits, and it's hard to argue against it as a great sitcom.( Admittedly, not the highest form of art, but that doesn't diminish the accomplishment.) Extras is similarly great, but has some poorly executed emotional bits towards the tail end. Nobody has yet seen Cemetery Junction, so it's hard to say what it's like. Life's Too Short seems brash and uncompromisingly broad, but so is Alan Partridge. In any case, after two episodes, it's better than everything on network TV in America, and better than much of the rather clumsy latest seasons of It's Always Sunny and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Certainly less shit than IT Crowd, Peep Show in its current incarnation, and the Mighty Boosh.

It's not better than Louie, but I have a hard time crucifying Gervais and Merchant for producing a runner up. Even if he did say MONG and someone was unintentionally hurt.

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dally m
Nov 22, 2011 7:19am

Love the show. Greatest piece yet. Well done ricky!

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Kathy
Nov 22, 2011 8:47am

What a load of pretentious twaddle! Has Ricky G done something to upset you reviewers? Your logic for why his un-PC material is actually racist while others' non-PC material is funny is flawed. Louis CK is funny (on this we agree) and it's ok for his show (which features Ricky...if LCK is such a higher-level PC monster, why would he let such a boor on his show?). Plus, you describe Pilkington as quasi-autistic. That could be construed as belittling to autistic kids, you know. You claim to know that Matt and Trey are "PC as fuck". This seems to be your criteria for whether or not non-PC material should be allowed. How do you know this, and how do you know Ricky isn't as well? Have you hung out with them all off screen and off the record? Besides that, what does it matter...viewers don't necessarily know what the writers are like in real life apart from interview glimpses. Bzzzt...irrelevance buzzer!
Then you totally contradict yourself. Comedians should be able to put anything out there, but Ricky's stuff is just too low.
Additionally, major A-list celebs would surely distance themselves rather than flocking to play bit parts in the show if they thought for a second that Ricky were as mean-spirited and boorish as you claim. You were also very belittling toward Warwick. Why did you have to portray him to us as a desperate loser who seemingly had to get work where he could? You're way meaner than Ricky because you made it personal. If the humor doesn't float your boat, just say it's not funny, but don't pretend to be all PC. I think you're using this article to loudly pronounce that you are PC and would never laugh at a dwarf, especially one kept in a glass case until fight time. Ricky is making fun of prejudices and the people who hold them (you wouldn't be one, would you?), not propagating them. Maybe you missed that bit.....

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Leon
Nov 22, 2011 11:05am

At the heart of a lot of Ricky Gervais's comedy appears to be pointing and laughing at the misfortunate and borderline bullying. Who can forget the way he refers to Karl Pilkington as a 'retard' or the XFM radio shows where he hits Karl with various objects on his head, wrestles him and wraps his face in tin foil.
I wouldn't be surprised if events of Warwick Davis dancing a river dance or standing in a toilet, were simply events that occurred when Ricky and Warwick met in real life. All under the guise of friendship and good humour.

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Adam
Nov 22, 2011 11:10am

Who's Ricky Gervais?

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toby
Nov 22, 2011 1:12pm

I see the Gervais fans have turned up in force.

His reaction to criticism about the "mong" incident shows him up for the spoilt child he is - anyone else would have at least considered their position, rather than stropping about talking about how famous he is and how everyone else is just jealous.

The Office was very good, but it wasn't as original as a lot of its fans claim and was a lot more of an ensemble creation than Gervais seems to claim. Extras was pretty good but was a sign of things to come - reliance on celebrities and tried-and-tested set-ups. Everything since then...meh. I'm glad for Gervais that he's had this success after so many years of trying but it does seem to have turned him into a needy, insecure dickhead.

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Stavros P. Leibowitz
Nov 22, 2011 1:16pm

In reply to Chunkalicious:

Just because something wins loads of prizes it doesn't mean that it's good. Does Titanic ring any bells or nestle amongst your vast collection of box sets? Similarly loads of podcast downloads aren't necessarily a mark of quality - lots of people eat Pot Noodle but that doesn't mean it's a gourmet meal, does it?

