Twitter: allowing normal folk to crawl up the nose of Ricky Gervais

I was not an instant convert to The Office, Ricky Gervais's undisputed masterpiece, when it came out in 2001. At the time I thought it a poor copy of Alan Partridge, the Brent character seemed to use very similar wordplay and techniques to get laughs. It was only during series two that he made his mark on me. I remember crying with laughter as Gareth tried to explain political correctness and what you can and can't call black people these days. Genius isn't usually hard to spot and by the time the series closed with the Christmas special there was no room for doubt.

Two things have confused Gervais's subsequent legacy a little though.

His first stumbling block is the mixed quality of his output. There really has not been a 'bullet proof' follow up to The Office. That's not to say he's done nothing of worth since, his stand up was good, as were the podcasts, some of his tweets are hilarious. In fact most of his output has had one or two moments of genius but none of it is as sustained as that initial sitcom.

Secondly, his warm reception from the US has made him into a genuine superstar. If that doesn't seem to be a  problem you should read this piece by comedian Stewart Lee here. Although not directly about Gervais it helps explain his dilemma. In short Lee believes comedians should not aim to become 'comfy light entertainment stars' but instead draw on the Jester/Clown archetype. In other words, comedy should be risky instead of perpetually comforting: "French clown theorist Jaques LeCoq says the comedian should be operating at a level where the next move would result in his death". As a fan of live stand up I could not agree more, the tension you get from a comedian who seems not to give a shit what everyone thinks can't be beaten by the feel good 'crowd pleasing' nonsense I've seen Peter Kay do*.
But the twenty-first century comedian arrives for his talk show appearance hot from Hollywood, is complemented on how well he looks and on the relative attractiveness of his wife or girlfriend, exchanges easy banter with the host, and summaries his kiss-and-tell memoir, £14.99, available now. He is of no value. FULL ARTICLE HERE
Gervais is from the same comedy circles as Lee, they've a number of friends in common and he helped his comeback with kind praise and a flattering quote regarding "the cleverest, funniest, most cliché-free comedian on the circuit". I believe Gervais is clearly influenced by and likely aspires to the style of comedy these ideas advocate. This partly explains his apparent courage when facing controversy, he's allowing himself to operate at the level Jaques TheCock speaks of. The dynamic is even more evident when he takes to twitter as aggressive threats and idiocy come back in response, particularly to Gervais's atheism. Here the LeCoc dynamic is thrown into literal truth where the next tweet really could result in his death.

It's unfortunate others read this courage as proof of arrogance. I believe it's a sign that he's still not to be written off, the perfect follow up to The Office may still await us in the future. The reason I have such confidence is that he engages with and reacts to critical tweets.

This blog entry was triggered by a tweet of his which has now been removed:

"Twitter: allowing stupid uneducated people everywhere to show the world just how stupid and uneducated they really"
Even if he didn't acknowledge my (and my follower's) responses he soon deleted the tweet and corrected the error. Like all of us, he's using the internet to learn and improve. I'd argue that was the opposite of arrogant.

NM

*Saw him live, in Leeds I think. Me and my mate were huge fans and knew people who knew him personally. Perhaps we were just over excited but it was a disappointment. Kay is a brilliant comedian on occasion but his live show felt more like I was going to see a rock concert without the music. "Tell us a joke we know son".

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