Ricky Gervais is an English comic writer and performer best known for his BBC Two television programme The Office, which he co-wrote and co-directed with his friend and collaborator Stephen Merchant.
Besides writing and directing the show, Gervais played the lead role of David Brent.
He is also known for writing and starring in the show Extras.
Gervais's father was from the francophone Canadian province of Quebec (hence their French last name) and came to England on duty during the Second World War, where he met his wife.
Raised as the youngest of four siblings, Gervais has described his childhood as nice and "normal". He grew up in Reading's southern suburb of Whitley, on a council estate.
Gervais received his early education at Reading's Ashmead School. He then went on to University College London in 1979 to study biology, later switching to philosophy where he graduated with a 2:2.
During the early 1980s Gervais remained in London and met his long-term girlfriend Jane Fallon. He was also the lead singer of the New Romantic group Seona Dancing.
The group released two singles that failed to break the top 40 in the UK: "Bitter Heart", and "More To Lose", which became a massive hit in the Philippines in 1985. This came as a great surprise to the band, who had broken up the previous year.
After various odd jobs, including working in an office, a stint as events manager at the University of London Union followed in the early 1990s.
Through this, Gervais went on to briefly manage the English rock group Suede in their pre-record contract days before taking a job at London radio station Xfm in 1996, though he was made redundant when the station was taken over by the Capital Radio group in 1998.
He was also music advisor for the popular BBC drama This Life at this time thanks to the show's producer Jane Fallon.
It was during his time at Xfm that he met Merchant, who would become his collaborator in much of his later work. The pair contributed sketches to BBC Radio 1's The Breezeblock in 1999 and 2000.
Gervais and Merchant returned to Xfm for a Saturday radio show that first went on the air in November 2001 and ran intermittently until January 2004 with breaks ranging between 1-3 months between new shows.
They both also worked for the first time with Karl Pilkington, who produced the shows and later collaborated with them on their series of podcasts.
After that, Gervais took 18 months off to work on his new television show Extras, write Flanimals, and perform his live show Politics.
He returned to the airwaves on 28 May 2005 to host the show once again with Pilkington and Merchant. He was also heard on BBC Radio 2 during Christmas 2005, sitting in for Jonathan Ross for 2 weeks.
Gervais contributed to the BAFTA-winning Sketch Show (ITV) penning several sketches. Mainstream TV debut came in September 1998 as part of Channel 4's "Comedy Lab" series of pilots. His one-off show, Golden Years, focused on a David Bowie-obsessed character called Clive Meadows.
He then came to much wider national attention with an obnoxious, cutting persona featured in a topical slot which replaced Ali G's segments on the satirical Channel 4 comedy programme The 11 O'Clock Show in early 1999 where his character used as many expletives as was possible.
Gervais later went on to present his own comedy chat show for Channel 4 called Meet Ricky Gervais two years later which was poorly received and has since been mocked by Gervais himself.
Throughout this time, Gervais also wrote for BBC sketch show Bruiser, as well as The Jim Tavare Show and cameoed in Channel 4's sitcom Spaced, and is speculated that the cameo is indeed The Office character David Brent.
However, both series of Spaced finished airing before The Office reached the screens, and it must be said that Gervais uses a very similar persona for each character he plays.
Gervais also appeared in a few of Channel 4's 'Top 100...' list programmes, and voiced the character of Penguin in Robbie the Reindeer's Legend Of The Lost Tribe. His voice was redubbed for the US market.
It was in August 1999, whilst on a BBC production course, that Stephen Merchant had to make his own short subject. He chose to make a docu-soap parody, set in an office. This sketch formed the basis of the interview episode.
With a little help from Ash Atalla, Merchant passed this tape onto to the BBC's Head of Entertainment Paul Jackson at the Edinburgh Fringe, who then passes it onto Head of Comedy Jon Plowman who eventually commissioned a full pilot script from Merchant and Gervais.
Extras first aired from 21 July 2005 with an appearance by Ben Stiller. It features cameos from Patrick Stewart, Kate Winslet (who is also from Reading), Ross Kemp, Vinnie Jones, Les Dennis and Samuel L Jackson.
Gervais's main character, Andy Millman, is more self-aware and intentionally humorous than David Brent, and the programme has not been made in the style of a mockumentary, as was The Office (although it is filmed in a similar style without a laughter track).
