Over the years, Ricky Gervais has developed a nice import-export business with L.A.: He imports his humor from England, we export our adulation.
Gervais comes here to attend award ceremonies and pick up trophies--a Golden Globe in 2004 as best actor in the original BBC version of "The Office," which he co-created with Stephen Merchant, and an acting Emmy last year for his HBO series "Extras."
"I walk everywhere, which is not good in L.A.," he said on the phone from Hampstead. "People say, '[It's] just 12 miles down Sunset.' And I think, 12 miles. That would be like going on holiday in England."
Gervais is about to return to town to do stand-up comedy--something he began only after achieving success on TV. He performs July 11 and 12 at the Kodak Theatre as part of a string of shows in New York and L.A. that will be filmed for an HBO special.
With "The Office," Gervais exploded into the comedy mainstream as the obsequious middle manager David Brent. (The NBC version is an adaptation, with Steve Carell keeping alive Brent's painful need for his colleagues' approval.) All Brent wanted was love; the humor resided in the distance between the bad jokes and his lack of self-awareness. Onstage, Gervais is a bit like Brent--still a miscreant, but sharper and more mordant.
"There's no real narrative, but I try and make it event-specific," Gervais said.
In the normal arc of a career, Gervais would have done stand-up first, as a steppingstone to sitcom and movie parts. But Gervais and Merchant worked instead at their voices as radio personalities.
"We didn't see the romance in the struggle," Gervais said. The only reason I do stand-up is I wanted to see if I could do it. There are no restrictions other than your own nerve and your own sensibilities."
"Ricky Gervais Live: The Out of England Tour," July 11 and 12, Kodak Theatre; www.kodaktheatre.com