Ricky Gervais, just in it for the laughs

Love in numbers

Look for the eyebrows. That's the lesson of TLC's documentary Sextistics, an entertaining stroll through a maze of romance-related statistics and facts. One standout: the "eyebrow flash," a quick up and down movement that indicates desire for another person. Before the show airs at 9 tonight, here's a look at some of the cooler numbers.

52 seconds that pass between thoughts of sex for an average twentysomething guy.

79 average number of men a woman will kiss in her lifetime.

77 number of women a guy can check out in one second at a party.

1,836 average number of orgasms for a woman in her lifetime.

4,233 average number of orgasms for a man in his lifetime.

76 percentage of women who are turned on by chest hair.

93 percentage of women who are turned off by back hair.

He just wanted to be like Bob Hope, striding among the glitterati at this year's Golden Globe awards, handing out good-natured jibes to A-listers like the Hollywood insider he still can't believe he might be.

But sharp-tongued comic Ricky Gervais instead found he became the punch line, as the same critics who celebrated when he got the Globes hosting gig, tore him down after he did it.

"Some people were going … he talked about Mel Gibson's alcoholism but didn't talk about his anti-Semitism — oh, that would have been a nice little show, wouldn't it?" howled Gervais, calling from his home in Britain. " 'Here's some pictures of the Holocaust — and now best actress!' "

Then he lets loose that cackle, an unbridled burst of laughter to let you know, in Gervais' world, the only critic that matters stares back at him in the mirror.

That's why he's having so much fun touting his latest gig, HBO's The Ricky Gervais Show, an animated version of the podcasts he's recorded for five years with longtime collaborator Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington (the show debuts Friday night at 9). Gervais especially savors needling Pilkington, the eccentric producer whose oddball musings both delight and infuriate him to sidesplitting effect.

Critics may snark that sticking cartoonish images onto podcasts recorded years ago hardly constitutes a significant new work. But Gervais hopes the show will introduce the world to Pilkington, whom he credits for "blossoming from an idiot into an imbecile."

Here's a bit of Gervais' wit, heavily edited from a long-ranging conversation. You can read a longer transcript at the Feed blog: blogs.tampabay.com/media.

Karl is a producer who has written and illustrated his own books. Is he really that dense?

It's totally real. Have you read his books? The last book he did was a travel book. There's one chapter called Australia and it starts off with "I've never been." Then he went somewhere with his girlfriend's parents. He writes "Dad liked the biscuits in the cupboard." But those biscuits aren't going to be there for anyone else! How is that useful information?

You're one of the few British comics to consistently have success importing your work to America. Why?

Secretly and cheekily, I think it's because all my influences are American. All I've done is put it through a filter. The U.S. is my Mecca. Laurel and Hardy, they taught me empathy, they taught me relationship. It's not enough to be funny, there has to be a witness to that stupidity. I'm still overwhelmed that I'm making a living in America. It's a real privilege for me. … Do I get to be a citizen after that speech?

I'll look into it. But some people might be surprised to hear you say Brits take a back seat in comedy to Americans.

Brits do comedy well, but there seems to be a lack of pushing it with artistic ambition. All the best things in the world that have ever been achieved in art have been done for the artist. I'm certainly not saying Americans can do comedy better than Brits. That would be turning the gun on myself. It just so happens that over the past 40 years, if I listed my top 20 comedies and top 20 dramas, I think I'd put one or two British shows in there.

You seem to have a particularly arm's-length relationship to fame.

You must never get caught up in it. Never be an Andy Millman. Andy Millman (lead character from his HBO series Extras) was a decent man, but he got body snatched by fame, competition and jealousy. If you only care about what you think — you're bulletproof. You can't moan about the critics. It's like a fisherman complaining about waves. You can ignore them, or you can ride the wave. The only people who ask other people's opinions are executives.

TiVo

The Penguins of Madagascar, 8 p.m. Monday, Nickelodeon: I will pretend, for the sake of whatever adult cool I have left, that the only reason I know about this oddball spinoff of the Ben Stiller movie is because my 5-year-old daughter loves it. I will not describe how I squealed like a little girl upon learning that the ubiquitous Neil Patrick Harris was going to appear in this episode as the tough-talking penguins' nemesis, Dr. Blowhole. And I won't let on that I nearly watched the show without her when dinner and bedtime obligations almost kept her from joining me the night I got the screener DVD. Just make sure you have a kid handy to preserve your cool when you watch it.

Ti-NO

Prison Wives, 8 tonight, Investigation Discovery channel (formerly Discovery Times): Think you have it bad on Valentine's Day? You could be Annika Powell, an insecure, unemployed mother of three with a bone disorder who married the man of her dreams over two years ago. The only problem: He's a murderer convicted of killing his ex-mother-in-law, now in prison for life. Debuting this oddball documentary series on Valentine's Day is a nice gimmick, but it's a shame to hand publicity to a woman whose judgment is so bad, she has encouraged her three kids from another marriage to call a lifer without parole "dad." There's also a close look at Elli Panitz, the Bradenton woman who stays married to Ralf Panitz, despite being convicted of killing his ex-wife after the three of them appeared on a Jerry Springer episode together.

Ricky Gervais, just in it for the laughs 02/13/10 [Last modified: Saturday, February 13, 2010 6:30pm]

    

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