The Stage

Blogs

TV Today

How Derek showed a softer side to Ricky Gervais

When I first heard that Ricky Gervais’ new comedy drama, Derek, would see the writer play an adult with severe learning disabilities, I was apprehensive. This, after all, is a man who just months ago was using pejorative terms for people with disabilities. On the other hand, the same Guardian writer who criticised him in that piece had previously — and quite rightly — praised him and writing partner Stephen Merchant for improving the representation of disabled characters on screen.

True, Gervais and Merchant’s most recent series, Life’s Too Short, came in for some criticism — but, having read the autobiography of its star and co-creator Warwick Davis (and interviewed him for a 2010 edition of The Stage Podcast), I do think that series does not deserve any criticism towards its portrayal of short people in general. My main beef with that series was it seemed to retread ideas and situations which had already been mined to death in The Office and Extras.

But still, Gervais’s stock in trade is making humour out of situations that skirt close to offensiveness — even in interview situations, such as during this recent conversation with The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart, where (in a segment not in that clip) he suggested that Nazis were “stupid” for not finding Anne Frank earlier. So I was apprehensive about Derek.

I needn’t have been. It turned out to be a beautiful, warm story of people who need love, who give love and yet are all too often sidelined in society.

It wasn’t perfect, though. And the biggest fault was, sadly, Gervais himself.

Derek as a half-hour comedy drama showed a gentler, even romantic side to his writing — a side which has always been present, of course, as evinced by the conclusion to The Office being dominated by supporting characters Dawn and Tim finally getting together. But with Derek the character, Gervais showed that his skill lies in the pen rather than the performance. A shuffling gait and a projected underbite dominated Gervais’ characterisation, to the show’s detriment. And, indeed, to Gervais’s, for his broad strokes tended to distract from some genuinely tender moments that he was able to capture perfectly.

Elsewhere in the cast, Karl Pilkington’s dramatic debut as the nursing home’s janitor is unlikely to bother any supporting actor awards categories, and it’s hard to imagine he would have been cast by anyone other than Gervais. But he wasn’t bad at all, and his brand of down-at-heel disconsolation was an effective counterpoint to the title character’s optimism. Kerry Godliman as gentle and affectionate nurse Hannah was the true star, though — an actress and comedian with a small broadcast CV at the moment, but of whom I’d certainly like to see more.

Incidentally, the same journalist who wrote the two articles linked at the top of the piece also interviewed Gervais about Derek and attitudes to portrayal of disabled people in general on her own blog, which is well worth a read.

17 Comments

''But still, Gervais’s stock in trade is making humour out of situations that skirt close to offensiveness — even in interview situations, such as during this recent conversation with The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart, where (in a segment not in that clip) he suggested that Nazis were “stupid” for not finding Anne Frank earlier''

Scott, can you explain how pissing on the grave and memory of Anne Frank in her family is even remotely FUNNy in the UK? a shame on your people for thinking Gervais funny in this regard and a shame on your people for telling him to grow up and face the reality that the Holocaust was? Is it funny to make jokes too about Palestianians living in hovels in Gaza? no. not funny. it is funny to make jokes about refugees in Darfur or the Sudans? No. not funny. so why is it funny for Ricky G and Karl P to JOKE about the Frank family? I am origianzing a glboal protest against these two evil evil men. I mean it. what say you in Wales?

Danny,

I have removed a number of your comments as there was plenty of duplication there (and, in one instance, what looks like the copy and paste of comments sent to you rather than your own comment).

As it is, I have seen the full Gervais sequence from The Daily Show (I'll try and find a copy that I can link UK audiences to, so they can judge for themselves), and I completely disagree with your reading of it.

Hi Scott, thanks for note, and I am glad you edited the other comemnts i sent over, was just trying to FIND you and see if you were REAL and here you are, thanks. and yes, let's agree to disagree, maybe this is a Yank vs UK thing, or maybe a Jewish vs Christian thing, assuming you are Christian, and assuming I am Jewish, or maybe this is just personal POV of comedy and humor thing, and that's okay. I have no agenda and I belong to no rightwing or leftwing group. But I do not understand, for the life of me, Scott, how on earth, you can find humor in hearing and laughing at tasteless ANNE FRANK jokes? Maybe the fault lies with me. Sure. But let's see where this goes. Can you stay with me on this, mano a mano, we can agree to disagree, but let's see if their is a learning curve for all of us here. A major UK newsppaer is poised to report on this, so stay tuned. and yes, let audineceas see the video, it's avail on Yotube and on the Stewart webstie, everywhere, so sure, My email is running 50 50 on this, from Jews and non-Jews. But everyone tells me DANNY KEEP going with this and see where it leads. AND Scott, just to show you i have even keel on this, thsi is not about antisemitism, this is about civility and culture. What's next? Helen Keller jokes and Darfur refguess jokes? I mean, do we really need to laugh at victims ,,,VICTIMS, of genoicde...On theother hand, or IN ADDITION

