2001年，英国电视喜剧《办公室》（The Office）走红时，瑞奇·格维斯（Ricky Gervais）40岁。此后，这位前学生会活动经理继续编剧、制作、导演并出演了另一部热门剧集《临时演员》（Extras），参与了几部好莱坞电影，完成了四次全场售罄的喜剧巡演，并与合作者斯蒂芬·莫昌特（Stephen Merchant）制作了一部全球下载量第一的播客剧集。他主持了2010年和2011年的金球奖颁奖典礼，两次都引发争议。
Ricky Gervais was 40 years old when his British television mock-documentary The Office became a hit, in 2001. The former student-union events manager has gone on to write, produce, direct, and perform in another hit show, Extras; several Hollywood films; four sellout comedy tours; and a podcast series that is the most downloaded in the world—most of that work in collaboration with partner Stephen Merchant. He hosted the 2010 and 2011 Golden Globes awards ceremonies, courting controversy both times. Interviewed by Alison Beard
HBR: Why was The Office such a success?
Gervais: It was a setting everyone knew: You work there for eight hours a day, it’s arbitrary who you work with, you don’t all like it. It was about being thrown together, wanting to belong, making a difference—all those things everyone identifies with immediately, and it doesn’t matter if you’re in Slough or Scranton or Israel or any other place The Office is remade. It’s about normal people trying to get a piece. Also, write what you know. I worked in an office for seven years. I started off on reception, then I was assistant to the manager, and then I became middle management. I knew what it was like. David Brent was a Frankenstein of those people I’ve met who worry more about their reputation than their character. That can manifest itself in pretension, being needy, being two-faced, all those things we threw in. His worst crime was mistaking popularity for respect. I got it all right. It was my experience, my vision. And I nailed it.
What sort of boss are you?
Well, hopefully, a lot more self-aware than Brent. It’s funny, because in my previous job I went to management training and I was cynical. But then I quite got into team building and realized I was doing it intuitively. I did like creating a fun place to work, and having a drink with everyone after hours. And I knew that the most important thing in managing a team is to be up-front and fair. Then, people might not like what you do, because they’re not getting the thick end of the wedge, but they can’t have you on it.
You insist on complete creative control, right?
Yes, I’m a complete fascist—and you should be in art. I don’t think I’m the best producer or director or actor in the world, but I know how I want it done. I don’t try to please anyone except myself. If people like what I do, fantastic. If they don’t, that’s good, too. If you start trying to water it down or second-guess, you end up with something so safe and homogenized that a lot of people will like it, but they won’t love it. I’ve always preferred to do something that really moves a million people rather than something that washes over 10 million. The more successful you get, the more hated you are, but you should relish that, because it means you’re making a connection. And that’s the point of art.
Why did you cut the original Office series off, but then allow it to be replicated in different countries by different producers?
When you do everything yourself, you either run out of ideas or you repeat yourself or the quality goes down. When you franchise out, it can keep going but it’s not really your baby. When we did the American Office, they wanted me to play Michael Scott, and they wanted me to write and direct. We said, “What’s the point?” It should be made by Americans for Americans. And it’s great, because what comes back is your favorite sitcom that you didn’t have anything to do with.
Mainly, though, I had a backlog of ideas. I’ve got, you know, four or five things in production, but another 10 waiting; I’m deciding which ones to do and in what order. There aren’t enough hours in the day to do them all. It’s like that Keats poem: if I should die “before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain.” I started late. I don’t want to die with a good idea. I want to get it out.
Explain how you work collaboratively.
Well, with Stephen, two heads are better than one, and it’s fun. But there’s a compromise, which is bad, because the best things are a single vision. So you’ve got to find that between the two of you, and it’s luck that out of six billion people I bumped into someone who sees eye-to-eye with me on about 90% of everything we talk about. We find subjects we’re both excited about to keep conflict down. We have this golden rule: With any idea in all our brainstorming, one veto and it’s out. We don’t have to justify why we don’t like it. It just goes. Of course, the cutting-room floor is knee-deep. But the finished product we’re both proud of—not only at the time, but also in 25 years’time.
With stand-up, I’ve got a room of 10,000 collaborators and critics. Tens of thousands of people have come out and paid $60, they’ve arranged a babysitter, they’ve found a parking space, so I’d better have something to say. But what do I talk about? My voice is playing the politically incorrect character, but my target is always the sensibilities of me and everyone else: middle-class angst, prejudice, pretension. I’m saying, “You thought you couldn’t laugh here, but you can, because now you see the target is you.”
My act is an evolution, and a process of natural selection, where the audience chooses the best bits. They either laugh or they don’t, and if they don’t, the joke doesn’t survive. So what you’re left with at the end of a series of gigs is survival of the fittest.
Why do you work so hard?
I remind myself it really isn’t work. My dad was a laborer who got up at 5:30 each morning and worked for 50 years in all weathers for, by showbiz standards, petty cash. I remind myself of that every time I feel a bit hard done by. Winston Churchill said if you find a job you love, you’ll never work again. And that’s what it feels like. I used to be a lazy person, unambitious, a slacker, but now I’m a workaholic, because of the privileged position I’ve found myself in.
Fame is an upshot of what I do. If you’re a successful comedian or actor, then you’re a famous one. But it’s a by-product. It’s not the driving force. The making of it is the fun for me—not the money or the awards. It’s the process that I love, and the most exciting part is the creative thought. I’ve never done anything for a million pounds that I wouldn’t have done for free. Likewise, the awards are a thrill, but deep down I know it’s only the opinions of a few people; it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose. What matters is the work. You tried your hardest and you’re proud of it. That’s the important thing.
Tell me about a time you failed.
Well, I certainly failed at being a pop star, and that was my fault, because I was trying to be a pop star and I should have been trying to be a musician. That taught me a lesson. I was only 20, and I wasn’t doing what I wanted, I was doing what I thought would be successful. So I deserved to fail. And I’m glad I did, obviously.
Would you have been successful at comedy if you’d tried it earlier?
A bit earlier maybe. But in comedy, I think you need to find a voice, and probably a discontented one. With me, it was getting fat and approaching middle age. Comedy is also about experience. It isn’t just making people laugh, it’s making people think. If you’re not doing that, you’re not really a comedian, you’re a clown. So experience aids that. Maturity, age—that all helps. I couldn’t have written The Office when I was 20. What was I telling someone?
艾莉森·比尔德（Alison Beard） | 文
王晨 | 译 蒋荟蓉 | 校 万艳| 编辑