Ricky Gervais’s ‘Derek’ – That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore

That joke isn't funny any more...Derek

That joke isn't funny any more...Derek

‘Derek’ – That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore
Ricky Gervais’ ‘Derek’, Channel 4, 10pm, Thursday 12th April

Comedian Stewart Lee recently said that he hoped “Ricky Gervais didn’t do something so awful as to undo ”˜The Office’”. It seems that with latest effort ”˜Derek’, Gervais may well have just achieved that. ”˜Derek’, a one-off special for Channel 4 starring Gervais as a disabled care worker, could have been the perfect riposte to the more Daily Mail-style critiques of his comedy. As with ”˜Life’s Too Short’, it was an uneasy misfire. I was with huge admiration for Gervais’ repeated assertions that ”˜just because someone is offended it doesn’t mean they’re right’, but this would be a far more resonant point if being offensive was the strongest accusation one could level at Gervais’ recent work. Indeed, the greatest crime Ricky Gervais seems to be committing with ”˜Derek’ and ”˜Life’s Too Short’ is being lazy and boring.

The big laughs of ”˜Derek’ were aimed dubiously low. The hunched title character sitting on a crumble and custard was cheap but falling into a pond and running naked through the elderly care home was toe curlingly embarrassing for all the wrong reasons. For fans of ”˜Extras’, Gervais’ Derek felt achingly too much like Mr. Stokes ”“ Gervais’ parody of the lazy, gimmicky funny-voice atrocities of catchphrase comedy. The same lazy scriptwriting that left ”˜Life’s Too Short’ stuck in a cheap hinterland between a mockumentary and a sitcom punctuated by jaded celebrity cameos was constantly present within ”˜Derek’. However, the show was not without its high points; Karl Pilkington’s acting debut was suspiciously good with his deadpan delivery adding much needed texture, and though much of the sentimentality felt like a forced emulation of what made ”˜the Office’ so special, it was a step in the right direction and aimed for a warmth somewhat absent from modern comedy. it’s hard to attain the genuine emotion and empathy aimed for in ‘Derek’ when the characters feel too lazily arranged and unrealistic.

In the five years since the ”˜Extras’ finale it’s difficult to find many fingerprints of the careful yet daring genius that was previously the hallmark of his talent. Gervais alienating newspaper critics is frankly of little relevance, but alienating those for whom ”˜the Office’ and ”˜Extras’ were beacons of dangerous brilliance are another. When asked how it felt to be written off as irrelevant, Noel Coward once said “Well, in the first place, nobody of particular importance wrote me off.” Whilst Gervais may take this attitude about many of his critics, it may soon be the case that it’s his own fan base that write him off more crucially than his critics.

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19 comments on “Ricky Gervais’s ‘Derek’ – That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore”

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  1. Djunfitforwork

    He’s a c*nt -pure and simple. Believes himself to be the “King of British Comedy” despite all the evidence. If this self-appointed “Emperor” is now -at last – seen in his naked stupidity -so much the better. Move along now folks -nothing more to see.

  2. “Whilst Gervais may take this attitude about many of his critics, it may soon be the case that it\’s his own fan base that write him off more crucially than his critics.”

    I wish this were true but one look at Twitter will demonstrate that his idiot sycophantic fanbase will eat up any old toss that he offers up and declare it ‘Genius’.

  3. I’m with Djunfitforwork on this. I quite liked The Office, was totally ambivalent towards Extras and I’ve actively hated everything else he’s done. Furthermore the very sight of him makes my knuckles itch.

  4. The Office is was obviously his Rattus Norvegicus and he can be forgiven if he produces the occasional Written In Red.

    The “we hate Ricky” press brigade really are boring, condeming the chap before they´ve even seen the programme. He´s a working class lad who´s come good, now the stones are aimed firmly at his head. I didn´t hear any cries of inapropriateness aimed at Matt Lucas and Davis Walliams for their portrayl of disabilities with the characters of Andy and Annie in Little Britain. Why not? Certainly the character of Annie was solely there to be laughed at for no other reason than she was severely handicapped.

    As for Stewart Lee saying that this show will just encourage people to bully kids at school by calling them a Derek. Perhaps he´s right but when I was a kid in school we used to call people Joey after cerebral palsy suferer Joey Deacon who regularly appeared on Blue Peter. Maybe Blue Peter shouldn´t have been so irresponsible eh. Perhaps we should remove any trace of disability from TV in order to prevent kids from being idiotic and cruel.

    The show itself portrayed the bullies of Derek in a negative light, one ending up with a comical head butt.

