The creator of 'The Office' answers questions about his upcoming role and writing duties on his favorite animated show
Ricky Gervais is an actor in demand. After his hit show on the BBC, The Office, had people both in England and America talking, it seemed only fitting that Gervais would make his way to our shores. Being the most visible recently in the show Extras, which chronicles the daily goings on on various movie sets, Gervais has seen his star shoot even higher than he ever imagined.
With such fame comes many rewards, the best one for Gervais possibly being his recent work on The Simpsons. Gervais not only got to voice a character, he also wrote the episode he created the character for. In a nutshell, against Marge's judgment, Homer signs the family up for a "Trading Spouses" type show and is forced to take in a controlling wife, while Marge moves in with the beaten down Charlie (Gervais) and his son. Things take an interesting turn when Charlie falls for Marge.
A huge fan of the show, Gervais discussed what it was like to work on the UK version of The Office, his upcoming projects and his love for the American version of his hit show.
Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, I will now be joining your host, Alex. Please go ahead.
A. Lester: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us. I wanted to introduce Ricky Gervais. As you know, he will be doing a guest appearance on The Simpson's. So now if you guys have questions, please feel free to hit star one and we'll take questions at this point.
Moderator: Thank you, Alex. Our first question will come from Brook Fisher with the Wireless Flash News. Please go ahead.
B. Fisher: Hello, Ricky.
Ricky Gervais: Hello.
B. Fisher: How are you today?
Ricky Gervais: Great. This is like the future. Press star, hush. You never have to meet anyone else again.
B. Fisher: I know. It's amazing. I just found out that you have the same birthday as my mother, the 25th of June.
Ricky Gervais: That's correct.
B. Fisher: That must be why I like you so much. Well, my dear, I don't know if you're aware, but you are a sextuple threat because you can write, you can direct. You can act, sing, play guitar and you dance like nobody's business. So I wouldn't be surprised�"
Ricky Gervais: You were struggling to make up a sixth there, weren't you?
B. Fisher: No. That was six, right? Write, direct, sing, play guitar�"
Ricky Gervais: That's what I mean, if you're putting the dancing in.
B. Fisher: No, no, no, no. Actually, I spoke to, do you know who Nigel Lithgow is who�"
Ricky Gervais: Oh, he's the guy behind Pop Idol.
B. Fisher: So you think he can dance?
Ricky Gervais: Oh, yes. He used to be a choreographer, didn't he? This is the second�"
B. Fisher: Yes. So I asked him to rate your performance, your little dance scene in The Office, and you got good marks.
Ricky Gervais: Really? Wow.
B. Fisher: Yes. So I wouldn't be surprised if you actually drew this episode of The Simpson's, so I guess my question is, did you? And if not, do you think you could?
Ricky Gervais: Well, I could now, but all the hard work has been done, isn't it, by the creative process. I think you can always envy like something that's been before, the geniuses coming up with something that hasn't been done before.
B. Fisher: But do you draw? Do you doodle? Are you�"
Ricky Gervais: Yes, well I created a series of my own cartoons called Flanimals, which is like a children's book on children and, I don't know, delinquent teenagers and mentally challenged adults. Yes, it's just bizarre creatures. It's sardonic in a good way. It deconstructs sort of nature and every one of them dies ironic deaths. They're just strange creatures and that's also going to be a TV series as well in�"
B. Fisher: Is this for children?
Ricky Gervais: That's right.
B. Fisher: Okay. Are you happy with the way you were drawn or portrayed on The Simpson's?
Ricky Gervais: No, I'm having it withdrawn. Yes, I would have been happy with anything they did because The Simpson's to me is the greatest TV comedy of all time. I'm in awe of it and have been for at least ten years. When I first got into comedy, my ambition was to get a joke on The Simpson's, so writing and staring in one is ridiculous for me.
But it's got everything; it's funny, it never forgets to be funny, it's wickedly satirical. It's like one of the greatest Trojan horses for the best satire I think on television at the moment. When they nail a joke, they put it to bed. You might as well not visit that particular avenue of observation again because they've done it best. And it's warm, it's got heart and Homer is the greatest comic creation since Laurel and Hardy.
