Ricky Gervais’ podcasts and audiobooks have become at least as popular as his television output. His latest series of highly rated audiobooks are guides to various aspects of the world we live in. This third instalment in the series covers The Arts and follows much the same format as his podcasts and previous audiobooks have done, teaming him up with Stephen Merchant and the oddly charming Karl Pilkington
For the uninitiated, Pilkington is typically the fulcrum for much of the humour inherent in these shows. His down-to-earth views on life regularly bring fits of laughter from Gervais and it’s easy to understand why he has become something of a cult figure in his own right. Regularly the butt of the jokes of the more famous pair, he takes their abuse with good humour and obviously plays up to his role as bumbling yokel to their kings of comedy. The result is that he gives them both, particularly Gervais, someone to bounce off and these moments often lend the audiobook its finest, simplest moments of humour. For example, when tasked to think of a film, any film, in order to make a point Karl becomes stumped. As Gervais offers up The Godfather, Pilkington retorts, wonderfully, with On The Buses.
While the show is loosely based around the idea of The Arts – covering Damien Hurst, music and graffiti, among other themes – over its 50-plus minutes, it regularly drifts off topic. As one example, towards the end of the audiobook the three discuss plays and after Gervais has set up the idea of dismissing Shakespeare’s genius because he was a fan of the pun, they move on to discuss other sayings leading to this gem from Karl: “Why is it The Worm That Turned? Of all creatures, how can you tell that a worm turns?”
Ironically, the audiobook’s great strength could also be seen as something of a weakness. So strong is Pilkington as a comedic character that this, much like the podcasts, lives or dies on whether you find him funny as he consistently takes over during the course of the show, leaving Gervais and Merchant happy to take a back seat and let him run with his ponderings. Personally, I find him to be hilarious, but it’s a word of warning that if you want to hear more from Gervais and Merchant, be under no illusions that this is Pilkington’s show.
Another word of warning too. If you are easily offended by distinctly un-PC comedy, it’s perhaps best to avoid this. While there isn’t too much swearing here, when it comes it is quite shocking. There are also various instances of the term ‘gay’ in a very un-PC fashion, in particular a somewhat ill-judged discussion about whether it’s better to be blind or gay.
Ultimately, if you’ve ever enjoyed any of the Gervais podcasts this will not disappoint.
You’ll learn absolutely nothing about the Arts, though.
The Ricky Gervais Guide To The Arts is available now to buy at the iTunes Store