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Ricky Gervais: I prefer stand-up to TV because they can’t censor me

Ricky Gervais (Getty Images)
Ricky Gervais (Getty Images)

He’s made some of the biggest TV shows of his generation, but Ricky Gervais says he’d be happy to only do stand-up comedy from now on, because he thinks he can’t get censored there.

“If people said ‘There’s no more television any more’, I’d be quite happy with doing stand-up,” Gervais says. “It’s my favourite thing now”.

When he’s making TV, executives can ask for changes, but not with stand-up. “There’s no one to answer to, except the police,” Gervais joked, adding: “I think it might be going that way. As long as you don’t break the law, it’s up to you.” The comic was referring to his risqué material, which often causes scandals. This week, his former support act, Robin Ince, doubled down on accusations that Gervais’s jokes about trans people had made him “a pin-up and role model for the alt-right”.

Gervais said stand up is “less of an art form and more of a science”, with the only rule being “say the funniest thing you can”. “It either works or it doesn’t” he said. “So you know: ‘that joke works, they laughed, keep that bit. They didn’t like that bit, improve it or lose it.’ After like 50 gigs the audience have found you your perfect hour”. He went on: “Even though I get final edit on TV and film there’s still 60 people involved”.

The comic used to write his whole live shows before performing them. But with his recent sets, he goes out with just a few notes, and hones the show in front of warm up audiences. “I’ve got that sort of brain where I’d rather be doing three things rather than one, but now I’m getting older that seems more stressful. Stand up I don’t have to worry about, you go up and do your best” he said. “You don’t have to prepare, in a way.”

Ricky’s show Afterlife became Netflix’s biggest ever British comedy, with well over 100 million views. Speaking on Empire’s Pilot TV podcast, he revealed his next show will feature sweary animated cats. “I love a cat, so if they could talk, they’d be my best friend,” he said.

This week in the annual MacTaggart lecture in Edinburgh, filmmaker Louis Theroux said that broadcasters including the BBC have increasingly avoided covering morally complex topics becuase they now like “avoiding offence”.

Ashcroft has Rayner in his sights

Angela Rayner (Getty Images)
Angela Rayner (Getty Images)

Tory donor and graphomaniac Lord Ashcroft has revealed he’s writing a book about Labour deputy Angela Rayner, who he says is “hard to ignore”. Rayner, left, has a more interesting backstory than most MPs. She left school at 16 and raised a son as a single parent before moving into politics. She’s fun too, this week revealing her recent “12-hour raves” in Spain.

Rayner might be nervous: Ashcroft’s book on David Cameron aired the unsubstantiated rumour that became “Pig-gate”. The peer is also planning a book about Kemi Badenoch, a “rising star in the Conservative Party”, and a new version of his Rishi Sunak book before the election.

Labour is also heating up pre-election. The party is moving its HQ to a “smart building” with sensors that control heating, ventilation and monitor who is in. Labour are flush: new figures show they raised £47m in 2022, £17m more than the Tories. Luckily for thirsty staff, the new office is down the road from their current home in Southwark, where they are said to have a discount deal at the local pub.

Mirror, mirror

It’s good to have support. Actor Micheal Ward, who stars in new show A Mirror at Islington’s Almeida Theatre, got a big hug from his proud mum after last night’s press night. East London-raised Ward, who is known for being in Top Boy, was making his stage debut.

It looked like his mum liked it more than the Evening Standard’s critic, who wasn’t very impressed. Also there were Ward’s co-stars Jonny Lee Miller and Tanya Reynolds from Sex Education. Out in support were fellow actors David Harewood, Toheeb Jimoh from Ted Lasso, and Freddie Fox.