B. Fisher: Oh, wow. Well, I think then you might have answered my last question. I realize The Office has made it over here in the States and I heard that it might go the France as Le Bureau--
Ricky Gervais: Yes, they've made it. I think it's being shown this year in France. Yes, The Office is quite a crazy success story, really.
B. Fisher: Yes. So I guess, I was wondering if you think a British version of The Simpson's could work, altering the premise just a bit or maybe having Homer being renamed as Heathcliff, and Marge�"
Ricky Gervais: You don't touch perfection.
B. Fisher: I see.
Ricky Gervais: You don't mess with perfection.
B. Fisher: Yes, that's my motto. Well, great, thank you so much, Ricky. Best of luck with everything.
Ricky Gervais: My pleasure. Thank you.
Moderator: Thank you. Our next question will come from Matt Mitovich with tvguide.com.
M. Mitovich: Hello, Ricky. How are you?
Ricky Gervais: Hello. How's it going?
M. Mitovich: I'm good. Were you surprised at all, like I was, that Ricky and The Simpson's didn't get together sooner? It seems like such a natural.
Ricky Gervais: I first met Matt and Al and the 20 writers and producers, I think a day or two after I'd won the Globes. I'd heard that Matt was a fan. I think he saw on a plane to or from England before it was on BBC America, and he bought a British DVD player, so he could watch them all. And then I was called for an audience with and I went along. We just chatted about stuff and they knew The Office. They knew of it by heart, which was how incredible because it is my favorite comedy show of all time, I think, The Simpson's. It's just stunning.
M. Mitovich: Just how big is The Simpson's across the pond? Does it translate well, so to speak?
Ricky Gervais: Yes. If you speak to anyone in the know, and by that I mean any connoisseur of comedy, any comedian, forget it, it's the best. It's the best. It's the Beatles and the Stones, it's done. Homer is the greatest comic creation since Laurel and Hardy. It's got everything; it's wickedly satirical, it's funny, it's got heart, it's wonderful.
M. Mitovich: Now I take it that you didn't drop your accent for the role.
Ricky Gervais: No. What I did was it's a bit of an homage to Brent, just for people who know the English version of The Office. I didn't want to do David Brent exactly because I didn't want to do a fictional character in a fictional thing. I thought it was, you know, and I was not famous enough to play myself. You know they have Paul McCartney and Clinton and things like that. So I did a bit of both, really, and this character is so much fun. It just gets me where I needed to be in the episode.
M. Mitovich: Can you even do a pretty good American accent?
Ricky Gervais: I don't think I'd try. I doubt it. I've turned down so many Hollywood blockbusters and I've often given the director my reasons. I met with Ron Howard who wanted me to have a little part in DaVinci Code and I said, "I'll ruin your film. The number of British comedians I've seen pop up in a really good Hollywood film, and they've just ruined it for me." So I know what I'm good at.
M. Mitovich: I was wondering, does it feel good or does it just make you feel a little bit richer to have your Podcast now being sold on a subscription basis, rather than go for free?
Ricky Gervais: Well, now then the thing is we did 12 for free, but it costs money because we never thought it would be downloaded this much. We thought we'd have a few thousand people. But it costs us a few pence per download to host it, and we got about five million downloads, so we have to charge a dollar.
But we're going to do a lot for that; it's going to be at least four because I worried about promising too much, but we're going to do more than four. So the more we do, the less it will work out for Podcast and I think you can just buy the whole amount. So the reason we're charging a little fee is because we actually lost money on this last one.
But it's great. It's my favorite thing I do at the moment and it's nice to be there at the beginning. It's sort of in its infancy on this level; I think this is the first sort of commercial one, so to speak. It was either charge for it or not do it in a way because we couldn't actually host it. So we have to sort of … the cost, but we're not doing it for the money, even though Carl Polkington is unemployed and needs to get a bit of cash.
M. Mitovich: All right, I'll let somebody else go. Thanks, Ricky.
Ricky Gervais: Thanks.
Moderator: Thank you. Representing TV Guide of Canada, we'll go to the line of Stephanie Herb. Please go ahead.
S. Herb: Hello, Ricky. How are you?
Ricky Gervais: Hello, how's it going?
S. Herb: Good thank you. I don't know if you remember, I spoke to you right after the Golden Globes.
Ricky Gervais: That's right.
S. Herb: You were doing Alias.
Ricky Gervais: That seems such a long time ago.
