Ricky Gervais is one of the funniest and most successful comedians to ever emerge from the United Kingdom. Whether it’s making live audiences split their sides with laughter during a stand-up routine, creating pioneering television shows, or making Hollywood wince in anticipation at award ceremonies, Gervais has done it all.
Here are his seven best contributions to comedy ranked in order.
7. The Invention of Lying
Gervais’ forays into movies have been somewhat underwhelming compared to his television and stand-up work, but The Invention of Lying was an exception. The film won’t go down as any great masterpiece, but it was an enjoyable and amiable watch, with Ricky Gervais given the chance to show off some of his acting range.
In a world where everyone tells the truth, Gervais’ Mark Bellison becomes the first person able to tell lies and uses it much to his advantage. And what to do with such a superpower? Head to the casino of course! In normal circumstances, roulette odds and probabilities give a long-term advantage to the house – but not in Bellison’s world as he lies his way to huge winnings!
The film eventually takes a turn that reveals the true cost of living a lie, providing the story its necessary arc and making The Invention of Lying Gervais’ best film to date.
6. Golden Globes Host
Ricky Gervais has hosted the Golden Globes five times and each one has garnered more media attention than any of the actual award winners. He first hosted the Globes in 2010 and warned that nothing, and no one, would be off limits. He kept his promise and delivered pure hilarity on each occasion.
From singling out the likes of Mel Gibson and Charlie Sheen for their respective controversies to poking fun at multimillionaire actress Jennifer Lawrence over equal pay; from comparing Kim Kardashian and Kate Middleton to digging out Leonardo DiCaprio for the age of his girlfriends, Gervais has never held back.
What makes the Globes routines truly memorable is the reaction from the star-studded guests, who are either desperately trying to stifle laughs in response to crude jokes or genuinely offended by some of his speeches. Whatever the reason, watching the Hollywood elite squirm is entertainment gold in itself.
After the phenomenon that was The Office, all eyes were on Gervais to see how he would follow up such a masterpiece and he did not disappoint when Extras hit the screen. Over the course of two seasons and a Christmas special, Extras charted the career rise and fall of a luckless – and rather talentless – actor desperately seeking his big break and doing extra work for exposure.
Cue plenty of incredible cameos from iconic film stars including Ben Stiller, Samuel L Jackson, Kate Winslet, Daniel Radcliffe, Patrick Stewart, David Bowie and of course Robert De Niro.
Stephen Merchant, who plays agent Darren Lamb to Gervais’ Andy Millman, is cry-with-laughter funny, especially in his relationship with “Barry from Eastenders”, while Millman’s best friend, the gaffe-prone Maggie played by Ashley Jenson, provides plenty of the show’s cringe moments.
4. Stand-up Shows
This might be bending the rules when trying to rank Gervais’ best work but all five of his major stand-up shows are great, so they’ve been clubbed together for this list.
Animals, in 2003, was Gervais’ first big stand-up routine followed a year later by Politics. In 2007, Fame came along, before Science in 2010. It took another eight years before his most recent stand-up show to come out when Humanity was released on Netflix.
All five shows are very loosely based on the title premise, with Gervais going off on all sorts of hilarious tangents, many making the audience gasp in shock and surprise. Gervais is just so good at holding an audience and his stand-up routines display how talented he is as a comic.
3. The Ricky Gervais Show
Gervais, alongside Merchant, got his start in radio and after the first series of The Office (co-created by Merchant) aired, they returned to the studio for The Ricky Gervais Show. The show exploded in popularity for two key reasons: the introduction of a third guest, the one and only Karl Pilkington, and the emergence of podcasts.
While the show was fronted by Gervais and Merchant, it would evolve to predominantly focus on Pilkington and his unique view of the world. It proved an irresistible winning formula and the show would become the biggest podcast series in the world.
An animated TV series subsequently followed which put animations over all the podcast episodes, but the purely audio version will be remembered as a greater piece of work for its unpredictability and sheer amusement.
2. After Life
Gervais turned his hand to dark comedy for After Life and created a television masterpiece. Revolving around the life of Gervais’ Tony Johnson, After Life tells the story of a local journalist who has hit rock bottom after his wife dies of breast cancer.
The Netflix series will make audiences laugh and cry in equal measure as it not only brings together some of the UK’s finest comedic talents but faces square on heavy topics such as bereavement, depression, and perceived loss of purpose.
Gervais is exceptional in the lead role and Extras co-star Jensen returns to play Emma – a nurse at his senile father’s retirement home who becomes the main love interest. The rest of the support cast, including Paul Kaye’s unhinged psychiatrist and David Earl’s creepy Brian Giffiths are among the best secondary characters of any Gervais show. After Life has been renewed for a third season and fans cannot wait to see what happens next.
1. The Office
It couldn’t have been anything else in the top slot, could it? The Office is one of the greatest TV shows ever created and inspired adaptations all around the world, most notably in the United States. But the original remains the best and Gervais’ David Brent is among the most iconic characters in history.
The Office was one of the first shows to master the mockumentary style of filming and much of its comedic elements are so subtle and subliminal. The show never lets the viewers relax and was designed to be as authentic, and uncomfortable, as possible.
On first glance, The Office centres around a delusional boss revelling in what he believes is his long-awaited shot at fame, but the show is much deeper and more complex than that and has managed to stand the test of time. Gervais has produced some exemplary work over his long and successful career, but nothing will ever match the brilliance of The Office.