On "Celebrity Big Brother" the marginally-famous housemates are bickering, while sitcom actor Andy Mellman (Ricky Gervais), sits on the sofa looking uncomfortable.
On the set of Andy's BBC2 sitcom, "When the Whistle Blows," Andy and his co-stars are acting out a scene that includes a number of broad jokes, innuendos, and Andy's character's catch phrase, "Are you having a laugh?"
In a department store, Andy and his friend Maggie Jacobs (Ashley Jensen), are looking at the talking dolls based on Andy's television character. The manager approaches and begs him to autograph the dolls to help them move, as they aren't selling well. As Maggie and Andy walk through the store, they debate the pros and cons of having Christmas every day versus not at all. They enter the consumer electronics section, and Andy's frenemy, Greg Lindsey-Jones, is on TV in a scene in a period piece with actor Clive Owen. A critic appears on TV and praises the film and Greg's performance. Andy watches, looking sick with envy.
In a small office, Andy is complaining about the poorly-selling dolls to his agent, Darren Lamb (Stephen Merchant), and Shaun Williamson (playing himself). Andy insists he wants to do more serious work than his banal, poorly-reviewed sitcom. Darren says he can get Andy roles on "Dr. Who" and "Hotel Babylon," which Andy rejects. Darren then sends him on an audition for a role in the sequel to Clive Owen's period piece.
On the set of "When the Whistle Blows," Maggie is trying to find something left to eat at the crafts table when she's summoned to Andy's dressing room. In there, she helps him secure a Spanx-like garment to make Andy look thinner; they laugh as he struggles into the garment. He wants to look his best for the movie audition.
Andy enters the audition with a stiff posture and trimmer waist. Greg Lindsey-Jones is part of the casting and gives Andy a hard time. As Andy runs his lines, his garment bursts open and his stomach pops out. He leaves the room without saying anything.
At a park, Andy sits on a bench and meets Bunny (Gerard Kelly), who tells Andy this is a bench to meet gay men. George Michael stops by for a short visit. When a photographer appears, Andy sends him off George Michael before giving up on the bench and leaving.
Maggie meets Andy at The Ivy, a restaurant generally exclusive to famous people. The hostess isn't letting two gentlemen, Gareth Hale and Norman Pace from a 1980s comedy show, have a seat As Andy walks in, the hostess greets him enthusiastically, and Hale and Pace ask Andy if he will invite them in. Andy stammers his decline.
Maggie and Andy note the famous people in the restaurant, including Jade Jagger and Sadie Frost. Tre Cooper (Adam James), a successful agent, approaches Andy, introduces himself, and indicates that he would be more proactive than Andy's current agent with his career. He praises Andy's sitcom and catchphrase and says it may be harsh firing Darren, but "life's cruel."
Andy comes to Darren's office door and witnesses Shaun trying to help Darren get out of his jacket which has a stuck zipper. Andy shakes his head, backs out of the room, and calls Tre Cooper to be his new agent.
On the set of the Clive Owen film, Maggie has a small part thanks to Tre. She is supposed to play a prostitute, but Clive indicates he wouldn't sleep with someone who looks like Maggie. The director, Clive, and a production assistant discuss how they can change the scene, and decide that Clive's character will throw dung and cabbage into Maggie's face. When Maggie protests having dung thrown in her face, the director tells her she can do it or go home. After a deep sigh, Maggie lifts her skirt and leaves with her chin up but looking sad.
Andy is with Tre in Tre's luxurious office. Although Andy wants to quit the series and focus on better productions, Tre encourages Andy to boost his profile. Andy declines to date celebrity trollops in order to get into the news. Tre then puts Andy in touch with a somewhat serious journalist with "The Guardian."
In Darren's office, Shaun gives Darren the news that Andy has changed agents. Darren looks very disappointed and downcast.
Maggie, having given up work as an extra, takes a job as a cleaner since she has no experience for anything else. She has to downsize her apartment and is shown one that is so small, the bed has to fold up into the wall to make room for a coffee table.
Maggie arrives at Andy's luxury apartment, where he tells her to act as if she's his personal assistant in front of the Guardian journalist who's about to arrive. He ignores Maggie's worry about her money woes. When the journalist arrives, Andy tries to put on a sophisticated facade but fails miserably when the journalist figures out the truth: Maggie isn't Andy's personal assistant; he faked a phone call from director Ridley Scott; and he doesn't have a posh accent. Andy tries to play it off like a joke but the journalist doesn't seem fooled.
