February 6, 2017 / 1:04 PM / 6 months ago

Ricky Gervais' shtick gets tricky in Trump and Brexit era

Actor and director Ricky Gervais poses for photographers at the world premiere of his film David Brent Life on the Road in London, Britain August 10, 2016.Neil Hall

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Playing a brash, bigoted bore in the Trump and Brexit era is double trouble for comedian-actor Ricky Gervais.

"I use irony, saying the wrong things so that hopefully people will understand the right things," Gervais told Reuters. "But now it's too dangerous. I get the wrong round of applause! I have to be so careful about what I say."

Still, the man best known for the British television "mockumentary" show "The Office" and acerbic stints as a Golden Globes host says he feels he has finally found his voice as a stand-up comic - and the election of Donald Trump as president has helped.

"Trump has made me a better stand-up because everything is much more poignant now," said Gervais, who is as well known in Hollywood as he is in his native Britain. "Anything you do about truth, stupidity, anger, humanity, world issues - it's so much in the forefront of people's minds about what's happened."

Gervais, 55, embarks next week on his first stand-up tour in seven years. It starts in Britain after a single date in New York last week while promoting the Feb. 10 Netflix U.S. release of "David Brent: Life on the Road," a film sequel to the British version of "The Office."

Gervais says his stand-up act has never been explicitly political. He started working on new material before Britain voted to leave the European Union in June 2016.

Instead, he riffs on "opinions versus facts, social media where people would rather win than be right, and how sneakily freedoms are crushed."

"My shtick has always been me saying the wrong things," he said. "My stand-up has always been a brasher, more arrogant, less informed bigoted, bore than myself."

Twelve years on, in "Life on the Road," David Brent is now a cleaning product salesman with a female boss who has not given up on his dream of being a rock star. He embarks on a self-financed UK tour, followed by a documentary crew.

"It's the same old David Brent but a bit older and not the boss," said Gervais, who wrote, directed and stars in the show. "Now he's almost bullied. I am torn with David Brent. I like his positivity and the fact that he falls over and gets up again."

Just as Gervais drew from his own experience to create the mundane life depicted in the original "The Office" in 2001, he also mined his past for the sequel.

"In a previous life, I was also a failed rock star so I use all my successes and failures equally," he said.

Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Leela de Kretser and Bill Trott

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