And Scott, just so you know, I am friends with Leopold and Molly Bloom from Dublin, and Roy Greenslade at Guardian and Mike Magee at Techeye, and Elizabth Day at the Observer. they have written about me and my tilting at windmills crusades in the past. And I am trying to track down now Nicky Clark, disabiklity rights campaigner now, and Howard Jacobsin, novelist, to get some feedback on this. Cheers, DB (1949-2032)

RE: What's next? Helen Keller jokes and Darfur refguess jokes? I mean, do we really need to laugh at victims ,,,VICTIMS, of genoicde...On theother hand, or IN ADDITION... scott, today i found a video of USA Jewish comic Joan Rivers doing her own ANNE FRANK shtick last year, even WORSE than Ricky. ......so ouch, ....what's a man like me to do? Throw up his arms in despair or FIGHT back?...... if you knew me, you know I fight until the last drop! Rikcy and Karla nd Joan are wrong here and the future will prove me right, but meanwhile , let';s hear what others have to say, pro and con. I am all ears. [email me offline if you i wish at danbloom AT gmail] - delete email here later thanks

AND Scott, if it turns out that i was wrong here, I OFTEN AM, then i will admit it and apologuize for sure.

scott, this works better no?

HERE IS NEIL STEINBERG COLMNIST CHICAGO SUNTIMES ANNE FRANK "JOKE" or ''wry line'' is better term for

January 15, 2010 Friday
Final Edition


BYLINE: Neil Steinberg, The Chicago Sun-Times

SECTION: NEWS; Neil Steinberg; Pg. 14

LENGTH: 876 words

TODAY'S CHUCKLE . . .
The death this week at 100 of Miep Gies, the Dutch woman who helped shield Anne Frank and her family, emboldens me to print this . . . well, it's not quite a joke, more like a wry line or, if you prefer, an incredibly tasteless and unfunny line. But I've used it a lot, and I find it humorous, in a dark sort of way. I don't know if this will translate into print. Maybe you have to deliver it like I do, the first part of the sentence said with an air of earnest, hopeful intensity, the second with a what-can-you-do shrug.
Like Anne Frank, I consider people to be good at heart . . . of course, look what happened to her.

You do realise the joke was made in comparison to a nature documentary about sharks the premise being sharks could sniff blood from over a mile away and comparing that to the nazis. This joke was made to both be funny and to show how ridiculous the nazi regime was. Try looking into his past work before jumping to conclusions

dear whover,
re ''You do realise the joke was made in comparison to a nature documentary about sharks the premise being sharks could sniff blood from over a mile away and comparing that to the nazis. This joke was made to both be funny and to show how ridiculous the nazi regime was. Try looking into his past work before jumping to conclusions ''

yes i do realize this, but it;s good to point it out to readers here again. sure. The joke he told on the Jon Stewart show which was the genesis for my global protest here was not about sharks or nazis. it was about anne and her family not wanting pay rent for two years and that is why they went into hiding. That's funny to you? Do tell. That's ALL i am asking. where do we draw the line? and not just for Hcaust stuff, also for all world tragedies from Darfur to Uganda to Sudan. What's next? Hellen Keller jokes again? You tell me. I am all ears.

Scott, re ''I have seen the full Gervais sequence from The Daily Show (I'll try and find a copy that I can link UK audiences to, so they can judge for themselves), and I completely disagree with your reading of it.'''

Scott, my good sir, will you do ur promised post soon? or will you drag your feet for ages and then claim you didn't have time. i have seen this kind of MO before. be a mensch, mate and dish!

Dan, unfortunately Comedy Central geo-lock the video content on the Daily Show website so it's not visible to UK viewers.

And sorry, but I don't feel particularly inclined to spend too much time fighting with someone who can't quite grasp that the subject of Ricky Gervais' comedy was not Anne Frank, but the supposed stupidity of Karl Pilkington.

Here is link from YOTUUEB should be okay for UK viwers.
title of clip is

''The Daily Show: 04/11/12 Recap''

details

2012-04-12 comedycentral

Rick Santorum loses, The Best Fking News Team Ever remembers GOP fringe candidates, Al Madrigal talks birds and bees, and Ricky Gervais shares Karl Pilkington. Watch new episodes of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Monday - Thursday at 11/10


And SCott, today i got an email from disability rights campginer in UK Nicky Clark, Nicola Clark, and she has also challegtned Ricy G over his use to the word MONG and she won somewhat and she told to keep fighting Ricky G but gently adn she remidned me that is it is not ANTisemtism at all bjust the modern irony of comedy stage acts now...but she said DONT GIVE Up,a nd i won't

Scott,
a very famous American intellectual writer, you know his name but i
cannot tell you now, maybe later, he just told me re all this:

Dear Dan

I saw the Gervais Anne Frank video clip and i saw your ''open letter'' news.