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DLT's left buttock
Nov 22, 2011 1:19pm

In reply to Chunkalicious:

Chunkalicious: "Don't worry, it's a rhetorical question. It's clear what the real problem is. You don't like Gervais, and because you're not a talented enough journalist to sustain an objective stance, you're letting your personal distaste cloud your opinion of his latest project. Which, lest we forget, has barely started."

Wow. do you know the meaning of irony?

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Alan
Nov 22, 2011 2:42pm

While Stubb's ancestors may have been so-named for a myopic tendency to miss above-ground tree roots, and while that tendency clearly shows in some of his opinions in this article, he nevertheless does hit on some home truths about Gervais's humour. I haven't seen LTS but I'm betting Stubb's myopia has caused him to miss the finer nuances, which some commenters above me seem to have discerned and articulated nicely. Much of this boils down to whether you're a liberal humanist or not, and we now know, don't we, that liberal humanism has an empty center. There is a certain troll-like quality to articles like Stubbs's of course, and that's a good thing because it gets us talking. Stubbs makes some good points - there are times when we all know within our own good conscience when Gervais's humour fails, and it has failed in part, especially with some of his stand-up tours such as Science and the half-hearted The Invention of Lying. Success always brings the quality down because the pressure to outperform one's own past is the very thing that causes the performance to weaken. There are few who can sustain a life time of increasingly humourous comedy, but plenty who can coast on the cutting-edge until the audience catches up and perceives the edge starting to blunt. I'm off to download some LTS now and I'm sure I'll be amused and grimaced by turns.

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jon
Nov 22, 2011 10:32pm

Stick to music, Quietus. I don't come here to read your kneejerk hipster backlash-by-numbers. Hating on Gervais has become this year's "insert a reference to dubstep in every article." Tired and predictable.

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Chunkalicious
Nov 22, 2011 10:52pm

In reply to Stavros P. Leibowitz:

Critical acclaim is generally a pretty strong indicator of quality. With Extras, as with Titanic, which, incidentally, I do own on DVD, the popular and critical consensus was clear. You may not have liked either, and that's your prerogative. I didn't like the Shawshank Redemption. Diff'rent strokes. Still, if something wins millions of viewers and a boatload of awards, there's obviously SOMETHING of value there. Whatever it is may not be of too much value to you or me, but it's churlish to pretend it isn't there at all.

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Chunkalicious
Nov 22, 2011 11:04pm

No irony here, son. It's clear that Stubbs' personal dislike for Gervais has tainted his judgement of Life's Too Short. This is unprofessional in the extreme. You wouldn't catch Roger Ebert slamming a film just because he doesn't like the star or director.

By contrast, my personal dislike for poisonous windbags like Stubbs is not informing my opinion of anything else. If Stubbs were to write a sitcom, I wouldn't take this nasty, spiteful, unprofessional article into account when reviewing it.

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Loztralia
Nov 23, 2011 3:03am

Can't disagree with any of the comments about Gervais, but it always amazes me how any criticism of Gervais will inevitably either contain or be followed by various comments along the lines of "...but Merchant's alright". Other than prejudice based on the fact that Gervais comes across as a smug twat and Merchant as a nice guy is there any real reason to suppose that Merchant is on higher moral ground? Surely he either knows what he's involved in and doesn't care, which makes him morally bankrupt, or he's just as happy to turn out this sort of material as his writing partner, in which case he's no better.

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Robin Ellis
Nov 23, 2011 9:32am

A bore, a creep, a bully - sounds like Mr Agreeable. Oh, that's you isn't Stubbs. FFS!

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Stavros P. Leibowitz
Nov 23, 2011 11:47am

The fact of the matter is that Life's Too Short is blown out of the water every week by Rev which is on before it.

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Ben G
Nov 23, 2011 2:13pm

Fair enough, but... Parker and Stone? Not "PC at heart", except in the most awful and evil meaning of the term "PC". Right wing status quo reactionaries posing as irreverent.

