GQ has published an amazing interview with comedian/smirking beet Ricky Gervais, in which writer Chris Heath calls him on his arrogant shit, Gervais faintly protests and then backs right into confirming the accusations of assholery anyway. This happens again and again. If self-awareness is the string, Gervais is a yo-yo.
Self-awareness, that's a great place to start. Heath wonders if Gervais shares his former Office character David Brent's blindness regarding how he is perceived by others. The answer will make your head spin, or at least move back and forth like you're watching a ping-pong match or someone with a three-foot penis masturbate:
This will sound arrogant: I don't worry about it at all. I think I'm pretty self-aware. I think I know what I'm doing. You know when you've been a prat, you know when you're being a prat, you know when something sounds pretentious. But you're right—by definition you don't know.
So he knows, but he doesn't know. Moving on, Heath asks about the idea that Gervais has fallen off and lost what people liked about him in the first place. Gervais has heard this. But!
But then I sell 30,000 tickets in an hour. So what have I lost? What do they mean: I've lost it? They mean they don't like Derek as much as Extras? Science as much as Animals[two of his stand-up specials]? They mean they don't like me. That's what they mean. So they're trying to justify their dislike in a critical response. That's what I think, if I'm being brutally honest. They have to say The Office was good—they have to. Not because it was, but because most people think it was. But I do love that Joseph Heller quote. A journalist said, "If I'm being honest, I don't think you've ever written anything as good as Catch-22." And Joseph Heller said, "Who has?"
The whole interview has this ugly, defensively arrogant tone that comes as a result of a public figure being way to open about his examination of his own work, its importance and the public reaction to it. It's hard to win in a situation like this — if you answer honestly about how great you think you are because you are a celebrity and you're putting yourself out there precisely because you have at least a modicum of pride, you're a prick; if you say, "No comment," you're a prick. That said, just because this is a losing battle doesn't mean you have to lose this hard.
Elsewhere Gervais says he was ashamed of making money for The Office, that his first check made him feel "sad." He swats this away with a caveat: "And I can't bear to think how this will come out in print. I don't want to hear a rich man talk about his poverty." He apologizes for his treating of frequenting of private jets and shoulder-rubbing with A-listers like it's some giant accident by sharing this pat-on-the-back of an anecdote:
When The Office broke, I was invited by the BBC as a VIP thing to a David Bowie concert. I'm still living in the same flat—it's not like I became a millionaire overnight. And there's me, Jane [Gervais's girlfriend since he was 21], Salman Rushdie, talking to David Bowie. The next day I was in the pub with my mate and he went, "What did you do last night?" and I went, "Nothing."
Just a normal guy, totally unaffected by the fame and adulation, right?
GQ: But when [a critic] says "vile, cynical, and dishonest"? Or an "appalling piece of comedy hackwork"?
Ricky Gervais: [chuckling] Both of those made me laugh when you said them. "Vile, cynical..." [laughing more] That's something you'd say about Charles Manson, not a bloke who made a twenty-three-minute sitcom! "Vile, cynical, and dishonest"! "What'd he do?" "Did a sitcom..." [falls on his side to the sofa, he is laughing so hard] Cunts!
GQ: But can you just brush it off?
Ricky Gervais: Yeah. Who said it?
GQ: I can't remember specifically right now.
Ricky Gervais: Right. But who wrote and directed Derek?
GQ: [puzzled] You did.
Ricky Gervais: You remember that, don't you?
[Image via Getty]