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The Bristol man behind The Office
Stephen Merchant in the BBC Bristol newsroom THIS STORY LAST UPDATED:
07 January 2003 0902 GMT


You would be forgiven for passing Stephen Merchant in the street and not recognising one of the creators of the hit comedy The Office.
Stephen Merchant "People tell me it can be painful to watch the show."
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The Office

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Stephen, unlike co-writer Ricky Gervais, does not feature as one of the major characters in BBC2's award-winning spoof documentary.

It is hard to ignore him though, as Stephen, from Hanham, stands at 6' 7" tall.

"I had a go at stand-up comedy in Bristol," the writer told BBC Bristol.

"I am quite tall and I wear glasses - for some reason lots of people think that is funny. I may look like a gangly fool but the joke is on them."

Ricky Geravis as David Brent
David Brent was inspired by colleagues Stephen and Ricky encountered while working in offices

It was Stephen's decision not to feature in the hit comedy which looks at life in a paper wholesaler's office and he's sure it was the right choice.

"There was never really a role that I thought I could do and directing and starring in it is very hard.

"One of us is needed to guide it all together and that was me."

'Hideous error'

From quiet beginnings, The Office has become one of the most popular comedies of recent years.

"People tell me that it can be painful to watch the show and you start to wonder whether you have made a hideous error," Stephen admits.

"We populated The Office with the types of people that Ricky and I had met in our working lives.

"I am much younger than him so I came from the point of view of the office temp or office junior.

"He, for many years, had an office managerial role, but says he managed to get away with doing nothing at all."

Paper

One of Stephen and Ricky's best tips about working in an office is to always carry a piece of paper with you.

"When challenged he [Gervais] would say he was on his way to the photocopier. He used this successfully for seven to eight years to avoid work."

Gareth from The Office
Many think Stephen Merchant's West Country links are the inspiration behind Gareth's accent.

The idea for the show came about after Stephen was sent out during a BBC training course to do a day's filming.

"I had worked with Ricky in the past and I suggested that we go into an office and film him as the character of David Brent.

"We only had the one day and the best way to film loads was to film it 'in the can' like a documentary.

"People seem to give more of themselves when they are talking to a camera - it mixes up how they want to come across as and how they are actually seen."

BBC Bristol


Stephen has always been a fan of comedy and Monty Python or Fawlty Towers would always feature on his Christmas wish-list.

"I did my first work in the media at BBC Radio Bristol and kinda got the bug."

After working for a short time at Radio Caroline he met Ricky Gervais at a radio station in London and the partnership that would eventually create The Office was formed.

"Ricky needed an assistant who knew radio. I ended up doing all the work and he got away with murder.

"After about a month I jumped ship and joined the BBC."

Silver screen?


The Office has just completed its second series and everyone is asking Stephen and Ricky what their next project will be.

"We want to do other projects but we're worried that people will switch on expecting to see Ricky as David Brent.

"My gut instinct is that he should do a secondary character of some kind.

"At the moment I am satisfied with what we have achieved but I am not discounting a branch out into the film industry - that would be a lot of fun."

"We populated the office with the types of people that Ricky and I had met in our working lives."

Stephen Merchant
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