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Mark W
Nov 23, 2011 8:06pm

'I believe Political Correctness to be absolutely a good thing' - spoken like a true Arsenal man.

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Ugeine
Nov 24, 2011 5:48pm

In reply to Ben G:

That's simply not true, I'm afraid.

I can quote reems of South Park episodes that pretty openly mock Right wing status quo reactionaries, but this doesn't really seem like the time or the place.

For instance, watch 'Death Camp of Tolerance' or 'Here Comes the Neighbourhood' and try typing that again with a clear conscience!

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www.artistnealehowells.webs.com
Nov 25, 2011 12:49am

episode 3 was always going to be hard after last weeks... it didnt come close to reaching the heights of the previous two sadly. quite probaly this episode was filmed first as it turned into a bit of a cliche of david brent..

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Paxton
Nov 25, 2011 1:27am

Tonight's episode sealed the deal, indeed if it needed sealing. The author's case for the prosecution can now rest.

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Stavros P. Leibowitz
Nov 25, 2011 8:16am

In reply to www.artistnealehowells.webs.com :

Oh, stop making excuses. It was a crock and well you know it.

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organic cheeseboard
Nov 25, 2011 12:25pm

it feels to me as if Gervais has always been this cruel; and that when he and Merchant try to do things 'with heart', it usually comes across as cheesy and unrealistic (see, for instance, the ending of Extras, and Cemetery Junction as a whole). The 'genuine heart' worked in the office, but it really hasn't worked otherwise for them because i'm not sure they understand drama in general. witness Extras where none of the characters would ever have even hung out together in the first place, where Maggie (especially) was made into a total idiot at poitns purely for plot reasons, and we're meant to then feel happy about a union at the end? It just doesn't work.

One thing that interests me a lot is the relation of the response to LTS to the reviews of Extras season 2. The latter was one of the single most mean-spirited, lazily-written, pretentious, self-aggrandizing smugfests I've ever had the misfortune to sit through, yet somehow almost nobody picked up on that.

The problem with Gervais and Merchant is that they only really ever had one idea; and the ideas that came after it are ideas ABOUT that idea and about its success. Tyheir work post-The Office is the equivalent of those bands who write albums about what being in a band is like.

most crucially though there is the 'satire' angle. and the problem there is that Gervais and Merchant are only ever happy to satirise people they consider 'beneath' them, and in ways which clearly aren't actually very pointed at all - so Orlando Bloom is a lech rather than what everyone thinks he is, an awful actor; so Daniel Radcliffe doesn't have being typecast and also pretty untalented pointed out, instead he's, um, another lech. Gervais would mercilessly rip the piss out of someone else who'd made such a succession of embarrassing and failed attempts to 'make it in America', as well as someone whose vanity-project film (Cemetery Junction) had flopped so catastrophically. But he won't. Because ultimately, he's only interested in laughing at those less fortunate them him and his 'hollywood friends'.

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organic cheeseboard
Nov 25, 2011 12:27pm

oh and just a note on awards. The fact that Gervais won an award for his 'acting' in Extras demonstrates the total stupidity of trying to measure success on those terms. His 'performances' in that were among the worst I've ever seen on TV (youtube the first Chegwin scene if you doubt it). But he won awards for them.

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hannah
Nov 27, 2011 1:36am

Article rife with contradictions, yet doesn't address how exactly 'Life's Too Short' is offensive. 'Life's Too Short' is horrific, but only horrific because it isn't funny. It isn't offensive.

Ricky acts as the irritating laughter track in podcasts because he is irritating and the podcasts began as organic conversation between three mates/colleagues depending on your vantage

PS. Ricky Gervais can't run the gamut of provocative, sensitive, progressive comedy? - Mr Stubbs, please watch any episode of Extras.

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John Thomas
Dec 8, 2011 3:37pm

Was with you until you tried to use Seinfeld as an example of something that's funny.

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Amir
Dec 9, 2011 11:31am

I actually don't find his brand of comedy funny, but I do appreciate the fact that he's a high profile comedy writer doing lots of work on both sides of the Atlantic.

