Ricky Gervais on Pandemic Uncertainty and Exploring Humanity Again With 'After Life'

Trevor Noah caught up with Ricky Gervais for another installment of The Daily Social Distancing Show, during which the comedian discussed his Netflix series, After Life, grasping a pandemic with an uncertain end date and his appreciation for medical professionals.

As is his pandemic-interview etiquette these days, Noah first asked Gervais how he was handling things while sheltering in place in the U.K.

Gervais said that having a garden, playing badminton and drinking by 6 p.m. every night was his routine, noting "evenings literally haven't changed." He added apart from his own tour being postponed, the shelter in place orders caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic have not impacted his daily routine.

"Joking aside, you wont hear me complain," Gervais somberly told Noah. "Not when there's nurses doing 14-hour shifts risking their life. I know I've got it easy compared to most."

In terms of the U.K.'s sentiment toward the pandemic, Gervais shared that aside from people being apart from their loved ones and worrying about their safety, having no end date in sight is difficult.

"We've turned into kids — 'Are we there yet, are we there yet?' And no one knows," Gervais said. "What will happen? Will it come back? We don't know. Can you get it twice? We don't know."

Noah commented how shocked he's been to see something like a virus politicized, to which Gervais said, "Everyone needs someone to blame. Of course people use it. You'd think it would be like an alien invasion, humanity against this thing, but no."

"The first thing I noticed was people fighting each other for toilet rolls," Gervais continued. "This was like day one. These are the sort of people if the plane crashed they'd start eating each other and I'd go, 'We've got sandwiches. Don't each other yet!'"

Turning the conversation to Gervais' Netflix series, After Life, which was recently renewed for a third season, Noah remarked how interesting it is for there to be so much "heart" within the comedian's work.

"Everything I've done has been about humanity," Gervais said. "Everything I've done has been quite existential. The Office was about being 40 and are you doing the right thing? Derek was about the end of your life and are you leaving the world in as good a state as you found it?"

With After Life, Gervais plays Tony, a man whose life is turned upside down after his wife, Lisa (Kerry Godliman), dies. Lisa left Tony videos advising him on matters such as basic hygiene and how to go on living in her absence, but Tony is right on the verge of suicide. The only thing keeping him going is his dog, Brandy, and the newfound license to tell people exactly what he thinks, no matter how inappropriate or cruel it is.

"There's a line where he says, 'I know she's nowhere but I'd rather be nowhere with her than somewhere without her.' He's given up. He doesn't want to live without her. … He thinks this is after his life has ended. He thinks he's lost himself," Gervais said.

The comedian said that after the first season, he was surprised by the "emotional connection" people had with the show and Tony's journey.

"People would come up to me on the street and say, 'I lost my brother three weeks ago' or 'I lost my mum before I watched it and it really helped.' I realized that everyones grieving … and you don't get over it."

Noah noted how timely the series is in its discussion of grief. "That's what we're all experiencing on a larger level. We're all experiencing a shared grief in a way that even world wars did not create. … This show, it talks about this feeling."

Gervais agreed, adding that the pandemic has made everyone appreciate the little things in life, and with the show, it touches on how "those things can save you."

The comedian added that for him, he misses things as small as grabbing a newspaper and sitting outside a cafe. "You want your life back. That's what you want."

Watch the interview below.