Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Gervais the Genius but It's No Night at the Office

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Gervais the Genius but It's No Night at the Office

Article excerpt


STARTING the year with two British comedy awards and a Bafta for The Office, plus a victory on points in his boxing bout with Grant Bovey, you might think Ricky Gervais would be taking it easy. But last night British comedy's latest certified genius took to the stage of the Bloomsbury Theatre for his second stand-up show, a reprise of last year's mockwildlife lecture, Animals. It was, as Gervais's monstrous Office alter ego David Brent might have said, a challenge to which he rose like a leaping salmon.

A rambling, hilarious and occasionally filthy evening, Animals could have been a daunting prospect for Gervais. He has expressed chagrin about launching his comedy career on TV rather than in the savage proving grounds of the clubs. And the audience promised to be demanding: tickets for the twoweek run sold out long before Christmas and were changing hands for three times their face value outside. There was a slow handclap - overlaid with a few cries of "Come on, fat boy" the moment the lights dimmed.

If he was nervous, he didn't show it. Patting his ample stomach and giving a David Brentstyle leer, he said: "You're thinking, wow, all that boxing training has paid off !" A couple

of jokes about weight problems - "once you appear on an Ordnance Survey map, stop eating" - won him sympathy before the serious comedy began.

Animals sees Gervais use his nerdy fascination with wildlife and the Sunday School lessons of his youth as a springboard into meandering comic riffs. He boggles at "facts" trawled from the internet: if spiders are stroked too much they can go bald, while Montana mountain goats sometimes butt each other so hard their hooves fall off.

Gervais quotes the Bible - "It's a big book, so I'll be paraphrasing" - to dismiss Darwin, while admitting that the Almighty made a few errors. Putting a talking snake in Eden was a mistake, and it was surely a cruel jest to enable the daddy longlegs to secrete lethal venom, but give it no means to deliver it. …

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