    While the programme was in no way insulting to those with learning disabilities, I did think it was severely lacking in plenty of areas. It had a noticable lack of confidence about it. Ricky preferring to stick to his mockumentary style instead of really going for a comedy drama format. Perhaps the character of Derek needed a better actor who could garner more sympathy. The slapstick of the sitting on the apple crumble and custard and falling in the pond is fine, I think Gervais likes to point out that slapstick is funny whatever the physical limitations or akwardness of the character.
    There were nice moments and with a few more characters, better actors and alot more belief I think it could be a surprise comedy drama hit.

  5. Pseuds’ Corner.

  6. The most over rated comedian on TV . And if i hear that stupid false laugh again i think i’ll commit murder .

  7. Sorry `Meh´I guess I should´ve just called him a cunt and left it at that. Will remember next time. I mean I wouldn´t want to upset you or anything.

  8. I loved The Office but now worry that it was simply Gervais playing himself. In total agreement with the above assertion that the man is a raging egomaniacal twit and that whole laughing at his own jokes in his grating whinny gets my goat every time.

  9. Am i not getting this….I thought it was brilliant!
    I was suprised by how good Karl Pilkington was,and I felt the ‘Derek’ character was well observed. The emotional scenes didnt appear contrived to me, quite the opposite. My wife was crying by the end of it and I was moved. This was a gem of a piece, and like good wine, will mature with age.

    • you’re not alone Al. Totally agree, pathos, well observed characterisation, gentle not cruel laughs. Brilliant. Can understand why people hate RJ – his percieved arrogance and smugness – but this was a quality piece of work.

    • I thought the show could stand on it’s own two feet without the mocumentary format. I found it hard to believe that a documentary crew would choose to follow someone like this around, so it was generally no believable to me. Ricky in interviews has said the the character is no more daft than Dugal in Father Ted, and while he may be right, that actor was never making a face and crossing his eyes. He also stated that he has always in the past hired a disabled actor to play a disabled character, and he doesn’t feel that Derek is disabled. If he wanted the character to come across that way, he should have dropped the face-making and just made him a real person like David Brent.

      This one just doesn’t hit on all cylinders, and while it has it’s moments, it’s nothing compared to the subtle perfection of the original Office.

  10. David J. Harris

    Being a huge fan of Ricky Gervais I felt let down with ‘Derek’on channel 4, maybe I was expecting too much based on his sterling previous track record. I had obviously set my expectations too high because the goods were not delivered. I thought Karl Pilkingtons acting debut was brilliant though, just a shame it wasn’t one of Gervias’s better works to showcase him. Karls character was very much himself though I thought which made ‘An Idiot Abroad’ fantastic viewing. I guess all artists make something cringe worthy eventually in the career, hope it’s just a blip! Maybe with age I become harder to satisfy, maybe i should lower the bar!

  11. Derek was great “Who would win in a fight between a suicide bomber and a shark ? ”

    I know someone who is just like Derek and he loved it !

    Only thing that pissed me off was Karl’s “Max Wall” wig
    Ps – wish some of my famous mates would give me parts in their stuff !!!

  12. It’s a fucking great show if you don’t get it then don’t watch it!!

  13. Are you people for real? The man’s gotta eat AND work? Would you rather he made “The Office: Jason’s Revenge”? He’s trying something different, and if you take your PC glasses off for a moment you’ll take it for what it is: entertainment. I found it quite funny and lighthearted – not a mean joke on the mentally challenged. I’ve known people like Derek – and you’ll never see his sort on TV unless its a documentary about “their sad little lives”. If you’re so stuck on seeing more of the same, I suggest you pop The Office Season 1 DVD in your player and leave it on loop.

  14. He might come back with a Norfolk Coast yet

  15. Great review. You hit the nail on the head I think, in regards to the big laughs being aimed dubiously low. When it’s not slapstick, then it’s two words: scatological jokes. When episode 2 starts with Kev saying he sh*t himself, featuring audio , that just seems such a low. This show relies a lot on “gross out” humour (dentures in sink, jokes about Kev’s odour; well , Kev in general). It causes cringe, and not in the good funny The Office type way.

    Which is a pity because I think his heart was in the right place but just came of too didactic with the message about kindness on one hand, and lack of humour on the other.

    I watched it solely because I am a huge admirer of Karl Pilkington. He is the best thing about the show and it’s nice the review recognizes his talent.

    However, please don’t let it undo The Office for you (that would be so sad) – to me it is easy to distance it, because Stephen Merchant was not involved so maybe it emhasised the talent of Merhchant by the result of his abscence , and that they are better as a team.

    Plus, with David Brent’s recent concerts, the Office is still well alive to me .

  16. Dose of Reality

    I’m curious what it is you miserable snobs do think is funny.

  17. Dose of Reality

    …or meaningful.

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