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Ricky Gervais Scores Comedically and Technologically -- Look Ma, No Hands!
November 14, 2008  | By David Bianculli
 
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There isn't much to look forward to in this very weak November sweeps month, but here comes something great: The new HBO standup special, Ricky Gervais: Out of England.

Gervais is brilliant at the way he tells a joke. And that goes for the technology as well as the comedy.

Ricky Gervais: Out of England premieres Saturday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO, and is repeated Sunday at 10 p.m. ET on HBO2. Whenever you see it, you'll see a very clever comedian -- co-creator and star of Extras and the original, British The Office -- telling stories very cleverly.

Out of England begins with a grandiose entrance: Gervais entering with pomp, circumstance, and a robe and crown. But after that kickoff sight gag, he gets down to basics. Basic black tee shirt, black pants and not much else.

Not even a hand mike.

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It took me a while, because I was laughing so hard and so often, to notice how much Gervais' unobtrusive headphone microphone added to his presentation. It left both his hands free to gesticulate wildly, to hold notecards and computer printouts as he read from them, and to help with his efforts at pantomime.

At various times in this 75-minute comedy special, Gervais assumes the positions of everything from a lazy mouse to gay sex. With both hands free, he can do more -- and does.

His mouth, meanwhile, is taking on some wildly improbable targets. Adolf Hitler and overweight people, okay, that's not so unusual. But making fun of Stephen Hawking? Rosa Parks? Nelson Mandela? It takes just the right tone, and joke, to make that work -- and Gervais, who wrote his own material, never misses.

Part of his approach is to make fun of himself, putting on an air of laughable arrogance as he jokes about everything from cancer to AIDS. Part of it, though, is pursuing a thought beyond the norm -- to tell three jokes when most comics would move on after one.

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In a bit about nursery rhymes, for example, Gervais complains about the nonsensical absurdity of the Humpty Dumpty poem. The moral, Gervais, seems clear: "Don't send horses to do medical procedures."

Most comics would accept the laughter and applause that follows and move on, but Gervais is just getting started. "They've got no dexterity whatsoever," he complains, and goes on, and on, and on. Eventually, the very fact that he's not letting go makes the whole thing even funnier. And once you start laughing at that, he's STILL going.

"Certainly," he argues about the king's horses, "don't send ALL of them. That's going to be CHAOS!"

And this special, when you see it, is going to be hilarious.

 

1 Comments

 

Shauna said:

I really miss his free podcasts with Merchant and Pilkington. I've actually always thought that Steven Merchant is extremely funny and is a good balance to Ricky. I'm not sure how much of him I can take on his own though. (Try it -- and let me know. -- David B.)

Comment posted on November 14, 2008 10:36 AM
 
 
 
 
 
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