Despite his staring in a few American movies that didn’t really do too much for his perception through a critical lens, Gervais still maintains a pretty healthy cult of stardom on this side of the pond. The Office – his version and not the one that’s devolved into a mess of nonsensical plot developments, weddings and sappy story lines – made Gervais an international star. And seeing as the show was available in the States on HBO, that’s pretty surprising. And while Extras didn’t impact the world as much as his previous sitcom, it was still well received. That latter show might not have been the reason that the comic has toured the world telling jokes – oddly enough, his podcasts might be a part of that. But when Gervais hit the road and recorded Out of England for broadcast in the US, he was able to solidify his standing as a jokester of unparalleled proportions.
Recorded last November, Gervais arrives on stage in ridiculous fashion as a sign behind him explodes into light and spells out his first name. One of the ways that he’s remained a consistently relatable figure – apart from the fact that he mocks his own girth – is that he denies his own celebrity.
Surely, Gervais is apt to mention charitable gigs that he’s worked and donations that he’s made over time, but it’s in his ability to lampoon those situations that makes him a great comic. Amidst the swagger of the famous, Gervais’ waddle is surely intentional. And in the characters that he embodies during this, or any other performance, finds the comic willing to contort his body into positions that can’t be flattering when photographed.
In a self aware moment – as he quickly throws up a Nazi salute – Gervais explains he had to get that off quickly so that there won’t be a photograph of it floating around. He’s a celebrity, but one that’s savvy enough to not be bogged down by the situation or allow it to affect that way that he acts – on stage or off. He’s probably living well – as attested to by his gut, which becomes the focus of a good deal of Gervais’ schtick - but it hasn’t seemingly changed him.
Making fun of the infirm, the rich, the poor, himself and anyone else you might be able to think of finds Gervais among characters that he concocts from newspaper clippings, hand bills and the like. And while it might occasionally seem like some amalgam of play practice and acting class, Out of England is amusing the whole way through. It’s not Raw, but then again, if viewers caught Gervais in a red leather suite, there’d probably be an general outcry. It’d still be funny, though.