Ricky Gevais was interviewed at the 92nd St Y in New York last night by my old New York Times friend and media reporter Bill Carter, and in 90 minutes – which seemed like a blip of time – their sharp conversation covered everything from whether Gevais will be back as host of the Golden Globes, the difference between British and American comedy, and his new HBO series, “Life’s Too Short” (on now in the UK, coming to HBO in February). Gervais sipped a glass of beer during the chat, and close-up, his uniform black pants looked like tuxedo pants worn with a black T-shirt (more stylish than you thought, isn’t he?)
Will he host the Globes again (my dream come true)? NBC has asked, Gervais said, but he has to convince the Hollywood Foreign Press; after all, he reminded the audience, he’d said some rude things about their leader’s dentures. Apparently they don’t have the sense of humor of, say, Johnny Depp, who does a very funny guest spot in “Life’s Too Short.” (UPDATE: Apparently a little denture joke between friends is nothing. Gervais has been announced as host of the Globes. Yay!)
Teasing the show, Gevais said that Warwick Davis, (Filius Flitwick in the Harry Potter movies) plays a twisted version of himself, a dwarf actor desperate for success, with Gervais and partner Stephen Merchant as typically twisted versions of themselves. Gervais explained that the show is the next generation of mock-reality television. Where “The Office” played off the ordinary-people-followed-by-cameras trend, “Life’s Too Short” is today’s version: minor celebrities sell their souls to get a reality series. Or, as he put it with scathing astuteness, “Living their life like an open wound.”
Here’s the clip he played at the Y, with Depp playing the ludicrous caricature of himself the press imagined post-Globes: bent out of shape at Gervais’ swipe at “The Tourist”. Filled with cameos from stars including Sting and Liam Neeson, “Life’s Too Short” looks like a hilarious cousin to “Extras.”
One difference between British and American comedians, Gervais said, comes from their childhoods. American kids grow up believing they can be president, while in Britain the message kids get about success is “Not happening to you,” a message Gervais said he defiantly used. Maybe that attitude has changed since he was a boy, but he used it well: no one in his field is smarter or funnier.