By the end of our chat, Gervais has exposed a few more tiny chinks in his armor of self- possession: He’s admitted that he’s petrified of spiders and that there’s a certain musical chord, in a work by composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, that makes him cry every time he hears it. He also hints that he perhaps has more in common with The Office’s David Brent—the deluded manager of a company going nowhere in Nowheresville—than he’s previously let on. “We’ve all got a bit of Brent in us, right?” he says. “We all want to be loved. We are all worried about, Oh, my God, what do people say about me behind my back?”
In his home office in Hampstead, there’s a cabinet loaded with the BAFTAs, Emmys and Golden Globes that Gervais has won over the years. “I built that specially for the awards,” Gervais admits, adding, with some embarrassment, that he’s now afraid they’ll topple over on the head of his dear Ollie. “My vanity will kill the cat,” he says, looking stricken. After we both stand and admire the statuettes, Gervais steps forward to check that they’re all pushed to the back of the cabinet. He’s serious, or at least half serious; it’s a small but unexpectedly poignant gesture that echoes the best of Gervais’s comedy, in which he always manages to find a truthful human element in any character or situation, no matter how absurd.
But make no mistake: Gervais plans to keep filling the shelves with awards for as long as they’re offered to him. Though he says that pleasing other people has never been his motive, he can’t help but relish all the accolades. “To be honest,” he says, padding across the room, “with The Office I got an A. I’m addicted to getting A’s now. I don’t hide that at all.”