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Ricky Gervais Meets... Garry Shandling (2006)

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Fascinating Viewing - if only for its awkwardness
7 March 2007 | by (London) – See all my reviews

Just to clear things up. Some have suggested that this documentary is in fact staged, and that, as both comedians are adept and familiar with the comedy of awkwardness, they have created a fictional interview. This, however, is not the case.

People see it as naive to think this is real, but from what we know about Gervais' persona and comments made afterwards from other writers, friends, comedians (Gervais nor Shandling have yet commented on this interview), it becomes more apparent that what was taking place was 'car crash TV. Combined with simple understandings of body language, linguistics, conversation analysis and basic social conduct, it is obvious Shandling's guard is up from the start.

Knowledge of Shandling suggests he is notoriously difficult to get along with, and rarely does TV interviews. Gervais on the other hand, is more loquacious and comfortable in front of the camera as 'himself'

  • he appears frequently on chat shows, interviews, etc. It would not be
too unthinkable therefore, that Shandling mistakes Gervais' over confidence with a superiority thing, and instead goes on the attack. It has been argues that Shandling genuinely suffers from a superiority complex, and this would go quite far in explaining his reaction to Gervais manner of interviewing.

Compared to the interviews Gervais did with Christopher Guest and Larry David, it is strikingly obvious that the tone of the whole interview is different, more edgy and uncomfortable. At one point, in discussing taboo subjects of comedy, Shandling accuses Gervais of being anti-Semitic, and told Gervais he looked like a naughty school boy, knowing he was being mischievous. Gervais seems genuinely perplexed by this and then has to explain the nuances of awkward comedy to Shandling (Shandling - the godfather of awkward comedy).

To me, this is engaging viewing. Channel four nearly pulled the plug on airing (instead it was delayed 6 months, then aired at an impossible viewing time) a\and the reasons are clear why. Shandling comes across pompous, egotistical and totally unwilling to engage with Gervais at any other level than his own.

It is a real privilege to get to hear so much from Ricky Gervais, and it is a rare thing from most other comedians. Be it his stand-up tours, DVD extras, pod casts, interviews - I feel I have an understanding of his humour, better than most. So to see this humour go above Shandlings head - for it to even be challenged as politically incorrect - makes Shandling guilty of being out of touch with modern comedy.


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