Ricky Gervais is one of the most popular and widely recognised comedy performers and writers of the 21st century. He is known for his television comedies and comedy dramas The Office, Extras, After Life, and Derek, his travel series An Idiot Abroad, his podcast The Ricky Gervais Show, and for his stand-up comedy. He has written, directed, and acted in a number of films including The Invention of Lying, David Brent: Life on the Road, and Ghost Town. He has also been an author and musician and has worked in radio.
He is regularly the subject of controversy due to his dark comedy. Some critics have called him insensitive and outrageous. Gervais has responded by saying ‘Offense is the collateral damage of free speech. It's a good thing. It forces people to think and come up with an argument.’
Gervais is a self-declared atheist and frequently explores questions about life, death, and religion through his work. These themes are particularly strong in his hit series After Life which has been praised for its examination of grief, loss, friendship, and human connection – all from a humanist perspective. Interviewed by The Observer in February 2013, he said:
‘...I don't believe there is a God but there's nothing wrong with spirituality if that makes you a happier, nicer person. But religion is something else, it's a way of controlling people. It's no coincidence that the people in charge of religion aren't the kindest or most forgiving. My point is that… you don't need whatever religion gives you. Just be kind.’
Gervais is a strong supporter of the campaign for legal assisted dying, saying:
‘Life is an amazing adventure. We have 80, 90 years of this holiday on Earth. It’s incredible. As long as the good days outweigh the bad, it’s amazing and it’s worth sticking around. But when it’s not good anymore I think you should be able to opt out. It shouldn’t be as frivolous as going into Boots. I support things like Dignitas, but it's a shame that you have to get your loved one on a plane and do it like a criminal.’