TV Review: Ricky Gervais: Out of England

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You knew Ricky Gervais was a genius at writing comedy ("The Office") and a superb comic actor ("Extras"), but did you know he can do stand-up with the best of them? His new HBO special makes the case loud and clear.

His humor doesn't lend itself to easy categorization, though nearly all of it is well-paced, well-aimed and well-delivered. At times, he offers clever observations. Then he slips effortlessly into self-deprecation, political incorrectness and convoluted examinations of nursery rhymes. He works in a black T-shirt on a mostly empty stage with no props and just a giant can of beer to stay lubricated.

And he's fearless. Not since Lenny Bruce has a comedian managed to get laughs with a comic take on the motivation of Adolf Hitler, but Gervais does it, makes his points and moves on. The origin of AIDS, alternatives to anal sex, favorite wars -- it's all fair game and unfailingly funny.

A lot of entertainers do charity work, but Gervais mines it for several sick jokes, all delivered with an impish smile that rules out any trace of meanness.

The Moffitt-Lee production, taped in New York, offers additional proof that Gervais is that rare British talent able to charm audiences consistently on either side of the pond.
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