S. Herb: And it's totally my brag worthy interview where people who I interviewed and I'm like, "You know Ricky Gervais."
Ricky Gervais: And I still haven't watched the finish.
S. Herb: Oh, it came out great. It was awesome. You were terrifying.
Ricky Gervais: I can't watch me being serious. I can watch me being a putz, but I can't watch me being serious.
S. Herb: Well, I thought you did a great job.
Ricky Gervais: Thank you very much.
S. Herb: And actually my question is kind of about that, is that what's been really neat about watching your career is that you've kind of gone all over the place and kind of dabbled in here and done a little producing over there and the Podcasts and everything. And I know that Matt Greening has said that he'd love to have you back on The Simpson's, but it seems like that would be kind of too staid for you now. Are you interested in exploring more of these kinds of alternative forms of entertainment, or do you think you'll ever go back to doing just a regular show?
Ricky Gervais: I don't know, really. I seem to obviously turn down a lot more than I do. I think out of a hundred offers, I do one that's interesting. And sometimes I just don't take offers really; I want to come up with an idea myself and really put it out there. So nearly everything I do, apart from maybe half a dozen things in my life, has been my idea and my creation, because that's what excites me. So I dipped my toe in the water of serious acting with Alias. I've taken on two projects that aren't my own creation this year, which is The Simpson's and Christopher Guests' new movie. There are some things you don't turn down.
And at the moment, I've gone to a place, remarkably where I'm cherry picking jobs and I'm cherry picking jobs that are my heroes. They're my heroes; Christopher Guest and The Simpson's, it's ridiculous. I don't let ego take over. If someone tells me I can be the romantic lead, I explain why I can't. It's always very flattering. I think this is where a lot of actors make their mistake, because they fall victim of vanity, and I know exactly what I'm good at and what I'm not.
I also don't want to be just an actor per se. It doesn't excite me to see my fat face on the screen. What excites me is the creative process and bringing something into the world that maybe only I could have done. That's what excites me, the creative process, and so that's why my favorite thing at the moment is the Podcast.
S. Herb: Cool. Thanks.
Ricky Gervais: Cheers.
S. Herb: Wonderful.
Moderator: Thank you. Representing the New York Daily News I'll go to the line of Marissa Gerthe. Please go ahead.
M. Guthrie: That would be Guthrie. Hello, Ricky. How are you?
Ricky Gervais: Hello. How's it going?
M. Guthrie: Good. How are you?
Ricky Gervais: Good thanks.
M. Guthrie: I'm curious about the story line, the trading spouses, wife swap reality show story line. The Simpson's has always been very good at making fun of its own network. I'm just wondering where that came from and what you found in that creatively that you liked.
Ricky Gervais: I've been fascinated with the early game shows, docusoaps, fame, Andy Warhol's prophetic statement, "In the future, everyone will have 15 minutes of fame." The Office was borne of me watching those reality game shows, those docusoaps. I'm fascinated with fame and what makes people desperate to be recognized; it's extraordinary.
I think it was my girlfriend said, "Have they done a wife swap?" I checked with Al Jean and he said, "No, we haven't done that yet." So I flung some ideas down and my character, Charles, married to a woman who is married beneath herself. And Marge comes to swap, stay with me. My wife goes to the Simpson's. She thinks she's landed in caveman times; she can't believe how uncouth�"
M. Guthrie: And she has.
Ricky Gervais: Yes. Marge is nice to me, the first woman that's been nice to me in years. And I instantly fall in love and write I think the most excruciating love song ever. If I could get in the Guinness Book of Records for that, that would please me. It's just a dreadful, dreadful drunken attempt to woo a woman.
M. Guthrie: Does it work? Does Marge--?
Ricky Gervais: Well, that would spoil it. That would be�"
M. Guthrie: Oh, come on. It seems like Marge might be sick of Homer by now.
Ricky Gervais: Oh, no. That's the beauty of The Simpson's, they love each other. I think that, along with the fact that it's the funniest comedy on television, the most wickedly satirical show on television, it's heart warming and they're a rock. The family unit as dysfunctional as it is is just a rock. It can bring a tear to your eye.
M. Guthrie: Do you have a favorite episode or a couple or some that stand out to you?
Ricky Gervais: Yes, I do. I love the one where there are no photographs of Maggie and he's got them where he needs them most at the nuclear power plant. Chokes me, honestly chokes me every time thinking about it, it's just beautiful.
