Ricky Gervais has said that he treats the subject of suicide in his new sitcom with respect.
In After Life, Gervais plays Tony, a man who loses his wife to cancer, and who, while considering suicide, begins saying and doing whatever he wants.
In the show’s trailer, he tells his psychiatrist that ‘a good is day is when I don’t go around wanting to shoot random people in the face and then turn the gun on myself’.
He’s goes on to say ‘I can do what the f**k I want, then when it all gets too much, I can always kill myself, it’s like a superpower’, and is also shown walking into the sea.
But Gervais has defended the subject matter, saying that suicide is not the focal point of the comedy series.
“I don’t think suicide is the topic. I think the topic is grief, and grief makes you think lots of things. I don’t think suicide is any more the topic than him getting drunk every night,” he said during a panel interview with press.
“It’s just that it’s final. I think that’s why we think it’s a bigger subject. It’s final, and that’s why I think it takes the eye. But again, it exists, and I treat it respectfully.
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‘Everyone assumes comedy about something is disrespectful. So I’ve heard roundtables on radio shows discussing why Ricky Gervais shouldn’t be making jokes about this subjects, and I’m like ‘well you’re talking about it, I’m just doing it in a funny way’.
“They assumed that any subject, I’m taking the p**s, and offence is usually taken when people confuse the subject of the joke with the actual target. And they’re not necessarily the same thing.
“You can joke about anything, it depends on the actual joke I think. Someone will find every single thing offensive in some way, or disrespectful or just worried that it should be on telly.
“I just go ‘why not? Why?’ and they’ve got to come up with a reason why they shouldn’t do it, I think. The reason is they don’t like it, but that’s it.”
(Trailer contains strong language)…
Kerry Godliman, who plays Gervais’s late wife in the show added: “There’s a high rate of suicide, there’s a high rate of cancer, all these things are going on in everyone’s lives, and it’s like saying, we’re not showing this, we’re not showing that.
“I suppose because it’s in ‘comedy’ that everyone’s discombobulated.”
Also starring Penelope Wilton, David Bradley, Jo Hartley, Roisin Conaty and Paul Kaye, it airs on Netflix from March 8.