January 26, 2007 5:26 PM   Subscribe

Last year Ricky Gervais hosted a short series of informal interviews with three of his comedy heroes for the UK's Channel 4. His 5-part meeting with Larry David (Part 2 - 3 - 4 - 5) is an amazingly candid and entertaining look at geniuses discussing comedy. Also available: Gervais sitdowns with Christopher Guest and Garry Shandling, equally good (YouTube, natch, via BigScreenLittleScreen)
posted by skammer (28 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
Have you seen the david bowie song?
posted by infini at 5:50 PM on January 26, 2007

I love Larry and I love Ricky. This is great.
posted by birdherder at 6:13 PM on January 26, 2007

Ricky loves This is Spinal Tap as much as I do.
Great interview with Nigel.
posted by MtDewd at 6:28 PM on January 26, 2007

For me, Shandling just entered Dennis Millerland. Wow.
posted by davebush at 6:41 PM on January 26, 2007

Awesome. Christopher Guest is very, very good. Great post!
posted by gurple at 6:54 PM on January 26, 2007

Apparently the Shandling interview scared Gervais off making any more of these. I, for one, am glad. Gervais is desperately overrated, particularly by Americans, who have had fewer opportunities to see his painful, open-mic level standup and his tireless self-promotion. I think Merchant is the brains of that operation.
posted by stammer at 7:06 PM on January 26, 2007

They are great together. I can't stand either of their shows though, this constant awkwardness just makes me cringe
posted by kolophon at 7:14 PM on January 26, 2007

"And I'll have a... vanilla.... one of the vanilla bullshit things. You know... whatever you want, some vanilla buillshit latte cappa thing, you know, whatever you got. "
posted by phaedon at 7:20 PM on January 26, 2007

oh, and arguably the best 'curb' scene ever starts in part 2 at the 3:25ish mark of this series.
posted by phaedon at 7:37 PM on January 26, 2007

I enjoyed the rapport & a number of insights in the larry david interview, and the shandling one is either wonderfully meta or honestly weird... whichever, it has made me laugh out loud more than once. I intend to watch the third at some point but I've spent too much time on this tonight! Thanks for links, tho'.
posted by mdn at 8:32 PM on January 26, 2007

Shandling was momentarily funny when he was trying to be difficult, especially with the contact lenses and not following Gervais, but he took it so far that I have to wonder if he was serious or not. That said, I've heard of comedians purposely throwing a fit and getting extremely angry as part of their "bit". Often the meta-ness of their act is praised.

Actor Jim Beaver recently said something similar here about Ron Carey, who recently died.

I choose to think Shandling thought he was being funny and meta but didn't pull it off very well.
posted by smashingstars at 8:44 PM on January 26, 2007

Goldmine post. Thank you!

They are great together. I can't stand either of their shows though, this constant awkwardness just makes me cringe

kolophon, that is what a blanket is for. Everytime an especially cringe- worthy scene comes up, put your face under the blanket as my husband and I do.
posted by LoriFLA at 8:45 PM on January 26, 2007

Thanks, that's pretty great.

You know the cringe thing is the dealbreaker, either the awkwardness makes you laugh or it doesn't and I don't mean that in the "you just don't get it man" way, some people don't laugh at that stuff and others do, it's like the cilantro thing, it's either a delicate and lovely spice or a mouthful of soap, same herb though.

That "vanilla bullshits" bit is somehow amazing, Larry David is everything that Jerry Seinfeld always wished he could be.
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:25 PM on January 26, 2007

As an American, I think I can say that it is pretty clear to me that Merchant is the brains behind the operation. Of course, I've seen Gervais' terrible stand up routines about Animals and Politics and didn't finish either as they were painfully boring. The second season of Extras has its moments, but it is mostly just Curb Your Enthusiasm without the wit. Some of the Pilkington interviews are brilliant though, as long as Ricky shuts the fuck up (even in those podcasts, my favorite bits were when Merchant jumped in with stories about himself. I dug up some of their XFM radio broadcasts and, again, Merchant's stories are always quite funnier than Gervais').
posted by Falconetti at 9:31 PM on January 26, 2007

I listened to every podcast, every season, from day one. (Not to mention Extras, the Office, the Pilkington book...) Instant classics. These interviews will be fun to watch--thanks.
posted by Ricky_gr10 at 9:35 PM on January 26, 2007

The Larry David and Chris Guest interviews are great. The Shandling one is even more cringe-worthy than Extras, but without the funny. It's painful.
posted by wsg at 10:09 PM on January 26, 2007

Weird, I only found the Shandling ones last night and watched them all. I thought they were hilariously painful and awkward. Can't wait to see the others now, I had no idea he did more.
posted by mathowie at 10:32 PM on January 26, 2007

Thanks for sharing! I spent a lot of time watching ALL of those!
posted by newfers at 10:54 PM on January 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Confession: I posted this before actually watching all of the Shandling segment. All I can say is: Yikes! I've never seen Godwin's Law manifest itself in a celebrity interview before!

(PS: This is my first FPP -- I'm glad people seem to like it.)
posted by skammer at 12:32 AM on January 27, 2007

It's interesting in part because Gervais--apart from his scenes in "For Your Consideration", relies on tightly planned scripts and careful casting. David, Shandling, and Guest are all talented improvisers and lightning quick. Gervais does well in that he seems to recognize his limitations and gets some great information out of his subjects. And he's got good taste in heroes.