M. Guthrie: Can I ask you just a follow-up on the series, the kids. That television show you're doing with turning your kids' cartoons into a series?
Ricky Gervais: Oh, The Flanimals.
M. Guthrie: How do you spell that?
Ricky Gervais: F-L-A-N-I-M-A-L-S. Flanimals. That's animals with a F-L.
M. Guthrie: Right. Is that for the BBC?
Ricky Gervais: No, probably not. We're making it at the moment. It's going to be Claymation and we're just working on that as an idea. But, yes, I'm very excited about that. It really lends itself well because it's funny and gruesome and it's quite action packed. I think what's nice about it is it's on two levels and it's silly and ridiculous. It's the opposite to The Office that tried to be realistic and subtle and this is mad.
M. Guthrie: I can't wait to see it.
Ricky Gervais: Nor can I. It's just this two-year process that I could do without.
M. Guthrie: Thank you very much.
Ricky Gervais: Thanks.
Moderator: Thank you. From the Hearst Newspaper we'll go to the line of David Martindale. Please go ahead.
D. Martindale: Thank you for doing the call.
Ricky Gervais: Hello.
D. Martindale: If you are as you say just in awe of The Simpson's, was it a surreal experience to actually be part of the doing of one, and did it take away any of the mystique to look behind the curtain?
Ricky Gervais: Not at all. It was an honor. It felt like an honor at the time. It was surreal, I was very nervous. It was that most joyous feeling of meeting your hero and they're better than you imagined. That's across the board: the actors, the writers, the directors. The spirit of The Simpson's is what's kept it just the best show for 15 odd years. They don't forget why they're doing it; they're trying to be funny. They're trying to bring some joy into the world and it's there. It's just apparent. It's fantastic.
D. Martindale: Do you think that you personally could ever wrap your mind around doing as many shows of any of your shows as they've done of The Simpson's? Is it�"
Ricky Gervais: Absolutely no way, absolutely no way. I have to, however, lie down after six episodes of something that I create, because it's all or nothing with me. What excites me about something is authoring a vision and seeing it through from beginning to end. Obviously, that wasn't the case for The Simpson's because I didn't create it and do the 15 years' build-up, so I'm not counting that … But with The Office, Extras and whatever else I do that's my project, it's all or nothing. You can't do more than six at a time to keep that control.
And by control, I don't mean administer it or the power struggle with the networks; I don't get involved in that. I make something and hand it over to them, but it's just the intensity of worry about everything from creating the characters, writing the dialog, casting. I worry about the font on the back of the DVD. That can stress me out. That can give me a sleepless night and it would send me mad to do more than six.
D. Martindale: Thank you very much.
Ricky Gervais: Thanks.
Moderator: Thank you. Next we'll go to the line of Don Kaplan with The New York Post. Please go ahead.
D. Kaplan: Hello, Ricky.
Ricky Gervais: Hello.
D. Kaplan: Can you talk a little bit about what was going through your head when Matt Greening gave you a call and said that he wanted to meet with you?
Ricky Gervais: Just so excited, it was mad for me. I just won two Golden Globes, which was up until meeting the Simpson's, the highlight and the most surreal moment of my live, and then the next day, I get this call. I'm going back to England the same day and we have a lunch and then I'm off to the airport, and it was just such a surreal weekend. The most exciting thing for me was the fact that one of my heroes is a fan.
And that for me is the only upside to this by-product of what I do, this fame, is that I get to meet people like Matt Greening and Christopher Guest and Jon Stewart, and I never take it for granted. I know how lucky I am, and that's why I keep my feet on the ground and remember why I'm doing this. I'm not doing it for money or fame or anything like that. I'm doing it because I can't think of a better way to fill my day than make jokes. Honestly, it's just a joy for me, the creative process.
D. Kaplan: And you said you were nervous on the first day when you showed up to work with these guys. What was the chemistry like there?
Ricky Gervais: It was mad, because everyone was so nice and accommodating. And all I was thinking before I opened my mouth was there were people around the table interrupting themselves to do another character. In mid flow, they're doing all these voices, and I have to come up with one little weedy voice. I can't read at the best of times, I've never had an audition; I'm not an actor as such. And I was thinking, "If I just get away with this, that'll be great." And it went down very well and then you lose your nerves pretty quickly. And then the recording process was one of the best days ever, just doing scenes with Homer and Marge, it's ridiculous.
