While it was once the case that people knew British actor and comedian Ricky Gervais mainly from his having created the wildly successful TV series, The Office, these days he’s something of a household name. Few would argue that Gervais has enjoyed an exponential increase in popularity these past few years; not only with commercially successful films like Ghost Town and The Invention of Lying but also via his TV shows such as HBO’s Extras and The Ricky Gervais Show, an animated series based on his hilarious podcasts. I just adore him.
When I heard that Ricky was coming to the Theater at Madison Square Garden for two shows in May as part of his current Out of England 2 tour, I snagged a pair of tickets so I could take my friend Diane (aka “Diaaaahhhne!”) for her birthday, as she is a huge fan as well. I appreciate Ricky’s offbeat humor and the fact that he isn’t afraid to risk offensiveness for a good laugh – because most worthwhile humor pushes the boundaries of good taste – but I admit that I was unprepared for how completely filthy and un-PC Gervais’s stand up shows are. But filth and depravity has never bothered me. Bring it on, I say!
After a brief but hilarious warm up set by comedian Todd Barry, and a short film featuring fellow comic Louis C.K. that set the bar for the raunch and outrageousness to follow, Gervais hit the stage dressed in his usual uniform of jeans and T-shirt and entertained the sold-out crowd with mock tirades about subjects ranging from African famine to his fear of flying after 9/11 and his observation that spiders are never really relaxed but rather are “always ready for action.” My favorite of his routines were those also accompanied by slide show presentations. One was devoted to deconstructing a children’s book about Noah’s Ark (wondering how Noah could get two of every species of animal into the Arc “when the giraffes took up a third of the room already”).
Those who’ve seen Gervais perform before know that Bible stories are among his favorite targets. Another highlight of the evening was his exploration of the book, Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity, exploring gay behavior in the animal kingdom, which was completely hilarious and just offensive enough to inspire a couple seated down the row from us to get up and leave mid-set! Gervais is a big supporter of Gay rights and some of his more “adult” material concerns the fact that sexuality is something one is born with rather than a personal choice. But he certainly doesn’t feel the same about fat people, and while he’s a former fatty himself (Gervais has now lost enough weight to be considered quite trim) he is side-splittingly merciless when it comes to poking fun at those who would take up a little too much room on the bus. Sometimes it’s embarrassing to find yourself laughing about matters we’ve been taught to be socially sensitive about, but you just can’t help it. Gervais is fucking hilarious. Diane and I laughed all the way through his tight 75-minute set.
Ricky Gervais plays Saturday and Sunday May 15th and 16th at L.A. Live’s Nokia Theater.