News Column

Ricky Gervais: Life's Too Short to Be Outraged by Humor

Feb. 17, 2012

Rick Bentley

Ricky Gervais
Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais' new HBO series, "Life's Too Short," pulls no punches.

Created by Ricky Gervais with longtime comedy partner Stephen Merchant, the faux documentary about actor Warwick Davis pokes fun at everything from short people to Hollywood images.

While his humor has been called controversial, all Gervais - who says his conscious never takes a day off - is trying to do is take an audience to a place they haven't been before.

"When people say it's sort of outrageous or sick or pushing the boundaries, I don't see that it is. I think some people confuse the target of a joke with the subject of a joke. You can have jokes about race without being racist, which we've always done," Gervais says. "I think sometimes people flinch too soon. And very often, the target is people's prejudices or the character's stupidity. So I think smart people know what we're trying to do. We're not trying to be just outrageous for outrageous' sake. That's too easy. It's childish and it's pretty pointless."

"Life's Too Short" takes an exaggerated look at the life and work of Davis. Despite being a successful actor, the series suggests he's only remembered for being in "Willow" and "Return of the Jedi." This odd fame has not set well with Davis and he's become desperate for work.

Davis will not be the only source of comedy. Johnny Depp, Sting, Helena Bonham Carter, Steve Carell and Cat Deeley make cameo appearances.

In one episode, Liam Neeson approaches Gervais and Merchant to help him be a comedian. The problem is every time they try to improvise a comedy scene, Neeson turns to serious topics such as AIDS. The scene draws laughs from Neeson's serious Hollywood image.

Fame and infamy have always been source material for Gervais, including his series "Extras." And the fake documentary style goes back to his original British version of "The Office." While "The Office" ripped reality TV that gave normal people their 15 minutes of fame, "Life's Too Short" takes a broader look at the quest for stardom.

"It's almost like fame these days is much more aggressive. There's no shame. There's no shame in anything. As one thing we found doing this, you can't do something that's so ridiculous that isn't happening in Hollywood. It's literally impossible. It's literally impossible, so that was fun," Gervais says.

The comedian stresses that while it might seem that his humor is mean and bitter, it starts from a place of good and goodness. Everything he's done, however hidden or apparent, has always been about humanity.

"We always try and put a warmth in it," he says. "There's always hope."



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Source: (c) 2012 The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.) Distributed by Mclatchy-Tribune News Service.

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