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abandonculture
Dec 11, 2011 9:46pm

What I can't figure out is why multi millionaire Ricky Gervais has let his standards drop to such a low level. It's almost as if multi millionaire Ricky Gervais doesn't even care any more. I guess only multi millionaire Ricky Gervais knows the real reason why he has made such appallingly bad television.

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Shaz
Dec 14, 2011 6:39am

Which Ricky Gervais are you talking about, again? The one I know is funny, brilliant and provocative. (Haven't seen Life's Too Short)

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boor daana
Jan 20, 2012 11:52am

it great :)

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Jan 20, 2012 11:54am

In reply to boor daana:

it s great and i like it :) <3><3><3>

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bobpercy
Mar 7, 2012 3:16am

He put together a show about comedy and comedians where he sat with JERRY SEINFELD, CHRIS ROCK and LOUIS CK. Who does he think he is? It appears that he has an inflated view of himself. I like him and appreciate his uncomfortable comedy, but he has a long way to go to be mentioned in the same sentence as these gentlemen.

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John
Apr 11, 2012 5:20pm

Strange that David Stubbs fails to mention that Derek has become Gervais' new series, and it premieres tomorrow night. It gets trounced here: http://twitchfilm.com/news/2012/04/spectacularly-not-funny-teasers-for-ricky-gervais-derek.php, but the pathos of it all grabbed me more than anything he's done. That said, I think Stubbs is on the mark...Gervais' chat show appearances and hosting duties in the US make me run to shut the TV off. He's become incredibly grating and unfunny.

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Andrew Thomas
Apr 11, 2012 8:01pm

Well, the real problem is that Gervais is an unfunny, complete and utter knob.

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Rory Gibb
Apr 12, 2012 12:01pm

In reply to John:

This piece was originally run last November, hence why it doesn't make direct reference to Derek. But yes, right on the mark for then and for now.

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Bill
Apr 16, 2012 2:03pm

This article is a joke...if you care about political correctness in comedy and are offended by anything Ricky Gervais has ever done, you are a moron and are not getting it. And yes, I know Seinfeld is loved across the bored, but the truth is it really is a sh*t-com, just like what Ricky makes fun of in his show "Extras". Yeah, the 90s were great and you love them and Seinfeld, get over it and accept that some things last and some things don't.

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Ray
Jun 3, 2012 5:45pm

I was not aware that Ricky Gervais was a bully, or rather alleged to be one.
Must admit that I have always found him about as funny as a hernia though.

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Gus
Jan 11, 2013 6:35pm

I disagree with the majority of opinions expressed in this article and I feel that it is poorly constructed and written.

I sense rather a lot of irony in reading this article!

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Paul
Aug 15, 2013 8:30am

'The Office' was clearly a masterpiece, but I also loved 'Life's Too Short' and disagree with most of the opinions in this article. I thought Warwick Davis was brilliant in it, and I thought it was cleverly written and insightful. I love the vein of irony that runs through their work. Hilarious. I am also enjoying 'Derek'. Hate to disagree with many on this page, but I love just about everything Merchant and Gervais have done, including the radio shows, podcasts, and films. I think that their writing is genuinely perceptive, witty, beautifully phrased and at times moving. Gervais and Merchant have probably brought me more enjoyment than any other screenwriters.

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Fantomasfanatic
Jun 4, 2014 11:52am

I think Gervais is easy to knock and its' often done by your average Stewart Lee fan. Don't get me wrong I do enjoy some of Lee's work but his sneering ultra PC attitude can get somewhat tiresome after a while. Also I happen to think Gervais is hilarious, comedy is subjective of course and he won't appeal to some. For example I don't get Tim Minchin, Josie Long or Noel Fielding's appeal but some would think they are unadulterated geniuses.

I happen to like offensive comedy although I wouldn't use offensive language myself as I know people would misinterpret that. There is nothing wrong with being offended, you have a right to be but people need to chill out just a little bit and quit taking Ricky so seriously. Its' all about context after all.

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