D. Kaplan: Sounds like it was a lot of fun.
Ricky Gervais: It was amazing fun.
D. Kaplan: Thanks a lot.
Ricky Gervais: Thanks.
Moderator: Thank you. We'll now go to the line of Bill Cavini of USA Today.
Ricky Gervais: I think I'm going to be interrupted by this other call. If I take that call and tell them to call back, if I cut you off, can you call back?
Moderator: Can we call back out to you?
A. Lester: It's Alex. I will.
Ricky Gervais: Okay, well what I'll do is�"
A. Lester: Cynthia, can you mute our call for a second?
Moderator: Sure. You're back in now.
A. Lester: Sorry for that delay. Here we go again.
Moderator: One moment please.
A. Lester: Cynthia, are you there?
Moderator: We'll go back to the line of Bill Cavini with USA Today. Please go ahead.
B. Cavini Hello, Ricky. Thanks for taking the call.
Ricky Gervais: Hello.
B. Cavini: I had a quick question about Greg Daniels. Was his work on The Simpson's, did that influence you at all in choosing him for The Office?
Ricky Gervais: When we first went over, we'd signed the deal to let them do the remake and they wanted our input. As you know, we act as executive producers, which all that entailed is a few meetings in the early days. The big thing was to choose the show winner. The caliber of people we were meeting was ridiculous; I was mildly embarrassed that I had to decide between these people, because they had all done so much more than me. We had people from The Simpson's, Seinfeld, Larry Sanders, just ludicrous. I wouldn't be surprised if Laurel and Hardy had walked in.
And so we chose Greg, really, because of his sensibilities, really. He said all the right things, that he wanted to keep it very, very faithful and subtle. He's a very quiet man, which sort of excited us for some reason and, obviously, he was brilliant. We obviously made the right choice; I'm not saying that the others wouldn't have done a very good job, but we're so happy the way it's turned out.
As I said earlier, it's a tale with a moral. Everyone could have panicked in the early days, particularly NBC. They could have panicked and watered it down and pressured us to get in stars and joke it up and have a laugh track, and they didn't. They really stuck to their guns. It's heart warming to see something like this work.
Again as I said earlier, the first time we got a result back from the pilot, the focus group, I think it scored the lowest ever NBC score and everyone was depressed. And I sent back saying, "That's a great omen. That's exactly what it did on BBC, too." Which is true, we scored the joint-lowest ever focus group score, along with Women's Balls.
So I said, "It's an omen. It's an omen." The people that get along to focus group, it's just nonsense. They are people who are force fed big, broad comedies with laughter track and guest appearances. They're not going to like The Office the first time they see it because they're not going to know what they're watching exactly. But if you stick to your guns and you really keep to your vision and author it the way you think it should be done, there are enough people in the world that are like minded and they're going to find it. They're going to find it and it's going to be their favorite show.
B. Cavini: One thing about Greg, I think you mentioned once that "Homer Badman," the episode he wrote of The Simpson's, it really tweaked kind of liberal political correctness, and it seems like that has so much in common with what you've done on The Office.
Ricky Gervais: Yes, well that was one of the themes. I suppose that's one of the things I'm interested in. I suppose when you live in a safe, reasonably liberal society, where you don't want for anything and you're not dying or being attacked, the things you worry about are social faux pas. And I think the things that get you to that place are taboos: race, religion, disability. Those things are a catalyst to show people's true colors. And so that's been a theme of mine that continued in Extras, obviously. I suppose it's been a spate about its comedy of embarrassment seems to fit its mark here with things like The Office and Extras and Curve Your Enthusiasm and stuff like that.
But no, that was never a driving force. That was one of the smaller themes of The Office. The thing it was meant to expose was hypocrisy. It was much more to do with people who have PC imposed upon them and they don't really know the ins and outs. And David Brent just showed a man who was free falling, trying to be accepted. It's certainly one of the themes that I enjoy exploring, yes.
B. Cavini: And just one quick follow-up to something earlier, you sing. Do you sing your song on The Simpson's? I just wanted to make sure of that and how do you judge your own performance?
