Ask Ricky Gervais, and he’ll tell you he started his podcast The Ricky Gervais Show so he and writing partner Stephen Merchant could hang with radio producer Karl Pilkington and hear his childlike views on life (and monkeys). Setting the world-record for number of downloads and launching an Emmy-winning HBO cartoon version? Just the cream. The Golden Globe host called EW recently to plug the animated adaptation’s Jan. 4 DVD release and ended up giving us the what’s what on holiday TV, awards ceremonies, his Christmas-inspired 20-pound weight loss, the show’s second season (premiering Jan. 14 on HBO), and his next series.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Now that you’re a seasoned awards presenter, do you have any advice for Oscar hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway?
They’re braver then me. The Oscars you’ve got to rehearse. When they said, “Will you host the Globes?” I said, “can I just turn up and do my own thing and not have a lot of cues?” And they went “yep.” And I went “fine.” So that’s my kind of job. For the Oscars, I’d have to learn a song and dance routine — way too much trouble.
What were you most proud of about last year’s Golden Globes?
I was glad I didn’t get too drunk. The only reason I hand out an award at the Emmys is so I can nip backstage for a beer. Sitting for three hours, watching other people thank their wives and husbands…. God, give me a break. To be quite honest, I want to hand out the awards, or accept the awards, and get back to my hotel room, get down to my underpants, and get drunk eating pizza while watching television. In fact, I want to do that all the time, every day — so everything I do has to compete with that.
But you’re in such good shape now.
I am, actually. I sort of got fit this year. That was a little project for me. I think it happened last Christmas, when you go from folks’ to folks’ and you have a roast dinner in every place. It was really weird, ’cause after two days I was seeing mirages. I was dreaming of fruit and there wasn’t any. I think the straw that broke the camel’s back — we didn’t have camel for Christmas, that’s a saying — was that I had sausages and mash one day and I ate 11 sausages.
So I got fit, I suppose because you approach a certain age and you think, I don’t want to die before I’ve tried every cheese in the world. So now I’ve cleaned all my arteries and I can start again. I’ve got a few extra years now. It’s never too late. I didn’t get a job ’til I was 28. That’s when I started getting fat, so you know, swings and roundabouts. And then I didn’t start this business ’til I was about 38. And I got fit at 48. I don’t know what I’m going to do at 58, maybe try heroin. I still eat and drink too much, but I’ve just been for a run in the snow. It was, honestly, like Rocky IV.
Were you pulling a sleigh?
Exactly. I was helping an old Russian peasant on Hampstead Heath ’cause his horse and trap had broken down, and then I ran up ahead, when for something reason I started shouting “Drago!” Lost my voice, it was great.
What’s on your Christmas wish list?
World peace? No, only joking: world domination. I supposed what I most look forward to — and this is serious — is that I couldn’t work if I wanted to. I’m doing loads of projects all the time just because I love it. So it’ll be nice to chill out. I won’t watch the carbs or worry too much about what I eat. I couldn’t if I tried, really. I’ll watch telly from 10 a.m. and I’ll have a gin and tonic when no one gives you a funny look.
What will you be watching?
I like the shows where D-list celebrities go around hospitals giving presents to dying children, ’cause it’s heartwarming and it makes me cry. But I never know whether it’s because I’m filled with joy and good will or because I’ve started drinking too early. Celebrity editions of bad reality shows are always good. Anything that was a normal show with normal people trying to be famous, and then there is a celebrity version. I just love the irony that the celebrities have gone on these shows now. They are working their way down to doing a normal job they hate one day. They’re doing it all in reverse.
You’re co-writing-directing a fake reality show called Life’s Too Short with Stephen Merchant right now. Are you in it?
Yeah, Stephen and I play ourselves. It’s about Warwick Davis — that is his real name, and he is really a dwarf, of course. If he wasn’t a dwarf, the makeup and prosthetics would be most inventive: It’s actually Daniel Day-Lewis playing a dwarf. He’s amazing. It’s his greatest role ever, and he had his legs shaved off especially for the part of Warwick Davis. It’s Oscar-worthy. No, Warwick plays a twisted version of himself, and the conceit is that his career is on the slide. He was in all these films, but now he’s got a bit of a tax bill, so he’s letting this camera crew follow him, sort of rather like The Osbournes.
And you’ve got the second season of The Ricky Gervais Show coming up.
The second series is even better than the first — it’s brave directorially as well. I’m very excited about that. I mean, it’s great to be a cartoon. It’s ridiculous. That happened to like, Laurel and Hardy and the Jackson 5. It’s a little passion project. I did the podcast for a laugh to sit in a room with Karl and Steve. It was an excuse, really, and then that took off. I did Flanimals to make my nephew laugh when he was little, and now that’s being made into a film. And The Office — I worked in an office for seven years and I people watched. If you do things that you’re really passionate about, that you really enjoy, then you’re going to do something that hasn’t been done before. You should never do anything for anyone other than yourself in terms of creativity. Classically, I think people did it for themselves and God. Well, I haven’t got a God, so it’s all for me. I don’t have to share anything with God. Merry Christmas!
Karl is always talking about his girlfriend, Suzanne, and in the show she only appears with her face covered. How have you managed to keep her identity a secret for nearly a decade?
She’s like Columbo’s wife. It’s great, isn’t it? I love the fact that Karl’s created this world of his real people and real friends. I think to see them would spoil it, because everyone’s got their own opinion of what his mum and his dad, and Suzanne and Auntie Nora look like.
Did you have any requirements for how the cartoons would look?
I did. I sent a little sketch to them, ‘cause I wanted it to look like Hanna-Barbera. I wanted it to be very sweet and retro, ‘cause we say things that are quite out there. Karl says the most horrendous things by mistake, without any malice, because he’s an idiot. Like, he thought Anne Frank was just avoiding paying rent. I think that if it was too spiky and trendy it would be unwatchable. You’ve got to think of Karl like a child, who when he points at someone in the supermarket, ’cause they’ve got a head like a bag of spuds, he doesn’t know what he’s done wrong.
What would you get Karl, Steve, Warwick, and Suzanne for Christmas if you could get them anything?
Well, Suzanne’s favorite thing in the world is Karl, so she’s happy. And it’s mutual. But I’d give Karl Warwick, ’cause that would be the best gift I could give him, I think. Steve would probably like a drink with Bruce Springsteen. If I’d arranged for Bruce to go around to Steve’s house, and sign one of his albums, that would be the best present Steve could have. And what would Warwick want? A little hoverboard. I’d get Warwick a little hoverboard so he could whiz around like Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future II. He’d love that.