Three years after Headliner interviewed Ricky Gervais ahead of his last ever David Brent & Foregone Conclusion gig, we take a look at what the comedian has been up to since Brent jumped out of the hot seat. At once cynical and sentimental, cruel and heartwarming, sad yet uplifting, Netflix series After Life is a noticeable shift in tone for Gervais, shining a light on depression and suicide, yet ultimately showing us that hope is everything.
It’s been three years to the day that Headliner published its candid interview with Ricky Gervais, where he reflected on the madness that was the David Brent & Foregone Conclusion UK tour ahead of their last ever gig. Taking advantage of the success of The Office spinoff film, David Brent: Life On The Road, the tour saw Gervais provide Brent with what the tampon rep could never achieve: sold out tour dates attended by people that actually wanted to hear his music.
This is Brent we’re talking about, so naturally the album (which doesn’t break the fourth wall; attributed to David Brent as the artist, not Gervais) is a mix of tone deaf insensitivity, cringeworthy topics and lyrics – “dayo, dayo, dayo, me say dayo, biddly biddly biddly biddly biddly biddly bong,” and diabolically tragic raps to rival The Lonely Island.
Perhaps it’s a British thing, but we delight in the awkward on TV: whether it be The Office, Peep Show, Fawlty Towers or The Inbetweeners. It’s unbearable, yet we can’t look away. Gervais has made a career of it: The Office, Extras and Life On The Road, to name a few.
Until After Life in 2019, where yes, Gervais plays Gervais-type, Tony (wouldn’t we feel short-changed if we got anything but?) – however the mini series represents a noticeable shift in tone for the observational comedian.
Gone is the mockumentary-style filming and excruciating encounters associated with Gervais’ former work: Tony is a man struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts following the death of his wife, Lisa.
This premise alone perhaps would not have appealed to Netflix, so the crux of the show is that as Tony would rather be dead, as long as he’s alive, he is going to tell everyone and anyone what he thinks of them – after all, he’s always got suicide to fall back on. It’s his superpower.
Nihilism personified, Tony is reduced to an empty shell going through the motions, occasionally offering up opinions like “humanity is a plague,” and that there’s “no advantage to being nice and careful and thoughtful” – although throughout the duration of the series, he inevitably proves himself wrong.
But before he gets there, we see a man that’s lost: eating cold beans straight from the can, downing cereal and tap water from a pint glass because he hasn’t done the washing up, drinking too much, and spending his free time watching home videos of his late wife on his laptop.