Ricky Gervais: Absolutely. Yes, that's me singing and playing guitar. I wrote it and I judge the performance as excruciating, pretty much, I think one of the most embarrassing attempts to woo a woman ever. The trouble is, there are probably worse songs that weren't meant to be funny, but you can't compete with real life.
B. Cavini: Yes, you're competing against a lot of�"
Ricky Gervais: Exactly. I remember we'd written The Office and we were filming it, and I saw a TV program, it was the first Big Brother. And there were things in there that depressed me because I said to Steve I said, "We can't compete with this. This is funnier; real life if funnier and more excruciating and more dramatic than we could ever write." And it's true, it's just true. There is nothing as fascinating or as funny or as tragic as just real people.
B. Cavini: Well, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it.
Ricky Gervais: Thank you.
Moderator: Thank you. We'll next go to the line of Mike McDaniel with the Houston Chronicle. Please go ahead.
M. McDaniel: I believe we might have exhausted all of The Simpson's questions. May I ask you one Extra's question?
Ricky Gervais: That's right. I'm just realizing now that everyone can hear everything, so I don't know whether I'm repeating myself or I can't remember what I've said or what I haven't.
M. McDaniel: You're not repeating yourself. I'm just wondering, how has Extra's been received as far as you're concerned and has the show been renewed?
Ricky Gervais: Oh, immediately. It was renewed I think after episode one in England, and I think HBO followed suit, which was very nice and flattering. It went down very, very well. I didn't see all the press from America, but you'd know better than me. In England, it went down amazingly well. I think it performed just about exactly the same as The Office. I think it's doing okay in America; I'm not sure.
M. McDaniel: Thank you very much.
Ricky Gervais: Cheers.
Moderator: Now go to the line of Rick Porter with the Tribune Media Service. Please go ahead.
R. Porter: Hello, Ricky. How are you?
Ricky Gervais: Hello. How's it going?
R. Porter: Good, thanks. I'm curious having been a fan of The Simpson's for so long, what the experience was like putting words into Homer's and Marge's and all the other characters mouths?
Ricky Gervais: As I said, it was like I'd won a competition. I'm genuinely worried that Hollywood got together and they know something I don't know. I think they've spoken to my doctor and I have a few months to live. And they said, "Just let him do what he wants. If he wants to write The Simpson's, let him write The Simpson's. He won't get to see it." Because it's mad, it's ridiculous the offers I'm getting.
I've turned just about everything down for the past few years, the film roles and everything, and I have to the point now where I've jumped straight to cameos. I was thinking, "Well, I haven't even done a film yet. How have I jumped to cameos?" It's bizarre.
I couldn't turn down The Simpson's; it would have been a sin. It would have been a sin to turn down The Simpson's. As I said, I'm doing two things this year that aren't my own project, and The Simpson's is one and Chris Guest's new movie is the other.
R. Porter: And in terms of just the writing process, did they leave you alone to do it on your own? Did they …
Ricky Gervais: They left me alone to do it on my own, but then, of course, it goes through their mill and comes out better. We wrote it via e-mail, just back and forth to Al Jean. Me going, "I have another thing." He goes, "Great, we'll stick it in." He did all the hard work. I just literally gave him a big bag of ideas and the few scenes and then, he sent it back to me like, "Do you mean this?" I said, "Yes, and what about this?" Somehow with his help and everyone's help, we got it into a nice 22-minute form. I made sure I put in my favorite characters. I made sure I could write a song for The Simpson's. Again, like it was my special day.
R. Porter: Which are your favorite characters aside from the family?
Ricky Gervais: Homer is the greatest comedy character of all time. It's as simple as that. And I love Lenny and Carl and Mo, but the family unit is absolutely where it's at. The other characters will come in and provide the jokes and satire, but the family unit is obviously the heart and spirit of The Simpson's.
It's stunning. It's stunning what they've done with a cartoon. It was essentially for kids and they made one of the most important programs, I think, of the 20th Century.
R. Porter: You and Steven are also going to be writing an episode of The Office for�"
Ricky Gervais: We've just about done it. It was remarkably fast. I suppose it's because we've been away from those characters for two or three years. It's one of our favorite shows, the American Office. I think it may be our favorite sitcom at the moment. It's so good. Steve Corelli is remarkable, I mean remarkable. I watch his performance and I'm thinking, "He's working so hard. He's working on so many levels. He's such a good actor. He's so likeable." I saw 40-Year-Old Virgin for the first time and just some of the funniest scenes in modern comedy. The Jim and Pam story I think hits the ground running better than we did with Tim and Dawn. Dwight just keeps growing on me.