Shandling wasn't the trainwreck the comments led me to expect--he's got a bit of the Chevy Chase-type mean streak but he also comes across as thoughtful. He made me laugh--especially when the trainer called in segment 6.
posted by Phred182 at 3:15 AM on January 27, 2007

I'm with stammer on this - I've seen all three, and I thought (particularly on the Shandling interview) that Gervais was desperately out of his depth.

Over-rated, unfunny and quickly overstaying his 15 minutes.
posted by mattr at 6:27 AM on January 27, 2007

I actually watched the Shandling interview a few weeks ago, after watching the last Gervais post here. I think people who think that Gervais is unfunny might be missing the point of Gervais and these segments. His humor seems to me to be very oriented towards character and his own physical body. I'm not saying this as a diehard Gervais fan--the little I've seen of Extras definitely seems less funny--but the best part of The Office was never the writing, but the overall concept of the show and his amazing, free-wheeling, really special performance as David Brent.

Gervais is probably a much worse improviser than Guest, Shandling, and David, but if you compare his performance as Brent versus, say, Larry David's in Curb Your Enthusiasm or the typical Guest improviser, Gervais is less obviously funny, but more human and dense. David's character is great, but comparatively one-note: you can see where his brusqueness is going; but Gervais's performance was polytonal--vulnerable, rude, self-conscious, ashamed, gleeful, a masterpiece of eye contact.

Also, it's important to keep in mind that the point of these documentaries isn't a comedic showdown, but a chance for Gervais to approach his idols as the deferential acolyte. In that respect, I really like that he's not approaching these documentaries the way Shandling did--as an aesthetic competition, as a way to use humor as a bulkwark against intimacy. In this way, the clips are actually somewhat educational--like when David says that Gervais is the only person who genuinely laughs in TV comedy or the way you can see the outlines of Curb Your Enthusiasm or The Office when they talk about Bilko and Laurel and Hardy.
posted by kensanway at 6:41 AM on January 27, 2007

"You carwash cunt", I have new capitol.
posted by MapGuy at 12:25 PM on January 27, 2007

As an American, I think I can say that it is pretty clear to me that Merchant is the brains behind the operation.

As another American, I'll disagree. Gervais isn't as inherently comic as Merchant or Pilkington, which is why he's capable of mediocrity as an individual performer, but he's an awfully sharp guy. The three-way banter in the podcasts, for example, wouldn't be nearly as effective without Ricky's occasional rants about the Way Things Really Are deriving from his background knowledge in science and history. Doesn't mean he's immune from making bad career moves, but he deserves full credit for his part in creating some stellar ensemble performances.
posted by Creosote at 2:35 PM on January 27, 2007

Gervais was desperately out of his depth.

Over-rated, unfunny and quickly overstaying his 15 minutes.

I have not seen the office - I watched one ep of the american version, and thought it was alright, but wasn't really hooked, and w/o a tv, I have to invest in dvd's or iTunes to watch shows, so it just faded to the background. But the few clips of the UK office that were interspersed in these interviews were simply awesome. I mean, I really want to see this show now.

Which is to say, he may be overhyped, but only because everyone gets overhyped when they do something good.

...okay, I went & watched some of his stand-up on youtube - I can't say it was brilliantly original, but somehow it really worked for me. I think what kensanway said above about the 'polytonal' nature of the character is important. He was an endearing personality laughing at absurdity, but could also play it straight at times. I dunno, possibly I also just have a weakness for british accents & word choice.

Still, the depth of the persona was appealing. I find Curb your Enthusiasm funny in parts, but I get sort of worn out by it pretty quickly. Likewise, the only seinfeld episode I ever really thought was funny was the last one, that so many fans were disappointed by. What I think I liked about it was that it was directly addressing & making fun of the one-note nature of the show. Now, of course you can say that that is there throughout the whole thing, just as a subtle comedic framework or something, but for me there was something more satisfying about having it opened up, invigorated, not just an abstract aspect.

ANyway. Gervais seemed able to slide in & out of a character, and keep things moving. Generally I'm more interested in scripts than stand-up to begin with, but he kept me entertained. So. Now I have to get my hands on a UK Office DVD.
posted by mdn at 3:10 PM on January 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

gervais seems annoying and I can barely stand to watch or listen to him. absolutely painful, especially in the larry david ones, which admittedly I couldn't get past the first one, even though I like larry david and enjoy curb your enthusiasm. the most fascinating thing about the interview is to wonder what larry david is possibly thinking as gervais rambles on like an overenthusiastic teenager.

the shandling ones were a bit more palatable, but that had a lot more to do with shandling's wit and habit of doing highly unconventional things than the poorly executed interview.

meta or not, it utterly fails as comedy, unlike the larry sanders show or curb your enthusiasm. it might work as some kind of social commentary on how not to interview funny people, but I need somebody to explain to me why that is worth this marathon of pain. perhaps the most likely explanation is that the joke is on us.

the one excerpt I enjoyed from extras was this patrick stewart one.
posted by ryanfou at 10:55 PM on January 27, 2007

Great interview. Thanks.
posted by starman at 9:59 AM on January 28, 2007

great interview
posted by autoverzekering at 12:19 PM on January 29, 2007

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