Humor

Watch Ricky Gervais make Jimmy Fallon uncomfortable many times on his own show

The Tonight Show becomes much more fun when Jimmy loses all control of his guest

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Comedian and actor Ricky Gervais stopped into The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon last night to promote his newest movie, David Brent: Life on the Road. The film resurrects Gervais's character from The Office, boss David Brent, who finally decides to pursue his dream of touring with a rock band. Besides the February 10th release date, you won't learn much more about the movie from Jimmy Fallon's interview with Gervais. That's because 1) Gervais is a master at awkward comedy and 2) Jimmy Fallon's strength isn't interviewing guests. The second reason can't hurt his show—viewers are tuning in for the skits and music—but the first reason, combined with the second, make this interview a classic example of Gervais's genius.

In less than eight minutes Gervais turns this one of his many promotion stops into a stand-up routine.

"You look great, by the way," Fallon says about two sentences into the interview. And from there, Gervais takes over. "I look great? Is that sarcasm?" He jokes about seeing through the fake compliments a talk show host is required to give the guest. "You see, this is the thing with you, innit, it's a talk show, 'Oh, you look great,' even though—look at me!" The crowd, too, is immediately on his side, laughing over Fallon's pretend attempts to recenter the conversation.

To be clear, Fallon's encouraging all this. He's interviewed Ricky Gervais many times and all talk-show hosts know what to expect. He's not genuinely trying to recapture his interview. In a way, he's still in control by the way he subtly eggs Gervais on. But Gervais, in his signature way, moves closer and closer to the inappropriate (for late-night TV) and offensive.

The other part of Gervais's style is that he performs as if he's genuinely passionate about what he's saying, when all the passion is leading directly to a punch line: "You see those guys on documentaries, and they're, like, 700 pounds, and I'm thinking, when they got to 300 pounds, didn't they go, 'Oh, this is a bit… much,' d'you know what I mean?" The crowd erupts but he continues because he's going even farther than anyone thinks.

That's when Fallon starts to look genuinely lost, as if the producer is starting to sound urgent in his ear: "Okay, get back to the movie, now." And Gervais knows what's happening; he can probably see the guy behind the cameras waving his hands and pointing to the cue cards. That's exactly what he wants, because it creates a feeling of unpredictability and hilarious tension, even on a show that viewers know has been taped and edited. So he starts another story, "So there's this woman in England, right?" And Fallon sits back in his chair to prepare himself.

In the second clip, the interview moves, for a few seconds, to the movie. The posters for his movie and Sausage Party line up a whole series of body part jokes that have Fallon cringing over and over. Gervais, clearly enjoying the tension he's built, makes an expert move at the 1:30 mark, by flipping the joke around on Jimmy, who simply cannot decide how to react. Finally, Gervais is the one to pull the conversation back to his movie and let Fallon introduce the clip. The whole segment is an incredible class on cringe-comedy by one of the experts. What else would you expect from David Brent?

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Happy Birthday, Elliott Smith: The Indie Rock Legend's 10 Best Songs

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Today, August 6, 2020, Elliott Smith would have turned 51 years old.

Smith was born in Omaha, Nebraska, raised in north Texas, and spent a good portion of his life in Portland, Oregon before settling in Los Angeles. Before his sudden and mysterious death in 2003, the prolific singer-songwriter released five studio albums of poignant, rootsy indie rock, with his sixth studio album and a compilation of rarities being released posthumously. He became known for his dismal lyrics—often referencing his mental health and substance abuse habits—and his distinctively whispery vocals, which he often double-tracked to create an eerie, textured ambiance.

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MUSIC

David Brent Rocks in the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge

The U.K.'s biggest rock star plays "Life On The Road" and a Sinatra cover with his band.

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Ricky Gervais's rockstar David Brent character stopped by the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge this week for a 2-song set including an original off his debut album and a Frank Sinatra cover. With his band, Foregone Conclusion, behind him, Gervais drove into "Life On The Road" like it was Springsteen's "Meeting Across the River."

Gervais, in Brent character, keeps it dark, mysterious, gritty. The song starts in media res with Brent on his way to a meeting down in Sidcup. No explanation, no names; "It's just a pitch," he says, implying a meeting with a record label, "And then I'm off to Ipswich." Off to Ipswich, the southeast England port and county seat of Suffolk. Also see: nonmetropolitan. Not exactly New York City.

"Life On the Road" has clear hip hop influences in its lyrical rhymes and rhythms but the chorus echoes Eagles-esque rock ballads. The chords and harmonies might be pulled straight from 70s acoustic rock and Brent's delivery is a fantastic impression of the serious on-the-road rocker. It bleeds drama.

Expectations for a song written by Gervais's David Brent character rightly include terrible jokes, racism, sexism, or worse. Instead, the humor in this song and most of the album comes from its very existence—the fact that this is really happening, Ricky Gervais performing as a character on a real tour with a real band. It's missing any of Brent's usual offensive or brutally unsuccessful jokes.

The humor only comes in the chorus and it's at the severe expense of Brent, himself, though he'd be too confident to realize. "Foot down to the floor," he sings, "70 miles an hour / But no more." The rocker's flooring it for his music career but his top speed is only seventy: the maximum speed limit on U.K. motorways. It's a fittingly mediocre climax to a character whose entire being is based on his unfailing mediocrity.

The Sinatra Cover

For the obligatory Live Lounge cover song, David Brent and Foregone Conclusion performed a heartfelt version of Frank Sinatra's "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas."

The soft piano and clean guitar complement Brent's smooth voice in this faithful cover. It's entirely sincere, at least until the second verse. The line, "Make the Yuletide gay," doesn't escape Brent's notice. "Haha, gay," he chuckles, finally back to the childish "Office" humor. But the rest of the cover is a nice Christmas tribute to Frank Sinatra. He finishes the song with characteristic Brent awkwardness: "Merry Christmas everyone," he says, "…innit……and the new year."

The new David Brent film, also called Life On The Road, will premiere on Netflix in February 2017.

Listen to the soundtrack album on Apple Music and Spotify.