Ricky Gervais: I have no animosity towards stars I make jokes about

Ricky Gervais has said he has “no animosity” towards stars such as Kevin Hart, James Corden and Sir Kenneth Branagh who are the subject of jokes in his new Netflix series.

Gervais has written and directed After Life, in which he also stars, about a man so consumed with grief over the death of his wife that he decides to say and do whatever he wants.

The show sees his character Tony take swipes at Corden and Sir Kenneth, and show contempt for his colleague, played by Diane Morgan, for her love of US comedian and actor Hart.

Gervais told the Press Association: “They get it. I hope they know I’ve got nothing against them.

“I’ve met them all, Kevin gave his permission to use a photo.

“James did an impression of me in his show, I didn’t take it personally, it’s just fun.

“The point of that is that Tony is not up for this frivolity, so when Diane Morgan keeps talking about all these fun things it’s just like ‘Please kill me, just shut up’.

“I’ve got no animosity. People will think that though, but as long as they (the subjects) don’t, that’s all I care about.”

After Life
Ricky Gervais with Penelope Wilton in After Life (Natalie Seery/Netflix)

Discussing the show’s dark and caustic tone, Gervais said: “I have always dealt with taboo subjects but probably more obviously comedically and this is the most dramatic.”

He added: “It is tragic but it’s still somehow funny all the way through, but then so was my mum’s funeral – we were crying and then laughing at stuff, the speeches and stuff, and that is what humour is for.

“There is no better tool to get you through bad things, there is no better way to discuss bad things than with a sense of humour, it makes you bullet proof.

“When someone says ‘That joke is offensive’, I want to say: ‘No, what you’ve got to say is you found it offensive, you have got to own that emotion because that is all you’re doing. You’re telling me how you feel, you’re not putting forward an argument’ and I think no harm can come from discussing taboo subjects.

“In the same way that I think offence is a good thing because it makes people have to think why is it offensive? Because you’re not meant to discuss it?”

Gervais added that the most harm comes when comedians try to water down their material to avoid causing offence.

He said: “People do a big subject and then go ‘Aah I had better not, some people wont’ like that’. Well it’s rubbish then, put your thoughts down and people will love it.

“My job as a writer and a director is to make the audience feel as passionately about these things as I do, for whatever reason.

“I don’t care whether they love it or hate it, laugh or cry, get angry, as long as they feel something, that’s it really. I welcome an emotion.”

He continued: “What a privilege this job is, making stuff up and then getting people to play it, it’s amazing.

“It’s the biggest toy box in the world. It’s just fun, what an amazing experience.

“We can’t complain. Actors can’t complain, our job is too fun and too easy and too well paid.”

After Life will stream on Netflix from March 8.