They've done so well, the writing is so clever, it's audacious. For network, American TV, it's a really uncompromising, cult comedy going out primetime on network television. I have to say, I want to say well done for NBC for not panicking and not watering it down, so it was actually a joy to write for it.
And the strange thing was when I think of it, writing for those characters, I don't think of David Brent and Tim and Dawn, I think of Michael, Scott and Jim and Pam. It just flowed.
The other thing is that the pressure was off for us, of course, because we didn't have to do nine drafts like we did for our own that was a finished product. We can hand over the first, sort of second draft and know that they're going to make it theirs. Also it's one of 22, as opposed to being one of six. It's also much more of a series than ours was. You can sort of put out the American version in just about any order, but you couldn't do that with ours. You have to really watch them in sequence to some sort of … and stuff. It was great. It was just fantastic.
R. Porter: And that will be for next fall?
Ricky Gervais: Yes, season three. I think it's gone over 50 episodes now, which is remarkable.
R. Porter: Thanks a lot.
Ricky Gervais: Thanks.
Moderator: Thank you. And now representing the Las Vegas Review Journal we'll go to the line of Christopher Lawrence. Please go ahead.
C. Lawrence: Hello, Ricky.
Ricky Gervais: Hello.
C. Lawrence: You're obviously a Simpson's fan and you're watching The Office now; but is there any other American TV that you're really into right now?
Ricky Gervais: I'm still in mourning over Arrested Development. That was, along with Curb Your Enthusiasm, one of my favorite new comedies. I think it's so audacious, so complex and clever and I just love Jason Bateman. He's just so watchable. I mean all the characters are great, so I absolutely love Arrested Development, Curb Your Enthusiasm, of course. I've just seen a couple of My Name is Earl. I really enjoy that; it's nice, it's somewhat retro about it. It was like the shows I used to love when I was growing up.
C. Lawrence: And that translates okay?
Ricky Gervais: Yes, of course. I'm such a fan about Americana anyway, so yes, it translates easy for me. But it's like, I don't know it's like The Rockford Files or something. It's such a clean premise and it's light and fluffy and some great gags in there, so I really like that. I love the Daley Show, I love Letterman. What else is new? I don't know what's new and what isn't because we get it late, so I'm probably naming shows that you've grown out of.
C. Lawrence: Not at all. How involved are you, other than the episode that you've done for NBC's The Office, how involved are you in that? Do they send you ideas or is it pretty much just, "Hey, good luck."?
Ricky Gervais: Well, after the end of the first year, hardly at all. We did the set up of course, we tried it, we chose the team, Greg Daniels, we looked at the script and the casting. But after that after that first involvement, they've done it all themselves and that's why I can say such wonderful things about it, because it's their work. They're brilliant, they're just brilliant. They keep us informed and I pop in whenever I can when I'm over here and we write, once in season three. But it's all their work, I must stress that�"it's really all their work.
C. Lawrence: And how difficult, now I'm sure it's getting easier, but how difficult was it in the beginning seeing a new cast, watching that sort of unfold?
Ricky Gervais: Remarkably easy. I never thought of it as watching our show against, because one, the scripts were all original apart from episode one. If we'd have said, "Now the documentary team go to an office in America," that would have probably been easier for people to swallow. But because they knew it was sort of based on our characters, there was always going to be comparison, which is, you know. There is no comparison; they've made it their own. It's different. I can watch it without thinking, "That's David Brent." It's a completely different office that has the same themes; it's just a parallel universe. I don't even look at it as a remake now. I watch it as my favorite new sitcom.
C. Lawrence: Earlier in the beginning of this, you said The Simpson's shouldn't be redone because why mess with perfection. What does that say about The Office? Are you saying The Office wasn't perfect when you did it?
Ricky Gervais: That would be a quote, wouldn't it? "Ricky Gervais says, ‘The Office I did was perfect.'" That's the headline. I don't know. The Simpson's is a phenomenon. I'm very proud of The Office. It's pretty good, we did our best and left it I think on a peak. But The Simpson's is somewhat different. The Simpson's is Cadillac; The Simpson's is just Americana. It's George Washington to me. Do you know what I mean? It's something more, it's just something bigger.
