Ricky Gervais Creates Outlandish Comedy with David Bowie

Ricky Ger­vais’s first brush with fame, at least on the oth­er side of the pond, was as the front man of the ‘80s synch pop band Seona Danc­ing. If you watch the music video below of the band’s near-hit “Bit­ter Heart” from 1983, you can see a skin­nier, svel­ter Ger­vais with over-moussed hair croon­ing like he was David Bowie. He indeed does sounds a bit like Bowie. He moves like Bowie. And if you squint your eyes, you can almost con­vince your­self that Ger­vais even looks like Bowie (or the lead singer of A‑ha).

Seona Danc­ing fold­ed in 1984 because they ulti­mate­ly failed to crack the Top 40. So after drift­ing around the music indus­try, Ger­vais turned to com­e­dy. But that didn’t mean that he for­got about Bowie. Before he struck fame and for­tune with The Office, he made a one-off show called Gold­en Years in 1998. He played Clive Mead­ows, an obliv­i­ous, Bowie-obsessed cor­po­rate mid­dle man­ag­er who pre­pares for an appear­ance on the British tal­ent series Stars In Their Eyes by dress­ing up as the rock star dur­ing his Aladdin Sane peri­od, com­plete with satin pants, red wig and light­ning bolt face paint.

Not long after The Office pre­miered, Ger­vais got a chance to meet his idol when the BBC invit­ed him to a con­cert. “David Bowie has been a hero of mine for 25 years,” he told the Dai­ly Mir­ror. “He is quite spe­cial and you meet him and you think he is going to come out of some weird tube and say ‘hel­lo, I’m a space boy’. But he does­n’t, he says ‘hel­lo I’m David’.” Of course, when Ger­vais was intro­duced, Bowie had no idea who he was.

Then a few weeks lat­er, Ger­vais received an email from Bowie, who clear­ly caught up on his TV view­ing. “So I watched that Office. I laughed. What do I do now?”

That sparked a friend­ship between the two. As Ger­vais recount­ed in an inter­view in GQ Mag­a­zine:

I remem­ber, I think, the first time that I knew him when it was his birth­day, I sent him an e‑mail that said “57???? Isn’t it about time that you got a prop­er job? Ricky Ger­vais, 42, come­di­an.” He sent back: “I have a prop­er job. David Bowie, 57, Rock God.”

Their rela­tion­ship cul­mi­nat­ed in a guest appear­ance on Gervais’s HBO series Extras. In the episode, which you can watch above, Ger­vais plays Andy Mill­man, an obliv­i­ous, des­per­ate movie extra look­ing to break into the big time. When he annoys Bowie, play­ing him­self, at a posh bar with his self-absorbed whin­ing, the rock star turns to a piano and starts to toss off a damn­ing, but catchy, lit­tle dit­ty on the spot about Ger­vais called “Lit­tle Fat Man.” (Lyrics include: ““Pathet­ic lit­tle fat man / No one’s bloody laugh­ing / The clown that no one laughs at / They all just wish he’d die”)

While mak­ing the episode, he and Bowie worked togeth­er on mak­ing the song:

“Have you got the lyrics?” and he went, “Yeah.” I said, “Can you do some­thing quite retro, like ‘Life on Mars’?” And he went [dead­pan], “Oh, of course, yeah, sure. I’ll knock off a quick ‘Life on Mars,’ shall I?”

via Net­work Awe­some

Relat­ed Con­tent:

David Bowie Recalls the Strange Expe­ri­ence of Invent­ing the Char­ac­ter Zig­gy Star­dust (1977)

Ricky Ger­vais Presents “Learn Gui­tar with David Brent”

“Learn Eng­lish With Ricky Ger­vais,” A New Pod­cast Debuts (NSFW)

Sein­feld, Louis C.K., Chris Rock, and Ricky Ger­vais Dis­sect the Craft of Com­e­dy (NSFW)

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing lots of pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

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