Here is my view, just so you'll know:

- Obviously it is terrible to make jokes about Anne Frank;
- People say stupid things all the time.

And to complete the thought:

- Obviously, you should handle this in whatever way you think right
- For me, personally, it seems less urgent than a lot of other
issues. But I respect your commitment.

Scott, this news is now being reporte pro and con on TheWrap in Hollywod, website run by former New York Times reporter SHaron W.... google headline reading

Ricky Gervais, Please Stop the Tasteless Anne Frank Jokes (Video)

Scott, TODAY Ricky G replied to my open letter to him and it appeared in a UK newspaper, the Jewish Chronicle today. I assume he wrote them a letter and they published it as an oped commentary. I feel he still does not GET it, but then again, maybe it's ME who doesn't get it. We shall see. Meanwhile, to be fair, here is RG's letter: -- Britse komiek Ricky 'the Office' Gervais heeft zich de woede op de hals gehaald van Joden, door bij de Daily Show with Jon Stewart grappen te maken over Anne Frank. Hem wordt nu antisemitisme verweten. Gervais herhaalde een grap die hij als stand up comedian al maakte: dat de familie Frank onderdook voor de nazi's om geen huur te hoeven betalen.

Ook zouden de nazi's idioot zijn geweest, omdat ze de tiener niet al veel eerder ontdekte. Dan Bloom, een reporter van Jewish World, schreef daarop een open brief aan Gervais en zijn podcast-collega Karl Pilkington. De journalist vindt dat grappen over de Holocaust in de goot thuishoren. "Gervais moet maar volwassen worden."

In zijn eigen artikel verdedigt Gervais zich: "Ik snap het misverstand als je de dubbele laag niet herkent." De komiek zegt dat zijn grap júist gaat over het niet begrijpen van een diep tragische en verbijsterende historische situatie, en onwetendheid daarover. Enkele maanden geleden maakte Gervais mensen boos door te zeggen dat 'mong' (mongool) een acceptabel scheldwoord is.

@' 'Storm of protest, what storm? No doubt the usual suspects will winge because Jews are mentioned without sufficient deference, but storm, I don't think so.''
Sir, there was NO STORM of protest, jjust one lone blogger in Taiwan, me, Danny Bloom, atheist, and not asking for any deference to the Jews, quit your British antisem sir, this is not about Jews, or even Gervais, this is the lack of dignity of our civililzation today, and even the Jewish JOAN RIVERS tells even worse Anne Frank jokes, more tasteless than Ricky, so this is not about Jews sir, this is about the memory of Anne Frank. She was bron June 12 long ago. Ricky was born June 25 long ago. He should show more respect. Storm of protest, no! one lone blogger/reporter//dreamer in Taiwan trying to set the UK straight and telling RG to grow up. and he said that joke to Jon Steward's face and Jon was visibily uncomfortable on national TV. Habe you no heart, sir?

hey scott you probably think Merchant of Venice is way cool play, too. right? You promised to put up video and you did not. liar liar pants on fire. par for the course, UK is antisem nation,sad to say. I know you guys.

Loading
Subscribe to The Stage Podcast (iTunes edition) Square Eyes: Twice weekly TV previews Turn off the TV: TV Today's radio picks

Recent Comments

DAN BKLOOM on How Derek showed a softer side to Ricky Gervais
hey scott you probably think Merchant of...
DAN BKLOOM on How Derek showed a softer side to Ricky Gervais
@' 'Storm of protest, what storm? No dou...
dan bloom on How Derek showed a softer side to Ricky Gervais
Scott, TODAY Ricky G replied to my open ...
dan bloom on How Derek showed a softer side to Ricky Gervais
Scott, this news is now being reporte pr...
dan bloom on How Derek showed a softer side to Ricky Gervais
Scott, a very famous American intellectu...
dan bloom on How Derek showed a softer side to Ricky Gervais
And SCott, today i got an email from dis...
dan bloom on How Derek showed a softer side to Ricky Gervais
Here is link from YOTUUEB should be okay...
Scott Matthewman on How Derek showed a softer side to Ricky Gervais
Dan, unfortunately Comedy Central geo-lo...
danny bloom on How Derek showed a softer side to Ricky Gervais
Scott, re ''I have seen the full Gervais...
danny bloom on How Derek showed a softer side to Ricky Gervais
dear whover, re ''You do realise the jok...

Content is copyright © 2012 The Stage Media Company Limited unless otherwise stated.

All RSS feeds are published for personal, non-commercial use. (What’s RSS?)