By Stewart Sutherland
What do you get when you take a comedian, an BAFTA Award-winning writer and an uneducated radio producer and put them in a small room with a set of microphones? The answer is the most downloaded podcast ever recorded. Over two hundred thousand people have tuned in to hear Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington gather for “pointless conversations” about everything from religion, travel, reproduction, charity and monkeys. After debuting on HBO and Channel 4 in 2010, the animated version of their first ground-breaking series, The Ricky Gervais Show, is now available on DVD.
After going through the best and most memorable conversations of Series One, HBO has put together this Hanna-Barberra styled cartoon to go along with the audio. It’s a mixture of Family Guy style cut-outs and a Fred Flintstone-like Ricky, who bullies and ridicules his friend Karl while Stephen Merchant acts as the voice of reason between them. With regular features like reading e-mails, excerpts from Karl’s diary and ‘Monkey News’ (where Karl shares a short story involving chimps to a disbelieving Ricky and Steve), each episode is so full of entertainment, it’s easy to see how the audio alone was so successful.
“Karl, if you could have a super power like Superman, what would your super power be?”
“Can I suggest consciousness?”
Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais ask Karl Pilkington a hypothetical question
Much of the show revolves around the obscure wisdom of Karl Pilkington, a man with a “head like an orange” who questions everything he’s asked before giving his own opinion on it. Some of the more memorable moments include him explaining how he doesn’t want to donate his eyes in death to avoid becoming a blind ghost, how he showed his bare backside to a neighbour to pay her back when she caught him peeking on her naked, and how he would improve upon the octopus: “Give it a bit more of a body, cut back on the legs and give it some bones.” Most (if not all) of these comments are answered with Ricky either laughing himself sick or shouting that Karl’s an idiot, and Steve trying to make sense of it all or educate him on why it just wouldn’t work.
Everyone I’ve shown the show to have expressed one of two opinions. That it’s either hilarious to watch, or how it’s shameful to listen to Karl ramble insanely before being verbally abused by Ricky. No matter what though, they can’t help but laugh at the right moments, and so far all who have stayed to watch for three or more episodes have became hooked. After watching Karl tell a story about a monkey who replaced a member of an official Olympic bobsled team, you start looking at the clock and wondering if you have time to watch another episode.
“…I think it’s like two hundred thousand quid, and you’ll get a chance to go in a space shuttle into space.”
“Is it worth it?”
Stephen Merchant tells Karl Pilkington about Virgin Galactic
For a show that is essentially three men chatting away to each other, it’s amazing just how entertaining the ‘art’ of conversation can be. Most of this is due to Karl’s ideas, stories and the shape of his head. His view on any subject raises the question of the fine line between being a genius, and being a complete idiot. In one brief chat about personal mantras (which Karl said he didn’t know about), he’s given the definition of Ben Franklin’s age-old phrase “Waste not, want not”. This leads Karl to believe Franklin was a hoarder and he edits the phrase, changing it to “Whoa, don’t throw that away – you might need it later on.”
The Ricky Gervais Show has had its fair share of controversy: swearing, verbal insults and (occasionally) mind-numbing idiocy fill each episode. But it’s still an incredible success. Seth MacFarlane (creator of Family guy and American Dad) has hailed it as “The best animation I have ever seen” and HBO have given the green light for Series Two to be made. The only one who isn’t too impressed is Karl Pilkington himself, saying “It’s not as good as The Simpsons”. Sorry Karl, but as silly as Homer Simpson is, your experiment on washing up dishes with no thumbs has to be a milestone.
8 OUT OF 10
“’Went and did the Podcast. We had a meeting after. I don’t like meetings as I can’t keep focussed on what people are talking about. I think Ricky has the same problem as after twenty five minutes he was trying to wrestle me. I tried to do what spiders do and stayed still as if I was dead, but Ricky just stayed on top of me not moving. A bit like when you see one of them big snakes swallowing a sheep. Ricky got bored and released me. I went home thinking ‘Why had I left my old job for this?’ “
Stephen Merchant reads from Karl Pilkington’s diary