Are Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant & Karl Pilkington still friends?
7 January 2020, 21:08 | Updated: 7 January 2020, 21:11
How did the star of the Golden Globes react to rumours that there was a "rift" between him and his former colleagues?
Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington were an unstoppable comedy team in the 2000s. They had one of the most popular podcasts ever, even notching up a Guinness World Record as the most downloaded show in 2007.
The set-up of the knowledgable Gervais and Merchant and the hopeless flights of fancy of producer Pilkington soon transferred to TV.
Gervais co-wrote the hit TV sitcom The Office with Merchant, and the pair worked on the follow-up shows Extras and Life’s Too Short, while Pilkington worked with Ricky on An Idiot Abroad and Derek.
The final series of Life's Too Short aired in 2013, while Derek ended with a special at Christmas 2014. Since then, the trio have appeared to go their separate ways.
Gervais has become a Hollywood star, appearing in films like The Invention Of Lying and Night At The Museum, while his stand-up shows Supernature and Humanity were Netflix specials. His comedy series After Life was one of the most streamed shows of 2019 in the UK.
Merchant's career includes co-creating the series Lip-Sync Battle, starring in the series Hello Ladies and appearing in the movies Jojo Rabbit and Logan, while notching up two Golden Globe awards.
Pilkington followed up Derek with his own series The Moaning Of Life and Sick Of It, along with a series of best-selling books.
However, rumours of a rift between the three started as more time passed since the last collaboration. Had they all fallen out?
The whispers about a falling-out intensified when it became apparent that Merchant wasn’t involved in the film David Brent: Life On The Road in 2016.
Speaking to the NME in March 2018, Gervais was asked if he had fallen out with Steve and Karl and revealed that he didn't respond to the rumours because "it annoys them".
He went on: “No no no, I haven’t, I’ve always been doing my own thing, and now they are as well. It’s not a divorce thing.”
Asked if he would get Karl in a divorce settlement with Merchant, Gervais laughed: “Oh, I would. In a little cupboard.”
At an interview at the Oxford Union in August 2018, Merchant revealed that “There’s no reason not to” work with his old team again, but that he feels that he and Gervais have gone in “different directions, creatively”.
Merchant explained: “If the right idea was there, it’d be good to do something. But at the moment, there’s nothing on the horizon.”
He explained that while he works in Los Angeles and Gervais spends time in New York and London, he added: “We worked together pretty much cheek-by-jowl for over ten years and I think it’s that feeling of being pulled in different directions creatively.”
Merchant went on: “[Ricky] wants to perform in stuff he does, and I’m quite happy for neither of us to perform and to let other people perform… which is something that he’s not quite as interested in. A lot of Ricky’s humour is about him putting it across, which is why he’s so good at stand-up.
“Also, he likes to get stuff done. He’s impatient. Whereas I’ll happily spend months, years, grinding it out.”
Karl explained on Reddit in 2016: “We ain’t fallen out but I hardly ever see either of them. One of the last times I saw Ricky he farted on my head so I’m not in a rush to meet with him anytime soon.”
Ironically, in light of Ricky Gervais hosting the Golden Globes for a fifth and final time in January 2020, Merchant tweeted the following: "So relieved I didn’t win a Golden Globe this year. They’ve changed the design, so it wouldn’t match my other two."
So relieved I didn’t win a Golden Globe this year. They’ve changed the design, so it wouldn’t match my other two— Stephen Merchant (@StephenMerchant) January 7, 2020
However, Merchant did hint at a possible reunion when he told the Oxford Union: “We used to try to get Karl to do university tours, where the three of us would sit and you guys could ask him questions. But he’d never do it, he was always fearful of going out on the road.
“So that was a bit of a missed opportunity, because that would have been fun. But it’s something we could still do in the future.”