Darren and Shaun are packing up Darren's office as without Andy as a client, Darren is out of work as an agent.
In Tre's office, Andy reiterates his desire to play roles more serious than his catchphrase-speaking sitcom character. Tre suggests, just as Darren had months early, that Andy take a role in "Dr. Who" or "Hotel Babylon." Andy declines and tells Tre he wants a Hollywood film. When he says he's going to end "When the Whistle Blows," Tre encourages him to milk it for money.
"When the Whistle Blows" is shooting an episode set in Spain. An extra approaches Andy and politely requests a line or two on the show. After the extra leaves, Andy talks to the director and tells him to fire the extra for approaching him. Maggie looks on, unhappy with her friend's behavior.
Outside the BBC set, Andy's former agent, Darren Lamb, tries to come visit Andy. He's not allowed in. Maggie happens to see him, and tries to get a pass for Darren, but Andy refuses to get one for him, explaining to Maggie that he's been avoiding Darren. Moreover, he says, she needs to stop talking to him so much on set because it encourages the extras to come up to him. She reminds him that he used to be an extra himself, and delivers the news to Darren that he can't come in. Darren thanks her and leaves the BBC.
After an episode of "When the Whistle Blows" in front of a live audience, Andy announces to the audience and announces he's ending the sitcom, making a joke about the idiots who watch his show. The producers are not pleased that Andy cancelled the show without consulting them.
At home, it's been three months since Andy's cancelled his sitcom, and he hasn't had any work. Tre isn't returning his calls.
Maggie leaves her job as a dishwasher and meets Andy at The Ivy restaurant, where Andy is complaining about getting the worst table and bad press. Maggie points out that Andy has accomplished a lot, even if it's not exactly what he wanted. She tells him if he keeps comparing himself to other people, he'll never be famous enough and never be happy. She tries to start a conversation about penguins and flying fish, but he cuts her off.
As Andy and Maggie leave The Ivy, the photographers waiting for celebrities to exit aren't interested in Andy. One (Karl Pilkington) tells him no thanks when Andy offers an autograph. Andy and Maggie continue walking and run into Darren Lamb, who's returning to his job at the Carphone Warehouse. Darren goes inside, and Shaun, who's also working there, comes out briefly to say hi. "He wasn't the best agent in the world," Shaun tells Andy, "but he was loyal, and he tries hard."
Maggie arrives home to her small apartment, and we see her as she goes to her second job as a cleaner.
Andy is talking to Tre on the phone, five months since the end of the sitcom and he's still had no work. He takes the part of an alien in "Dr. Who" and the part of a bellboy in "Hotel Babylon." He is unable to reach his agent.
At the Carphone Warehouse, Darren and Shaun have seemed to adapt, joking with each other and with customers and dancing at ring tones. Maggie enters and asks if they have any work, but they don't. She starts to cry, saying she hasn't accomplished anything or gone anywhere with her life. Her phone rings -- it's Andy insisting she join him at The Ivy so he doesn't look like a loser on his own. He's going to confront Tre, who's having lunch there.
Andy approaches The Ivy and again the photographers take no interest in him. For the first time, the hostess won't seat him. Andy tries to get celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey to invite him in, but they get into a shouting match. Maggie is disgusted and leaves. Andy takes a seat at the bar and Maggie sits in her car in the rain.
Andy spots Tre having lunch with Greg and barges in. Why is Tre not returning his calls? Tre says that Andy has a choice: rich and famous and on the telly, or integrity and respect, and he can't have both. After a pause, Andy grimly says rich and famous. With that, Tre indicates it's time for Andy to do "Celebrity Big Brother."
Andy is meeting his housemates on "Celebrity Big Brother." He is polite to everyone but over time is appalled by their superficiality and desperation for fame. In a discussion with the housemates about fame, he admits he's been just as desperate. Eventually, in front of the camera, Andy blurts out the absurdity and self-importance of celebrities. He rants about the gutter press as well as the exploitative nature of reality TV and tears up as he apologizes to an unnamed friend who once told him he'd never be famous enough. Darren, watching with Shaun, thinks it's him. Maggie smiles through her tears as she's watching in her apartment. He answers her question about the flying fish and penguins that he blew off months before at The Ivy.
Andy walks out of Big Brother, and is shocked to learn that his rant had a major impact on the news and now producers were very interested in working with him. Tre is delighted that his client will be so popular and busy. But instead of attending the press conference Tre has set up, Andy instead steps out the back door, where Maggie is waiting for him with her car.
As they drive away, the friends laugh together and agree to go find a place where they can go see flying fish.