Comedian and Patron of Humanists UK
“You don’t need whatever religion gives you. Just be kind.”
Ricky Gervais is best known for his television comedies The Office and Extras, and for stand-up comedy, but he has also been a musician and worked in radio.
He is a philosophy graduate (London University), and after graduation worked at the University as entertainment manager for the Students Union, where he began developing the character of “Seedy Boss”, later to become David Brent in The Office.
His comedy is often controversial, and he has managed to offend a wide range of people, including the disabled, religious believers, and celebrities and film stars in his hosting of the Golden Globe Awards – but he has also managed to coax self-deprecating and very funny performances from stars who can take a joke against themselves such as Kate Winslet (in Extras) and Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter (in Small People).
He told Kirsty Young that he is an atheist during his 2007 interview for BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs (you can listen to his interview here), and later said that he had lost his faith at the age of eight. He has also said that he and his long-term partner chose not to marry because “there’s no point in us having an actual ceremony before the eyes of God because there is no God”, and has defended his atheism in the Wall Street Journal. Interviewed by Elizabeth Day in The Observer in February 2013, he said:
“…I don’t believe there is a God but there’s nothing wrong with spirituality if that makes you a happier, nicer person. But religion is something else, it’s a way of controlling people. It’s no coincidence that the people in charge of religion aren’t the kindest or most forgiving. My point is that… you don’t need whatever religion gives you. Just be kind.”
Among his other activities with humanist groups, Gervais has appeared in the Rationalist Association’s Christmas show Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People.