Ricky Gervais has defended his new TV show Derek over concerns the sitcom mocks those with learning difficulties.
The funnyman plays the title role in the series, which is billed as the story of "a simple, vulnerable man working in an old people's home".
The show is yet to be broadcast but Gervais has already been forced to address critics who claim the comedy makes light of the mentally disabled, insisting the character does not have a "specific and defined disability".
Gervais says, "Derek is a fictional character and is defined by his creator, me. If I say I don't mean him to be disabled then that's it. A fictional doctor can't come along and prove me wrong.
"He's different. But then so are a lot of people. He's not the smartest tool in the box but he's cleverer than Father Dougal (from Irish sitcom Father Ted), and not as different as (Rowan Atkinson's comedy creation) Mr. Bean. He's based on those people you meet who are on the margins of society. Nerds, loners, underachievers."
Gervais previously came under fire from disability rights campaigners for using the word "mong" - a term which can be used to refer to people with Down's Syndrome - in his Science stand-up show and in a post on his Twitter.com page.
Derek will debut on Thursday.