The difference is I think American TV is the best in the world. I knew The Office wouldn't be ruined by these people, but I know American shows would be ruined by English television. We're not as good as you. We're not as good as you. You beat us in everything. You beat us on drama, you have The Soprano's, you have 24. On comedy you have The Simpson's, Seinfeld, Larry Sanders, Arrested Development. We've got Monty Python and Faulty Towers. I can't think of anything that competes with you in the last 40 years. Maybe documentary, we're good at documentary, but American television for me, as Randy Jackson would say, is da bomb.
C. Lawrence: Thanks, Ricky.
Ricky Gervais: Cheers.
A. Lester: We have time for about one more question.
Ricky Gervais: Great.
Moderator: Thank you. That question will come from the line of Roger Catlin with the Hartford Current. Please go ahead.
R. Catlin: Hello, Ricky. I'm glad I got in.
Ricky Gervais: Hello.
R. Catlin: You talked a little bit about your writing process. It has to be a lot different than first of all writing for your own shows and writing for characters you created. And also animation, you have to have it all kind of nailed down before you get into the production booth to record it, I imagine.
Ricky Gervais: No, no, no, no. Other way around.
R. Catlin: Really?
Ricky Gervais: Yes, you get the script right, you record it. You get that script down to 22 minutes before you even do the animation. You have this sort of storyboard, but those actors are finished a year before the show.
R. Catlin: But you can't improvise in the booth, can you? You have to that script …
Ricky Gervais: Oh, no, no, no. You can improvise, that's what I'm saying because that comes first. You improvise.
R. Catlin: But not before the microphones, though.
Ricky Gervais: Then that becomes the script and then they draw the picture. What you can't do is improvise the picture when that comes back. Either side of editing it a little bit, what you can't do then is think of another joke and then send it all the way back, so, no, the script is pretty much nailed down and then the arduous process of bringing that to life, rendering that with teams of animators and computers that take to nine months. You could write a script for The Simpson's, in theory I could come up with an idea get the actors together, do it that day and then it would take nine months.
R. Catlin: So you were done with this how long ago?
Ricky Gervais: May. I wrote it in a few weeks end of 2004 beginning 2005. Recorded it over a weekend with a crew, including the sort of table read, and then recorded the song, recorded all the dialog and then we've just been waiting to see the finished result.
R. Catlin: Is the song going to be released at all?
Ricky Gervais: Oh, no. I don't think so. Well, I don't know it may be on a Simpson's compilation. When you hear it, you'll realize why it couldn't be released.
R. Catlin: Is there talk of doing another thing with The Simpson's?
Ricky Gervais: Yes.
R. Catlin: Do you have some ideas?
Ricky Gervais: Yes, they said, "Do you want to pop up again? It might be nice for this character to come back as a little cameo." I don't think I have time to write another one and I want to get out while the going's good.
R. Catlin: Now you're part of The Simpson's pantheon of characters, too.
Ricky Gervais: Amazing, isn't it?
R. Catlin: Congratulations to you.
Ricky Gervais: Oh, well it's incredible. And I have a song. I mean, The Simpson's songs are the best comedy songs. It's not as good as "See My Vest."
R. Catlin: When can we expect to see the Extra's again here?
Ricky Gervais: I'm right in the middle of it now; that's why I have to have fast and furious trips to America to take care of business as I already said. And I get back and do what I consider my day job, which is writing and directing Extra's at the moment. So recording it June/July, out in autumn/fall in U.K. and I assume thereabouts on HBO as well. I don't know.
R. Catlin: Thanks a lot.
Ricky Gervais: Cheers.
Moderator: Thank you. I'll turn the call back over to you, Alex.
A. Lester: Thank you all for joining us. If you have any questions feel free to give me a call in the office. It's 212-556-2519. I want to thank Ricky Gervais for joining us today.
Ricky Gervais: My pleasure. Is that okay? Has everyone got what they need?
A. Lester: Yes.
Ricky Gervais: Great.
Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, that does conclude our conference for today. We thank you for your participation and for using AT&T's Executive Teleconference. You may now disconnect.