Philosophy according to Ricky Gervais:
The pigeon and the statue. . .
why shood Gilian Cros spel like this?
AS DAVID BRENT famously announced to his office staff - one day you're
the pigeon, the next day you're the statue. For the moment Ricky Gervais is
The Office has become cult viewing, gathering more viewers during
its repeat run than it did at first showing. And the video and DVD outsold
everything else on the shelves. Not surprising really for it has one of the
best comedy scripts since Yes, Minister and Fawlty Towers.
It's difficult to see where Gervais ends and Brent begins for he slips
seamlessly into character as viewers saw when he was the surprise -even
shock - choice for the Golden Globe Awards.
Unlike most of the recipients –admittedly American - he forgot to thank
his Mom, his agent, his cleaning lady, the man who does his tax and his
agent. In fact he had to be reminded by Gareth to thank the Foreign Press in
Hollywood who had fuelled his Hollywood award.
"As you can guess," he said. "I don't come from around these parts. I
come from a little place called England. We used to run the world before you
did." The American audience fell about.
His surprise at winning the award was genuine although he is no stranger
to picking up prizes. During the past 12 months he has been lauded by The
Royal Television Society, British Comedy Awards and a silver rose at
Ricky has the near perfect CV for a paperback blurb. From traffic warden
to failed pop star; head of speech at radio Xfm and entertainment's officer
for London University. He had read philosophy at University College. He
broke into Channel 4 with a late-night chat show but his contract was not
In fact his etymological radio discourse on the meaning of the word cock
was deemed "coarse sexual innuendo and unsuitable for broadcasting." His
co-writer and friend Stephen Merchant had made a ten-minute film called the
Seedy Boss and that was the idea which eventually became the Wernham Hogg
paper supplier's office in Slough.
Poor Slough, which has never really recovered from John Betjeman:
‘Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough
It isn't fit for humans now’
is now the spiritual home of the boss from hell. "There's good news and
bad news. The good news is that I have been promoted. The bad news is that
you are going to be made redundant."
Gervais has his roots nearby. He grew up in Reading, the son of a
French-Canadian labourer who came to England during World War II. Ricky was
the youngest of four children and has never lost touch with his roots.
He spends Christmas in Reading with his family and speaks fondly of the
area and its people.
It has taken him time to find fame and at the age of 42 he is unlikely to
be seduced by sycophants. He is equally unlikely to be seduced by money,
having turned down TV commercials and invitations to take part in Hollywood
blockbusters, including Pirates of the Caribbean.
He is fundamentally a writer rather than a performer. He has refused a
third series of The Office although penning a Christmas special.
Readers of Writers' Forum will be interested to know that the next
venture for this talented writer is a children's book, written before the
Golden Globe triumphs and placed with Faber. It is called Flanimals
and Faber can be forgiven for whooping with delight at the stunning
publicity for their latest author.
You can almost hear the print order clicking up from four figures to
An overnight success? Not really.
Ricky has been trying to get his book published for six years.
"But nobody answered the door until I knocked on it with four Baftas," he
said. That's life, Ricky. You spend a long time as the statue.
* * *
GILLIAN CROSS is a marvellous writer for children, rightly applauded as
inventive and exciting. But has she gone a kilometre too far with her latest
offering - Down with the Dirty Danes? I talk not from a politically
correct perspective but from spelling.
Target audience is 8+ and Danes is tied in with the National Curriculum.
Should Gillian further confuse eight-year-olds with the kind of spelling
which makes parents and teachers tear their hair? Becoz - cosen, showt,
argew, of corse. I should fink not!
* * *
WE ALL make mistakes but when it comes to spelling, facts and punctuation
Writers' Forum should make fewer than most. There's no point in
feeling smug about spotting that Nick Horny should be Hornby, that Diamond
Skulls should be Diamond Sculls and that Richard Shape should be Sharpe. No
point at all - if you miss-spell the name of one of the world's great
writers. I'm talking about J M Coetzee, described in my column last month as
Koetzee. I'm sorry. Do try him if you have not read him so far. A genuine
John Jenkins, Publisher, Writers' Forum