First Night: Ricky Gervais, Madison Square Garden, New York
Near-the-knuckle Gervais pushes US boundaries
By Julian Hall
Published: 21 May 2007
Outside New York's Madison Square Garden Theatre, ticket touts were having difficulties pronouncing Ricky Gervais's name. "Want tickets for Ricky Gerva?" they inquired, hesitantly. Inside, however, most people knew exactly who they had come to see and they hailed Ricky Gervais's live debut in the US accordingly.
The gig was given added impact by the presence of David Bowie in his role as curator of New York's High Line Festival, of which this performance was a part. Rather than merely introduce Gervais, Bowie supplied a comic turn by reprising the song he sang in Extras, the show that enhanced Gervais' US-appeal when it aired on HBO.
The response of the audience, (an audience that included Billy Connolly as well as a number of American comics), was justified as the 45-year-old comedian breezed through a show that was cannily put together using the best bits of his previous three stand-up outings: Animals, Extras and Fame. From the latter he took a number of blunt observations about fat people; for example that "obesity is not a disease" and that the problem for fat people is that "everything tastes good except salad", before noting: "You've got some proper fat people over here!"
Though he didn't repackage his previous output to cater for an American audience, some of Gervais's material took on an added frisson over here, such as his assertion that the Vietnam War was one of his favourite wars because it had the "best soundtrack".
Elsewhere he went near the knuckles of the audience with some graphic material, including his failsafe routine from Politics about a Terrence Higgins Trust leaflet issued at the height of the Aids scare which advises on all manner of bizarre ways to have safe gay sex. "That was warped man" one Italian-American said after the show, "I never knew he was like that."
Now that Gervais considers being in New York as "almost like coming home", there will no doubt be further opportunities for the city, and eventually elsewhere in the US, to acclimatise to his lurid wit. Going straight to the upper echelons of live venues for a debut could be seen as something of a risk if things had fallen flat, but the choice of material sent people home happy and their impression of him, be that from Extras or from The Office, seemed positively reinforced.
In the UK, there is a feeling that Gervais's ubiquity is finally provoking something approaching a backlash - although if this is so, it's not stopping him playing potential record-breaking venues such as the MEN Arena in Manchester. Whatever the strength of the argument that Gervais is suffering from over-exposure, a new front is clearly wide open in the US where he has already been welcomed with open arms by his idols, including Matt Groening of The Simpsons and the comic actor Christopher Guest.
It seems only logical given both the veneration he has given to these and other US comedians, such as Larry David and Garry Shandling, and the scepticism he has shown towards British comedy output, that Gervais would develop his special relationship with the US.--excerpted from The Independent.
This article is odd, in that it's meant to be a review but seems to spend a lot of time putting forth opinions- even the quote from the "Italian-American" who attended the show seems...kind of stagey? Chosen because it's catty? I can't quite put my finger on what it is, there's just something that unsettled me about the tone to some degree.
Anyway it was an amazing show and, while I didn't get to talk to Ricky (as if asking someone to sign your book of scripts and then blathering how much you admire him is to be considered "talking") just being in the same place at the same time was simply awe-inspiring. Here's to having idols.