In 2006, Gervais became the first guest star on The Simpsons to also receive a writing credit for the episode on which he guest-starred, "Homer Simpson, This Is Your Wife", which aired on March 26, 2006.
Asked about how his idea for the episode (in which Homer swaps Marge on a game show) came about, Gervais replied, "I’ve always been fascinated with reality game shows but I think it was my girlfriend’s idea. We watch Celebrity Big Brother at the moment, we watch, I’m a Celebrity, Get Me out of Here… we watch all those reality TV shows – The Office came out of those docu-soaps."
Gervais is a long-standing Simpsons fan and presented a segment to mark the show's 20th anniversary on BBC Two's The Culture Show on 16 June 2007.
The first, six-episode series of The Office aired in the UK in July/August 2001 to little fanfare or attention. But word-of-mouth, repeats and DVDs helped spread the word, building up huge momentum and anticipation for the second season, also made up of six episodes, in September 2002.
The second season topped the BBC Two ratings, and the show then switched to the larger BBC One channel in December 2003 for its final two special episodes.
A twelve-episode sitcom about background artists working on movies. Written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, it aired in the UK in July 2005 on BBC and in the US in September 2005 on HBO.
It starred Ross Kemp, Les Dennis, Patrick Stewart, Vinnie Jones, Samuel L Jackson, Ben Stiller, Kate Winslet and Francesca Martinez.
A second season began on 14 September 2006 in the UK, featuring Daniel Radcliffe, Orlando Bloom, Sir Ian McKellen, Chris Martin, Keith Chegwin, Robert Lindsay, Warwick Davis, Ronnie Corbett, Stephen Fry, Richard Briers, Patricia Potter, Sophia Myles, Moira Stuart, David Bowie, Robert De Niro, and Jonathan Ross.
Gervais made a few abortive attempts at stand-up in the late 90s, but his first official show took place at the Cafe Royal, as part of 2001's Edinburgh Fringe. Titled Rubbernecker, the show also featured Jimmy Carr, Robin Ince and Stephen Merchant.
Gervais later toured the UK in 2003 with his stand-up show Animals. The Politics tour then followed a year later. Both of these shows were recorded for release on DVD and television broadcast.
The third part of the themed live trilogy, Fame, hit the road in 2007. It started in Glasgow in January and ended in Sheffield in April. Blackpool reported selling out of tickets within 45 minutes of them going on sale.
More dates were added with them going on sale on Tuesday 16 January, Thursday February 15th and Tuesday February 20. On 20 February, tickets were released for sale at 10am for a new date in Brighton on 4 April - these tickets sold out within 37 minutes.
Newsnight Review's panel saw Animals during its Bloomsbury run and covered it in January 2003. They were not favourable, with Private Eye editor Ian Hislop being the most explicit in his criticism.
After this, Gervais closed each show by calling Hislop "a little ugly pug-faced cunt". (Before the DVD release, Gervais called Hislop and secured his permission to use the insult.)
Further coverage on Newsnight Review has been overwhelmingly favourable, with the panellists playing 'themselves' in promos for the second series of Extras. Panel regulars Germaine Greer, Mark Kermode and Mark Lawson also appeared as 'themselves' reviewing When The Whistle Blows in a series episode.
Critic Lawson is a great admirer of Gervais and Merchant, having interviewed them extensively for television, print, Front Row and the Edinburgh International Television Festival.
Fame was the subject of some controversy in January 2007, when Gervais told a story, ostensibly about how people will do anything to become famous, to a shocked Scottish audience.
The story referred to a five-year old question once asked of Gervais by a reporter: what can you do to become famous? To which he replied, "Go out and kill a prostitute". He followed up with the punchline, "I won't do that bit in Ipswich", referring to the recent murders of five prostitutes in Ipswich, in December 2006.
The joke even drew criticism from the father of one of the victims, Tania Nicol: “These days they want to make a joke out of anything. I feel he’s just being uncaring, quite honestly.”
Gervais did not apologise, but did attempt to defend himself: "I do want people to know that that happened five years ago and is not related to anything now. That is the problem with comedy, a joke that is funny today can be a terrible faux pas tomorrow.”
The Office scripts were released in book form, with Season 1 issued in 2002, and the remaining episodes following in 2003.
