The Ricky Gervais Show on HBO
The XFM shows had a real unpolished, by-the-seat-of-the-pants feel to them. There were strange errors, failed games, and awkward conversations. Those shows really did feel like you were listening in on three buddies who were only vaguely aware that you’re listening.
I haven’t had a chance to listen to all the podcasts yet (though I have several of them on order) but they are a far slicker version of the XFM radio shows. I saw the HBO cartoon version before I listened to the XFM shows and I was surprised at how many of the features and conversations are slightly repeated. Though the podcasts are clearly as unscripted as the XFM shows. Like many good friends, I think they just like to hear some of the same stories again. We’ve all been sitting around with our friends and said, “Hey tell that one again!” always to the same raucous laughter. Also, since XFM was a local London radio station, the podcasts opened up stories that only the limited radio audience had heard to a wider audience.
As before here’s my list of favorite aspects of the show:
1.) The Animation: The cartoon representations of Ricky, Stephen, and Karl are terrific. Slightly inaccurate, beautifully simple and exaggerated caricatures of what are now well-known celebrities with great expressions and classic style (no spikey-angled anime look here, much more Hanna-Barbara). The animations of the stories they tell are equally terrific. Seeing cartoon Karl act out his famous fight in the bathroom (over a “woman” at the age of seven) or Stephen’s experiences at carnival in Rio are priceless.
2.) Themes: I’ve not listened to the podcasts, but the HBO shows tend to revolve loosely around a theme. It could be philosophy, crime, war, metaphors, films, sports, or history. It’s interesting to watch the conversations meander from topic to topic, and go WAY off topic, always with hilarious results. Surprisingly they do tend to bring the very loose threads back together in some way.
3.) Monkey News: Monkey News made a “triumphant” return on the podcasts and also on the HBO cartoons. The ones in the cartoon are slightly less ridiculous than the original XFM examples. In fact Karl’s news about the chimp that went into space isn’t too far off the mark. It IS off the mark, but not “there was this monkey, right, that stole a car and went to Spain” ridiculous.
4.) Karl’s Diary: This is the best feature on the Ricky Gervais Shows I’ve heard. It’s far better than Monkey News, Rockbusters, or any of the various features they put together over the years. This feature was simply Stephen reading from Karl’s Diary, with commentary from Ricky and further explanation from Karl. Highlights include: Karl and Ricky at a work meeting (Ricky tries to wrestle him); the “mirrored wall” in Karl’s flat; Karl’s opinion that ultrasound infants look like frogs; Karl’s vacation to the Cotswolds; and of course Karl’s first poem.
5.) One-Shot Features: There were several little vignettes that appear during the show that are priceless. These include: Desert Island Discs (what would you take to a desert island? Karl’s bringing a dictionary…); a tricky puzzle involving identical doors to heaven and hell; Karl and the problem of free will (featuring the brain’s “Onion Lobe”), a virtual reality flotation tank that simulates real life; and my favorite, Karl’s Future Predictions, which not only has one of the funniest lists I’ve seen, it also has one of the funniest conclusions in comedy history.
My next big project is listening to all the podcasts to see how much they’ve edited out for the animated show. I’m looking forward to seeing what I’ve missed.
If you are a fan of Idiot Abroad and don’t want to listen to hours and hours of XFM radio shows (which are brilliant but can be hit or miss at times) and want an impression of how Ricky and Stephen first started with Karl, the HBO shows are brief snippets of how they got their start together!
Enjoy Karl’s Future Predictions!