At this point, more people probably know the name Michael Scott better than David Brent. Until 2011, Scott was the dim-witted, tactless boss on the American version of "The Office." Steve Carell derived his inspiration from Ricky Gervais' character in the original UK version of the show. Gervais hasn't been completely overshadowed since the American spin-off took off, however. He went on to star in films, TV shows and a now infamous turn as host of the 2011 Golden Globes Awards Show.
Gervais' success on the small screen wasn't a solo effort. His co-conspirator in shows like "Extras", "Life's Too Short" and "The Ricky Gervais Show" is Stephen Merchant. Merchant spoke with Afternoon Shift's Steve Edwards recently and told the host that he first met his future creative partner while working on a radio show.
Merchant took on the more responsible role to Gervais' less business-minded shortcomings. They both left that station and Merchant landed at the BBC where he and Gervais put their ideas of "The Office" in action. Merchant says the concept for the show was born from their shared observations of quirky office life. He conceded that other sitcoms used the cubes and computers setting before, but he and Gervais made it more about the characters. "Actually what was interesting about offices was the real mechanics of how they work...the petty squabbles and the jealousies and the fact that you're thrown together with this group of people who you wouldn't necessarily choose to be friends with if you met them socially."
Merchant says that the show was well-received from the start. He remembers, "Running to a pay phone and phoning Ricky and saying 'I want to bring this around because I think we have something really special here.' " Thus, "The Office", David Brent and Michael Scott were born.
Now it's time for Merchant to step away from the fame that the show-and future endeavors with Gervais-gave him. He'll be in Chicago as part of the Just for Laughs Festival. The stop is part of his "Hello Ladies" tour. As the name implies, the 6'7, blond actor/comedian/writer shares tales of his struggles to find love. His move to the stand-up scene is not new; he told Edwards how he started out on the stage before going behind the scenes to write. He admits that there was still a little fire there to see if he could make it. But as this clip shows, don't let the early reviews turn you away.
Hear the details of Stephen Merchant's working relationship with Gervais, and some of the love letters he's received from ladies on the tour.