AFTER LIFE – The comic genius that is Ricky Gervais

I have always admired Ricky Gervais as the consummate actor and comedian.

His deadpan snarky persona, offensive most times, belied his incredible wit and intelligence.

I put him right up there with the talented British comics like Rowan Atkinson, Stephen Merchant and the highly erudite Stephen Fry.

The Office

He first burst onto the scene as the snarky acerbic narcissistic boss David Brent in The Office. He was the character we all loved to hate and ridicule with his cringeworthy behaviour and flaws.

Awards Show Host

In recent years, Gervais has been heralded as being the new style of award ceremony hosts – he startled audiences with his no holds barred display of offensive and sarky vitriol at the Golden Globe Awards.

There, Gervais was in his elements where he savagely and relentlessly roasted the recipients of the awards and other celebrities alike.

No one was spared and he roasted the Hollywood greats to the last man.

At times it was like a train wreck – you needed to cringe and look away but you didn’t want to miss a fleeing glimpse of the mangled bodies.

He was going for shock value and I always felt he was dumbing down for the world.

After Life

In his latest Dark Comedy Drama (“Dacma” there you go – copyrighted andrewong2020) in which he conceptualised, directed and played the lead character, Gervais showed his incredible acting chops and range, and claimed his space as the master of intelligent soulful comedy.

The role revealed his immense mastery in the sensitive and poignant portrayal of relationships, humanity and love.

But above all else, infused with warm and cerebral comedy.

I chanced upon After Life while surfing Netflix channels, and initially thought it may be too sensitive and boring for this chunky slob of a hardly evolved neanderthal.

This was the description of the series:

Tony had a perfect life — until his wife Lisa died. After that tragic event, the formerly nice guy changed. After contemplating taking his life, Tony decides he would rather live long enough to punish the world by saying and doing whatever he likes. He thinks of it as a superpower — not caring about himself or anybody else — but it ends up being trickier than he envisioned when his friends and family try to save the nice guy that they used to know. Golden Globe winner Ricky Gervais stars in the comedy series, which he also writes and directs.

I started watching episode 1 and was transfixed thereafter.

In the next day or two, I watched all 12 episodes which includes season 2 which was just released on 24 April 2020.

The Premise

After Life is pure magic if:

1. You like British Comedy with intelligent wit and sarky dark humour.

2. You are slightly melancholic in nature and revel sometimes in the fragility of humanity, loss, despair, and broken relationships. Ok let’s throw in love as well.

3. Dogs.

God’s creation of the most beautiful creature to roam this earth. They were put here on this earth to love man.

Gervais delivers a sensitive and poignant portrayal of a grieving widower Tony Johnson, who lashes out at the world as part of his healing.

His character is portrayed as silently grieving at times, but self absorbed and whinging in the worst moments.

I think none of that interplay was accidental – Gervais brought varying depths of play – not wanting his character to be too holistic and always worthy of sympathy but completely fallible even in his darkest moments of inconsolable grief.

I think it is clever when the show makes you vacillate in your views and emotions – feeling his inconsolable and gut wrenching depths of despair and grief at times, but bristling with exasperation at his self pity and incessant destructive whinging in others.

The series also meaningfully deals with the primordial question whether there is only one soul mate for each person in this universe (for the cynical few who believe so to which I dangerously but tentatively belong), or whether there exists a beautiful opportunity of you meeting several soul mates in your lifetime.

The Dog

His dog gave the viewers a glimpse of Tony’s humanity and the depth of love he is capable of, other than the love for his wife.

It is his dog and his ailing senile father in a nursing home who were the reasons he was still living. He is pulled back each time he tries to take his life by his pooch who senses something amiss and stops him.

See the pooch putting its paws on him when he is wracked with despair, as if laying healing hands to absorb his pain and unbearable grief.

That dog is just lovely.

The comedy

There is plenty of intelligent humour abound. Slightly of a dry and cerebral sort but enough to elicit quite a few chuckles.

Watch out for the recurring scenes where he interviews local town people who wants their banal or wacky story published in the local newspaper which Tony works for.

His incredulous look and sometimes sarky come back is priceless.

Then there are many characters who lends fodder for some great dialogue on humanity and love, and funny moments.

1. The quirky postman who Tony is mean and derisive to initially, but gets set up by Tony for a date later.

2. The lovely sex worker who Tony pays 50 quid to to do his crockery washing and clean his house.

3. His senile father who speaks occasionally in the most hilarious and offensive fashion.

4. The care giver at the nursing home who becomes Tony’s love interest. Tony offers her a horrible compromise – he reciprocates feelings for her but tells her he cannot commit further because he can’t forget his wife. So he offers her “Ground Hog day” – everyday he wants to reset their feelings to status quo and not to intensify.

5. The elderly widow at the grave who Tony talks to about his feelings and his day. Her husband’s grave is next to Lisa’s (Tony’s wife) grave.

6. The supportive brother in law who runs the paper which Tony works for. And George his 9 year old son who Tony loves.

There is this hilarious scene where Tony goes to George’s school to threaten a 9 year old fat boy who bullied and punched George. Tony showed the bully a hammer and told him he would murder him in his sleep.

7. Quirky Colleagues who Tony riles and pours derision over.

The Grief

Every episode shows video footages of his wife when she was fighting her cancer, and preparing the footage for him when she is gone.

She talks directly to him and wants him to look after himself and to carry on after she is gone.

You will be crying buckets unless you are an unfeeling fat slob of a hardly evolved Neanderthal.

Ok I confess.

The scenes with the dog made me cry.

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