How To Create Funny TV Characters, According To Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais has had his fair share of funny characters over the years. From the iconic David Brent of BBC’s The Office to his latest title character of Netflix’s Derek, there’s always a certain quality to his characters that get us falling to the floor in laughter. And now, Gervais has opened up about just what it means to be a funny character, and to him, it’s all about making the ordinary extraordinary.

The Hollywood Reporter hosted Gervais in a comedy roundtable along fellow comedians Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley), Will Forte (Last Man On Earth), Fred Armisen (Portlandia), Jordan Peele (Key & Peele) and Don Cheadle (House of Lies)--basically the majority of the funny dudes on TV right now. And Gervais began to open up on his own influences writing comedy and how he creates funny characters. He explained:

Real life is obviously the biggest influence on me. I try to write about what I know, I've always done that. It's my favorite thing, making the ordinary extraordinary. I think that resonates more, and then the funny is sort of easy...Not being ready or equipped is so funny, and with that, arrogance. Arrogance and stupidity, thinking it's OK.

Gervais’ characters often combine those two characteristics seamlessly—arrogance and stupidity. They are qualities that are often paired in real life as well, which probably makes for an even funnier portrayal. When it comes to Gervais’ character in The Office those characteristics are undoubtedly explored. But with a character like his titular role in Derek it’s a different type of funny. Gervais explains:

You're either laughing with them or at them, that's the thing...You laughed at David Brent [because] he had the blind spot. It was the difference between how he saw himself and how we saw him, whereas with Derek you're sort of on [his] side. He's saying funny things and they're meant to be funny.

The two are incredibly different characters, but Gervais still keeps you laughing, and there are certain qualities that resonate between the two. For instance David Brent may be more arrogant than Derek, but the two tend to do similarly stupid things. Oh and another hilarious quality they share? They can both be painfully awkward sometimes, particularly when they are trying to impress someone. And who can’t help but laugh at awkward tension.

You can catch part of Gervais’ discussion on THR, but the full roundtable including the other funny man celebs can be seen on Close Up With The Hollywood Reporter premiering Sunday, Aug. 23 at 11 a.m ET/PT on Sundance TV and