ON THE OF­FEN­SIVE

Ricky Ger­vais says he stands by jokes about deaf, dumb and blind chil­dren

The Mail on Sunday - Event - - CONTENTS - IN­TER­VIEW BY COLE MORE­TON

Ricky Ger­vais is more of­fen­sive than ever in his new show and he knows it. ‘They laugh at every­thing, they get every­thing, but any one of those lines out of con­text would make me look like the most evil psy­chopath in the world.’

He’s not kid­ding. The cre­ator and star of The Of­fice, Ex­tras and movies such as Ghost Town and Life On The

Road pushes the bound­aries of taste fur­ther than he has ever pushed them be­fore with his Hu­man­ity tour – and that’s very far in­deed.

There are jokes about ‘the good old days’ of ter­ror­ists like the IRA (who he says at least gave bomb warn­ings be­fore they blew up in­no­cent peo­ple) and se­rial killers like Dr Harold Ship­man (who served a nice cup of tea with the poi­son), and how he’d rather have din­ner with Hitler than some­one with a nut al­lergy.

There’s the sight of him kick­ing an imag­i­nary dead baby around the stage, which made one re­cently be­reaved woman walk out in dis­tress and com­plain to the press. And there are gags he says he thought too taste­less to use in pub­lic be­fore, one of them a par­tic­u­larly bru­tal joke about a deaf, dumb and blind child.

And yet here is the same Ricky Ger­vais at his of­fice in north Lon­don, talk­ing frankly about his life and work, say­ing he feels a re­spon­si­bil­ity to­wards his au­di­ence and would never want to hurt any one of them, per­son­ally. ‘They know me. Hope­fully they know I’m a good per­son.’

It’s hard to rec­on­cile the sav­age per­former – who boasted on Twit­ter of writ­ing his ‘most of­fen­sive standup rou­tine ever’ – with the friendly chap here in the grey slacks and black T-shirt who wants to be liked. ‘All my life I’ve tried to be a nice guy and do the right thing and be hon­ourable, and then you hear these hor­ror sto­ries. “Oh, I heard he’s aw­ful. I heard he punched a girl in a wheel­chair when he wouldn’t give her an au­to­graph.” That didn’t hap­pen!’ He laughs, bar­ing wolfish teeth.

We’re at the top-floor of­fice on Hamp­stead High Street where Ger­vais writes and or­gan­ises all his stuff, just a short walk from the eight-bed­room £11 mil­lion man­sion he shares with his long-term part­ner, the nov­el­ist Jane Fal­lon. It’s all very spar­tan, tidy and bare with mod­ernist black fur­ni­ture. The only bit of fun is a life-size cut-out from The Simp­sons, which I think is meant to be him. He looks tired in the flesh, the goa­tee a lit­tle grown-out and shad­ows un­der his eyes, but then Ger­vais is mid­way through the tour, his first in seven years. He has fallen in love with stand-up com­edy again and says it is a priv­i­lege to do it.

‘Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple com­ing out, find­ing a park­ing space, find­ing a babysit­ter, of­ten spend­ing 200 quid on [touted tick­ets] eBay, which breaks my heart but I am aware of it. I’d bet­ter say some­thing they haven’t heard be­fore. It had bet­ter be spe­cial.’

This milder, real-life Ger­vais claims he never sends the soup back in a restau­rant and tries never to refuse a selfie be­cause he is ‘ter­ri­fied’ of leav­ing fans feel­ing jilted. ‘I don’t want to be that guy. You do feel a re­spon­si­bil­ity. I didn’t try to be a role model – and I don’t think I have the same re­spon­si­bil­ity or power as a po­lice­man or a priest or a teacher or a par­ent, but I still don’t want to think that I’ve hurt one per­son’s feel­ings.’

And yet he tells breath­tak­ing jokes like the one about the dead baby. Ger­vais imag­ines hav­ing a child, look­ing down into the cot and find­ing it life­less. He mimes pick­ing

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