Catching up with Ricky Gervais

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The Brit comic pulls no punches with his acerbic wit but former co-star Eric Bana was stunned when he copped a serve... of a different kind.

What is your greatest strength?

I can’t answer this without sounding like David Brent or Donald Trump. I think I can see the bright side of things. I’m resilient, I work hard and treat others as I would like to be treated.

What’s your greatest weakness? 

There’s a queue: I get easily stressed; I want everything to be lovely all the time; I can’t let anything go; I always have to be right; and I always have to win at Trivial Pursuit because I take it very seriously.

Does anything scare you? 

Spiders; I’m arachnophobic. I’m terrified of being told how long I’ve got to live. I’m not scared of dying but of being told, “You’ve got a month to live. What do you want to do?” If we just died in our sleep I wouldn’t worry about anything, except spiders. 

What virtue do you admire most in people?

Kindness. You want people to be all-rounders – honest, loyal and tolerant – but kindness pretty much trumps everything.

If you could do any other job, what would it be?

Working with animals. My fantasy is to live in a house in the middle of a forest and when I open the French doors in the morning all these bewildered, injured animals I’ve saved come up to me. It’s like a Disney movie; me living on a sanctuary. 

What’s one thing about you that would surprise people?

I’m good at tennis. It always surprises people. They don’t think this little fat frame can get around the court as well as it does. Eric Bana was shocked that I beat him. He was laughing at one point. This six-foot-three Adonis of a man, who probably grew up on a tennis court, suddenly gets beaten.

What’s your most treasured possession? 

I’ve got a letter and signed boxing glove from Muhammad Ali; that’s quite poignant. I have a signed Homer Simpson drawing by [cartoonist] Matt Groening and a signed harmonica that David Bowie gave me when he introduced me onstage at Madison Square Garden. Those are the things that I would save in a house fire. And the cat.

What’s your idea of absolute happiness? 

Knowing that I’d die in my sleep.

If you could have dinner with two famous people, who would you choose?

Bob Dylan. His insight on the world was remarkable for a guy who strummed a guitar and sang with a gravelly voice. And Winston Churchill. I’d just sit and watch. That would be a hell of a meeting of minds. 

What travel experience is on your bucket list? 

Australia is at the top. I want to see the wildlife. I talk to Australians and they say, “Come over” and then they say, “Oh, be careful of the redbacks, the jellyfish, the sharks and the brown snakes.” Whoa, whoa! I’d stay out of the water, out of the bush and check my socks in the morning. 

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Violence. I love boxing, UFC, vigilante movies. When I say violence, I mean violence between two consenting adults playing sport, or stuff like Game of Thrones

If you could turn back time, what would you change in your life?

There are trivial things, like I’d have worn sunblock and flossed. A serious one: I wish I’d have got my mum to stop smoking. She died of lung cancer and it’s horrible. 

What is your greatest achievement? 

I’m proud that I came into the world with nothing – a working-class kid in a council estate in Reading. My dad was a labourer, my mum was a housewife and I did my best with that. I didn’t turn to crime or drugs [laughs]. I didn’t start doing this job until I was 39. I didn’t get fit until I was 48. You can always better yourself and be proud of it.

What is the most English thing about you?

Sarcasm. Brits show affection by taking the piss. It’s like when you’re too embarrassed to hug, you go, “Jesus, you’ve let yourself go, you fat bastard.” That’s a hug in Britain! 

How would you like to be remembered?

“He was always laughing and trying to make other people laugh. And then he found a lump.” 

SEE ALSO: Catching up with Bill Crystal

 

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