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Life's Too Short, Comedy And Controversy

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Ricky Gervais | 12:17 UK time, Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Stephen Merchant, Warwick Davis, Ricky Gervais

Stephen Merchant, Warwick Davis and Ricky Gervais

Another "cruel" and "controversial" comedy from Ricky Gervais.

Yes, just a couple of the words some people are using to describe a show they haven't seen yet.

In the many interviews I have done over the past few weeks to promote Life's Too Short, the same few questions always seem to come up.

The first one is, not surprisingly, "What's it about?"

Life's Too Short is a fake documentary about a showbiz dwarf who has agreed to let the cameras into his life to turn his fortunes around.

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Warwick Davis plays a twisted version of himself. He has a massive tax bill, he is going through a messy divorce and the phone has stopped ringing with job offers.

It's not a sitcom about being short at all. It's a sitcom about a man with a small man complex. He is angry, arrogant, manipulative, selfish, and above all, fame hungry.

It was a thrill for me returning to the fake doc format because I find realism quite addictive. But if The Office reflected those quaint docu-soaps of the 1990s that followed ordinary people in ordinary jobs getting their 15 minutes in the limelight, Life's Too Short reflects the docs of today. Desperate, ruthless monsters living their lives like an open wound in search of another 15 minutes at any cost to dignity and decency.

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After I've answered this first question they've usually only digested the fact that it's "about dwarves." The second question is usually, "Are you worried that people will be offended?"

I don't know why anyone would ask that question? Is it because the central character is a dwarf? Or is it because they buy into this myth that I am a shock comedian?

Anyway, I'll answer the question.

I always expect some people to be offended. I know I ruffle feathers but some people's feathers need a little ruffling. And remember: just because someone is offended doesn't mean they're in the right. Some people are offended by multi-culturalism, homosexuality, abortion, atheism... what should we do? Ban all those things?

You have the right to be offended, and I have the right to offend you. But no one has the right to never be offended.

I never actively try to offend though. That's churlish, pointless and frankly too easy. But I believe you should say what you mean. Be honest. No one should ever be offended by truth. As a comedian I think my job isn't just to make people laugh but also make them think.

Ricky Gervais

 

As a famous comedian I also want a strict door policy on my club. Not everyone will like what I say or find it funny. And I wouldn't have it any other way. There are enough comedians who try to please everyone as it is. Good luck to them, but that's not my game I'm afraid.

This is not a democracy. No art form is. I love the creative process and I love being a complete dictator when it comes to my work. It's my way or no way at all.

I'm quite Darwinian about it. I do my thing and I survive or I don't.

The next question is nearly always, "So where do you draw the line in your comedy?"

I'm not one of those people who think that comedy is your conscience taking a day off. My conscience never takes a day off and I can justify everything I do.

There's no line to be drawn in comedy in the sense that there are things you should never joke about. There's nothing that you should never joke about but it depends what that joke is.

Comedy comes from a good or a bad place. The subject of a joke isn't necessarily the target of the joke. You can make jokes about race without any race being the butt of the joke. Racism itself can be the butt for example. When dealing with a so-called taboo subject the angst and discomfort of the audience is what's under the microscope. Our own preconceptions and prejudices are often what are being challenged.

It comes back to honesty again. I don't like racist jokes. Not because they are offensive. I don't like them because they're not funny. And they're not funny because they're not true.

They are almost always based on a falsehood somewhere along the way, which ruins the gag for me. Comedy is an intellectual pursuit. Not a platform.

Usually when someone says I crossed the line, they mean the line they drew, not me.

Ricky Gervais wrote and directed Life's Too Short, alongside Stephen Merchant.

Life's Too Short begins on Thursday 10 November at 9.30pm on BBC Two.

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Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I'm really looking forward to it (especially the Johnny Depp episode!).

  • Comment number 2.

    Being vertically challenged(4ft 5) am really looking forward to this! I have probably heard all the jokes but already laughing at the clips!!!

  • Comment number 3.

    I thoroughly agree with Ricky's philosophy on the sources and values of comedy and offense. Perhaps people who can't comprehend him simply take themselves and their opinions too seriously.

    I do, however, get slightly irked that he constantly uses the word "I" in reference to his collaborative works with Steve Merchant. Of course, he should use the word "I" when discussing his own philosophies. But when discussing collaborative work, seems the word "we" is more in order. Shouldn't that be "It's our way or no way at all" considering the "way" is a joint effort? Every time I see a phrase like "when I created The Office" it rubs me the wrong way that he doesn't say "we."

    But then, perhaps he and Mr. Merchant have an agreement on this style, and I'm just taking my opinion on that too seriously... :-)

  • Comment number 4.

    Kind of annoying that people ask "Are you worried that it will offend people?"... Why is it that people instantly assume it is going to be offensive just because the main character is a dwarf?

    Honestly, if anyone is being offensive, it's the people who ask questions like those. If we live in a diverse society then of course there are going to be shows where the main character is incidentally gay or short or disabled. It doesn't mean the entire show will resolve around their sexuality or height or disability etc...

    I can't wait for this show.

  • Comment number 5.

    I was really looking forward to the first episode of LIFE'S TO SHORT.
    Having just watched the first episode all i can say is it's disappointing so far.
    Nowhere near the quality of THE OFFICE or EXTRA'S (which i LOVED).
    No new idea's in this except for Warwick Davis (the dwarf joke is already paper thin) doing his best with a so so script and one joke that he's small and discriminated against by all.
    With the feel of EXTRA'S deleted scenes (deleted because there not funny)
    LIFE'S TO SHORT is full of A list stars who i guess had a great time filming with Ricky and Steve (see the making of) but it didn't come through in the finished show.
    I laughed more at the making of than episode 1 and that can't be a good thing.
    I will stick with it but i feel this is a rare miss from our self appointed comedy gods. In conclusion not bad but not good either lets hope next week is better.

  • Comment number 6.

    Having thought about it the making of LIFE'S TOO SHORT was funny because Gervais and Merchant WERE FUNNY in it .
    Having the funniest people in the show sitting in there office at a desk looking smug NOT being funny doesn't work for me .
    It begs the question what's the point of them being there if it's not to be funny ?
    It might be realistic and a mirror to real life but i would rather have laughs as its a comedy.
    BRING BACK BRENT OR LAMB .
    I suspect Ricky and Steve are too rich and successful for that to happen.
    shame.

  • Comment number 7.

    I was also disappointed.

    Shifty nervous glances from BRENT or LAMB are believable. Ricky in real life doesn't do that.

    There is also an uncharacteristic arrogance in writing yourself into a situation where an 'A lister' seeks your advice on how to be funny.

    If you are reading this Liam, NOT LIKE THIS!

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    Cringe-makeingly hilarious!

  • Comment number 10.

    Loved the show, and its only going to get better as you get to know to the characters. Hatrick for the boys. Cant wait for next week.

  • Comment number 11.

    Loved it! Laugh out loud good.

  • Comment number 12.

    Gervais' account on this page has all the misplaced arrogance of David Brent. On the basis of the first two episodes of Life's Too Short, he's either run out of ideas or content to rest on his laurels: Warwick's lines are so like Gervais/Brent you can almost hear his voice; the celeb cameos, which were novel in Extras, are too predictable here. This series is not funny - more like an unimaginative rehash to what has gone before. Shame.

  • Comment number 13.

    Someone should have told the makers of this program, and its writers, that it was supposed to be a comedy - since its about the most unfunny thing I've seen of recent. Shame as I'd looked forward to it. Good performance from Warwick Davies tho.

 

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