It's all about bouncing back

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Stephen Merchant doing stand up

I'll agree with nearly any random assertion that Ricky Gervais is something of a genius. Until he struck out alone and started doing stand up, however, he bolstered his laughs-per-minute rather hardily by working closely with a few very talented folks -- most notably his long-time writing partner and fellow podcast host, Stephen Merchant.

I've always thought that the towering and very clever Merchant was greatly under-appreciated. Fully half of the best laughs in "Extras" came during the simple seated banter bits in Darren's office. The celebrity scenes were fun; but the audience could never have fully appreciated Andy Millman's frustration and desperation were it not for those golden discussions between "actor" and "agent". And since that very desperation is the key to understanding how confused and misguided Millman's actions become, I actually believe Merchant's character is even more central to the story than Jensen's Maggie.

Merchant provided the same high level of wit and support to the many seasons of "the world's most popular podcast" -- The Ricky Gervais Show. Sure Pilkington is a dream straight man; but you can't beat the power of having two great minds there to tag team his denigration.

So I was especially happy to learn recently that Merchant has started trying his hand at stand up. Yes he is suffering the pain of starting out at small clubs (the "Amused Moose"?! ouch) and I don't think he (yet) has all of the natural stage presence and charisma that Gervais has been nurturing for years, but he certainly has the comedic intelligence and I could see his awkward goofy style working to his favor if he sticks with it. I hope he does.

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