Gervais released a children's book in 2004, entitled Flanimals - illustrated by his friend Rob Steen - which used the familiar trope of nonsense animals.
After the success of this book, he released its sequel More Flanimals in 2005, with Flanimals of the Deep coming the next year. There is a wide range of Flanimals merchandise available, including dolls and gift cards.
A 6-part Flanimals TV series has been commissioned by ITV, although Gervais had previously claimed signing a Hollywood movie deal so that a franchise could be developed.
"That way it stands a chance of being the next Dr Seuss or Mr Men".
In late 2006, the Extras scriptbook was released, as well as The World of Karl Pilkington presented by Gervais and Merchant. These were essentially transcripts of XFM/podcast routines performed by the three.
In 2002 Gervais took part in a charity boxing match against entrepreneur Grant Bovey - known largely by the public due to his relationship with TV personality Anthea Turner.
On his Saturday afternoon Radio show on Xfm London, Gervais and partners Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington had discussions on both Ricky's attitude towards boxing and training in general, as well as his likelihood of victory against Bovey.
Initially, writing partner Stephen Merchant had questions as to why Gervais was participating in the event, due to his dislike of slight pain and his inexperience with fitness in general.
According to Merchant, the majority of Gervais' effort was solely involved in his attire and moniker for the large event.
Originally, Gervais jokingly told a BBC official that he would like to be named "Ricky the Gippo Gervais", in full knowledge of its position in the sphere of Political Correctness. He was only later, unsurprisingly denied the use of this name after further research.
Other names supplied by Gervais were "Ricky Balboa Gervais", "Ricky Marciano Gervais" - both being questioned by his trainer, who suggested "Ricky Martin". This name was also to be supplied to the backing track "California" by Snoop Dogg, but this was later changed to Mama Said Knock You Out by LL Cool J.
In the weeks before the event was scheduled to take place, both Merchant and Pilkington voiced their doubts as to his fitness due to illness which he had sustained weeks before the event, somewhat comedically by stating that both they, and Gervais' family had written up a petition to the BBC stating "please do not allow this man to box".
Gervais was trained for the three-round contest by famous boxing trainer brothers Frank and Eugene Maloney, at their Fight Factory gymnasium. It was the second televised charity boxing match, the first being Bob Mortimer against Les Dennis, for Comic Relief.
The fight was televised by BBC, and Gervais managed to come out on top by a split decision verdict. Turner later claimed the only reason Gervais was awarded victory was because of his relationship with the BBC.
Gervais later said that the experience was the 'most difficult thing' he had ever done. He donated his £5,000 prize money to the training of a Macmillan nurse.
In November 2005, Gervais announced: "I want to do a radio show where I can say what I want, when I want and that's free for anybody who can be bothered to listen."
This resulted in 12 episodes of The Ricky Gervais Show, using a format similar to his Xfm radio show, and including Karl Pilkington and Stephen Merchant.
The show, produced in conjunction with the Guardian Unlimited website (the website of The Guardian newspaper), is available exclusively online as weekly thirty minute podcasts, without music.
Private Eye ran a few stories about the amount of promotion that the podcasts were receiving with in the paper, with references often appearing in totally unrelated articles.
The first episode was made available on December 5, 2005. By January 2006, it had become the world's most downloaded podcast, as certified by the Guinness Book of World Records (Gervais had initiated a campaign for this within the podcast itself). With over 8 million downloads, the podcast became overwhelmingly popular.
The general basis of the podcast is Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant interrogating Karl Pilkington, who "plays the part of the village idiot" according to an AP article on the subject.
Ricky Gervais refuted these claims saying "He's really not playing the part, he actually is the village idiot".
Some recurring segments in the show are Monkey News (stories about monkeys who do extraordinary things) and Karl's Diary (where Pilkington's personal journal recording many tedious aspects of his daily life are read aloud and laughed at by Merchant and Gervais).
All podcasts are available for purchase from iTunes and Audible.com.
Ricky returned to Guardian Unlimited in late 2006 for three more free podcasts together called "The Podfather Trilogy" and airing on Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, which he said would be the last for a while.
Gervais has received a plethora of awards for his work on The Office, most notably two Golden Globes (one for acting, one for the show itself), as well as numerous British Academy Television Awards and British Comedy Awards, amongst others.
