Since exploding into the laugh-inducing big time back in 2001 with a certain legendary sitcom, Ricky Gervais has gone on to stamp his distinctive mark on the worlds of stand-up, television and Hollywood movies
He’s created, written and/or directed a host of high-profile comedy productions on both the big and small screens.
With new movie Life On The Road resurrecting his most infamous character, we look back at Gervais’ various projects – and rank them in descending order from worst to best.
9. Special Correspondents
As we noted back in May, this highly-anticipated Netflix film exclusive had great promise – but ended up being far from the gag-packed romp we expected.
Two radio journalists fake the reporting of a South American civil war from the safety of a New York cafe. What follows is a sprawling mess – and arguably Gervais’s most disappointing work to date.
8. Life’s Too Short
Aside from a few genuinely ingenious moments – not least the Liam Neeson appearance above – Gervais’ least successful collaboration with Stephen Merchant cranked up the cringe at the expense of proper belly laughs.
Watching the likeable-in-real-life Warwick Davis send himself up as an opportunistic, insensitive, money-grabbing pr*ck made for some memorable highlights. But they were few and far between.
7. Cemetery Junction
Gervais and Merchant’s charming coming-of-age flick – a ’70s-set story about a bunch of bright young things who begin to question their lot in life – has some nicely-observed humour, as you might expect, and a few genuinely touching moments too.
That said, it’s no earth shattering drama. As a solid hour and a half’s entertainment, served-up by a strong cast, it’s fine.
6. The Ricky Gervais Show
The series that introduced us all to the marvel that is Karl Pilkington. Is he a genius? We’ve still no idea. But he is probably one of the most casually funny men alive.
Gervais and Merchant’s cultural education of Karl was serialised into radio broadcasts and podcasts – before being set to animated footage for the box. Damn entertaining it is too.
5. An Idiot Abroad
Pilkington took centre-stage for his very own show, co-created by Gervais. A kind of offbeat reality travelogue, across three painful series poor Karl found himself plunged into ever more bizarre situations around the globe.
Watching a bemused man struggling to adapt to severe culture shocks proved strangely addictive.
Though the show divided critics and led to some controversy, overall Gervais’ portrayal of a sweet, mentally-challenged man working in a nursing home generally provided a tale of optimistic, well-intentioned innocence – a refreshing antidote to the cynicism in Gervais’ own work, and society at large.
Gently amusing and occasionally poignant, it may not win over everybody, but it’s bold and tender nonetheless.
3. The Invention Of Lying
An underrated leap into the US movie world, this shifts from a brilliantly offbeat dystopian ordeal to a satirical tour de force.
Gervais is on top form as a beleaguered TV writer in a world where everyone tells the truth, and is incapable of making anything up. When our humble protagonist suddenly discovers the ability to lie, he first harnesses it as a kind of verbal superpower – before unwittingly unleashing a wave of religious belief around the world. Brilliant.
2. The Office
Iconic, influential and completely unforgettable, this was one of those rare TV phenomenons that changes the way the entirety of pop culture does things.
Well-meaning but hapless boss David Brent was a remarkable, complex comic creation; a tragic loser we could all unite in embarrassment over. But while we all remember his horror-inducing gags and THAT limb-flailing dance, the show worked its magic with quite moments of emotional connection too. Not least in the relationship between Dawn and Tim.
From Kate Winslet’s foul-mouthed Oscar-snatcher to Patrick Stewart’s infantile dirty old man, Extras boasted the most jaw-dropping and brilliant celebrity cameos going. Bowie’s ‘Fat Man’ song, anybody?
More than that however, the show had a beautiful central friendship at its heart between the cynical, ambitious Andy and naive, sweet Maggie, while its thought-provoking commentary on fame, media exploitation and the cult of celebrity worship made it essential viewing.