Ricky Gervais Says No Comedy Topic Should Be Off Limits

'After Life'Credit: Netflix
Comedy, when done well, can help us tackle even the darkest subjects. 

Ricky Gervais is known as one of the most shocking comedians. From his antics at the Golden Globes to his hit British shows like The Office and Extras, Gervais has never shied away from controversy. That's why his new show, After Life, has drawn in viewers. It's got shocking aspects like suicide and cancer jokes, but the audiences stayed for a stunning and compassionate portrait of people.

And that's the way Gervais likes it. Check out his recent interview with Capital FM:

The show is about newspaper writer Tony Johnson, whose life is turned upside down after his wife dies from breast cancer. He thinks about suicide but instead decides to spend his life punishing the world for his wife's death by saying and doing whatever he wants regardless of how it makes other people feel. It's laugh-out-loud funny. 

Gervais told Brinkwire, "There is no subject that you should avoid discussing or making jokes about. It is contingent on how it is carried out."

And I think that's the key here. Gervais has wild ideas, but the execution balances what might traditionally be seen as offensive and instead makes the humor and empathy what translates.

Gervais went on to say, "There's no harm in discussing taboo subjects. It's what comedy is for… getting us over stuff."

The show is now in its third and final season on Netflix, and Gervais has proved that his character can say and do anything, as long as the story justifies it. 

The lesson here for writers and creators is simple: think about how your work lands. It's not about doing something noisy. It's about doing something that both sticks out and emotionally connects. But in general, I think uncomfortable subjects actually are a great challenge for writers. Think about how you can write something that actually transcends the shock value to provide people catharsis or conversation. 

These kinds of projects can help give executives a reason to read—they're salacious. But the reason to greenlight anything is always the emotional connection that goes beyond shock and connects to the heart. 

Let me know what you think in the comments.      

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1 Comment

The world of mainstream entertainment became a lot less fun after so many great subjects ripe for satirizing became sacred cows.

January 27, 2022 at 11:51AM, Edited January 27, 11:51AM

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Marc B
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