His rise in the USA is largely attributed to his success at the Golden Globes. The show missed out on what was considered to be a definite Emmy Award nomination because there were not enough episodes broadcast in the USA before the deadline for consideration.
Gervais received an honorary award at the annual Rose d'Or ceremony in Switzerland on April 29, 2006. The award is given to "an individual who has made an exceptional contribution to the global entertainment business."
Gervais guest-starred in an episode of The Simpsons entitled "Homer Simpson, This Is Your Wife", which aired on March 26, 2006 in the United States, on April 23, 2006 in the United Kingdom, and on July 18, 2006 in Australia.
The episode was the highest rated in Sky One's history, arguably due to its extensive promotion. This revolved around the angle that Gervais was the episode's sole writer, but he clarified the extent of his input in a joint interview (with Christopher Guest) for Dazed and Confused magazine (January 2006):
"No, all I did was put a down a load of observations on an email and they made it look like a Simpsons script. I'm going to get the credit, but I think everyone in the industry knows it was a joint effort."
Criticisms of the episode include its blatant promotion of high definition television (Sky has just launched a HD service) as well as the alleged mediocrity of the script. This was not his first appearance in an animation, as he had provided the voice of "Bugsy" in the 2005 animated feature film, Valiant.
He also guest-starred in Alias (the season three episode "Façade") as an Irish terrorist. He has also appeared several times on The Late Show With David Letterman, making him the British comedian with the most appearances on the show.
At one point, Gervais was even tapped for a role in the Tom Cruise movie Mission: Impossible III, but it never came to fruition - Gervais cited reasons for this, on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross:
"It was a bigger part than I first thought." He added: "I did an episode of Alias, and I can't watch it. Me being serious. I can't watch it."
During a joint interview with Christopher Guest for For Your Consideration (January 2006), the interviewer asked of Guest: "If you were offered a role in Mission Impossible 3 or a remake of Magnum PI, which one would you take?". Gervais told a confused Guest, "Oh! They're the two films I turned down to do your film."
Gervais's film career has not yet extended beyond his small role as a studio executive, as the voice of a pigeon in Valiant and his appearance in Night at the Museum, playing museum director Dr. McPhee.
This has proved to be one of Gervais's most popular roles, with the movie grossing $476,626,874 worldwide.
He has repeatedly expressed his desire not to be "the butler in loads of films".
On 2 July 2005, Gervais appeared at the Live 8 event held in Hyde Park, where he performed his famous dance. He produced a series of short films for the cause, linked acts from the studio with Jonathan Ross and also introduced the group R.E.M..
On 5 January 2006, he interviewed Larry David, in a one off special, Ricky Gervais Meets... Larry David.
On 25 December and 26 December of the same year, Channel 4 aired similar specials where he interviewed the actor/comedian Christopher Guest and infamously Garry Shandling.
There are no plans for further episodes of "Meets...", although editions with John Cleese and Matt Groening were recorded in 2006, for broadcast in 2007. A source claimed "The Shandling experience put him off for good."
On February 6, 2006, it was announced that Gervais and Merchant were to write an episode for the third season of the US version of The Office. The episode, entitled "The Convict", aired on November 30, 2006 in the United States.
On 20 February 2006, after performing 12 free podcasts with Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington, it was announced that all future episodes would be available from Audible.com at a "nominal fee".
The reasons given for the commercialisation of the podcast were the significant cost of producing and online hosting for a weekly half hour show, despite the free podcasts already featuring adverts.
The other reason was that Pilkington was out of a job after leaving his post as a production manager at UK station Xfm, although the Sony Award-winning producer has since worked for the BBC (including a run of Russell Brand shows on 6Music) as well as making and appearing in a couple of shorts for Channel 4.
Gervais also appears in the Christopher Guest film, For Your Consideration.
He is currently adapting his book Flanimals for ITV1, collaborating with Caramel Uncut to create a six-part series. This is despite Gervais suggesting that he had been in negotiations to turn Flanimals into a feature film.
Gervais has also voiced a character in the video game Scarface: The World Is Yours.
Gervais is planning a project with JJ Abrams as well, as well as possible plans for a drama series about a sitcom writer who saves the world.
Gervais is set to appear on the latest DVD boxset of 24, he has recorded an extra feature and his co-writing partner Stephen Merchant features in a cameo in the first episode of series 6. Ricky turned down a role in the show.