Monday, September 23, 2013

Is Ricky Gervais Really A Comedian?

I just finished watching the 7 episode first season of Ricky Gervais' new Netflix series Derek.
And it's not really a comedy. It's a character study with... political implications and a genuine message. In fact, I could make an argument that everything I've seen of his is actually the same.

The Office doesn't make me bust up laughing. It shows a bunch of somewhat regular people trying to make their workspace something more than tedious and dull. But at the same time, the economy and the changing times seem to be against this small group of people... representative of a much vaster piece of the population. There is a genuine message here.

Extras is far closer to a comedy than anything else he's done. He plays around with people's celebrity status giving them ridiculous personalities, but almost always allowing for a silver lining. However, his own character lacks the ability to enjoy simply being a celebrity for status' sake. When the Christmas special finally rolls around, his character learns what it is he's really supposed to care about and for the first time (it would seem) in his life, he fights for more than just his own social clout. Once again, there is a genuine message.

In The Invention of Lying, Gervais made a comedy out of a horrible world that we're taught from kindergarten to respect. "Don't lie. It is unbecoming and wrong." Parents and teachers say. However, once and a while basic human kindness directs us to lie. It is such an important message. Not all bad is bad and not all good is good. Once again, genuine.

So it was odd to me, coming into Derek after having read someone's facebook status implying that they could not stop laughing throughout this series. That has just never been my experience with his work. Well I don't know what show that person on the social network was watching, because this one was rather blunt. I'd say more direct to its message than any of the others. No, it's not really a comedy. It's a character study with political implications. Derek only wishes to be nice to everybody. And he expects the same treatment. He works in an old folks home because everybody deserves a little bit of kindness. And the political motivations of the show clearly state that these are people and they should not be treated like sheep, albeit with a couple silly moments here and there. For the most part, the show never does anything you wouldn't expect to see in real life.
If you'll recall, a few years back, Ricky Gervais hosted The Golden Globes. His hosting mostly consisted of blunt and often mean spirited critiques of celebrities. This is certainly a form of humor, though a surprising one considering how he deals with his own shows. I think, when he cameoed on Louis for a couple of episodes, that was the closest I ever saw him come to actually trying to be funny.

So I guess what I'm wondering is should Ricky Gervais really be labelled a comedian?

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