Monday, June 30, 2014

Image = Comedians Doing Something Dramatically Different

It is fascinating to me when performers are known for one thing and then they do something totally different very effectively.

Ricky Gervais is best known for his toxic persona and skewering everyone in the room as two-time host of the Golden Globes.  And now he has created a lovely series like Derek.  He is wonderfully affecting as a seemingly mentally challenged man who works as a caretaker in a nursing home.  This mockumentary style show has so much heart and compassion that all I could think was - how is this the same person?  Is his persona just a persona?  Or is this poignant stuff just a bunch of bunk?

Now, I’ve seen other comedians do drama very well – Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, Steve Martin, Will Farrell – but this is something different.  Derek is a different kind of comedy – or dramedy if you will – and there’s also an element of social commentary on Derek – about caring for the elderly and the bureaucracy of institutionalized care.  It took me completely by surprise and moved me to tears.  Derek is simply wonderful and everyone should watch it.    

Saying that, I definitely would not call myself a Ricky Gervais fan.  I hated what he did on the Golden Globes.  What’s the point of hiring a host to tear apart Hollywood at an event meant to honor Hollywood excellence?  And I can’t stand The Office – British or American.  However, The Invention of Lying (which Gervais also wrote) was ingenious and he was great in Ghost Town.  After two seasons of Derek, I am now definitely more inclined to seek out other projects Ricky is involved in from now on.

{An aside - It’s interesting that Netflix is getting so much acclaim for Orange is the New Black & House of Cards and no one is talking about Derek, also a Netflix original series}. 

One more thing about comedians crossing over.  I am intrigued by Steve Carell, who displayed some non funny chops last summer in The Way Way Back.  Since Cannes, there is Oscar buzz for his portrayal of a paranoid schizophrenic murderer in the film Foxcatcher.  I definitely would call myself a Steve Carell fan and I would love to be forced to call him “Academy Award winner Steve Carell” for the rest of my life.