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TCA press tour: Ricky Gervais finds comedy gold in a round-headed minion

January 14, 2010 | 10:28 pm

Just a few days before he hosts the Golden Globes, Ricky Gervais appeared at TCA with his longtime collaborator, Stephen Merchant, to discuss their upcoming 13-episode HBO series, “The Ricky Gervais Show.”

The series is actually an animated comedy based on their very popular podcasts, which feature loose, wacky conversations among Gervais, Merchant and their oddball pal, Karl Pilkington. Gervais and Merchant said that they met Pilkington some years ago while hosting a radio show; he was “this round-headed minion” sent to work for them who turned out to be “comedy gold.”

Gervais coined the awkward phrase “realanimation” for the format, which Merchant further explained: “It’s not a scripted show, these are real conversations we had with Karl. … It’s all the ramblings of an idiot.”

Although Gervais and Merchant frequently insult Pilkington, Gervais insisted that the show’s appeal lies with this unique fellow. “He sees the world through different eyes. … But he’s got an opinion on everything and it’s a funny one -- because it hasn’t been heard before! I can’t get enough of Karl. He’s a comedy genius, whether he knows it or not.”

Asked if he’d consider doing a cutting-edge late-night talk show, Gervais referred to the existing cutting-edge host whose show he appeared on last night: Conan O'Brien. “I thought Conan was amazing. I thought his monologue was one of the funniest and most biting I’d heard on a chat show for years.” 

As for future plans, Gervais offered: “We might do something with the American 'Office' next season. But that's in our heads at the moment." He said that versions of both “The Office” and “Extras” are spreading across the globe, making the comedy duo of Gervais and Merchant into a kind of franchise --  just like “Ronald McDonald and the Grimace.” Yes, just like that.

"The Ricky Gervais Show" premieres on HBO Feb. 19.

-- Joy Press

Photo credit: HBO