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Happy birthday, Ricky Gervais: 7 scene-stealing cameos from comedy star

By and Simon Reynolds
Ricky Gervais celebrates his 53rd birthday today (June 25), and to mark the occasion Digital Spy has trawled through the comedy star's film and TV archive to pick out some of his greatest ever guest roles.

From an early appearance in Spaced to serenading Marge in The Simpsons, here are seven of the best cameo appearances from The Office creator.

1. Spaced (2001)

Ricky Gervais guest stars in Spaced

Mere months before the first episode of The Office aired and Ricky hit the big time, he had a blink and you'll miss it cameo as a slippery estate agent in Spaced. His character 'Dave' incorrectly placed a property ad asking for a couple, which set off a string of events that led Tim (Simon Pegg) and Daisy (Jessica Hynes) to move in to Marsha's flat. The rest is sitcom history.

Ricky is great in this little cameo, managing to make the click of a mouse funny, and the butterfly effect that his actions kick-start is reminiscent of Tim's theory that everything in Star Wars can be traced back to the gunner on the Star Destroyer in Episode IV.

2. Alias (2004)


Ricky Gervais does drama! The British Office experienced a surge in popularity across the pond in the mid-'00s and one of David Brent's celebrity fans turned out to be JJ Abrams. Then the showrunner of Alias, Abrams cast Ricky as a bomb maker who crosses paths with Jennifer Garner's super-spy Sydney Bristow.

Alias was a terrific show in its early seasons and featured an eclectic mix of guest stars (Quentin Tarantino, Roger Moore and Isabella Rossellini among them). It's strange to see Ricky in a straight-up serious role to begin with, but as this episode plays out he manages to settle in the role and prove that he's capable of hitting those dramatic notes.

3. The Simpsons (2006)

Ricky Gervais guest stars in The Simpsons

© Fox


You could argue that you've not really made it in Hollywood until you get a guest spot in The Simpsons. Ricky, however, became the first British comic to both star in and write his own episode. Although Gervais has insisted it was more of a joint effort with the show's regular writers, the story was largely inspired by his own observations about the dark side of TV: reality shows.

In the episode titled 'Homer Simpson, This Is Your Life', Homer and Marge do a Wife Swap and Marge ends up with awkward nice-guy Charles, voiced by Gervais. Charles falls in love with Marge, even writing a love song for her, but the feeling isn't mutual. Overall, Gervais did a good job of his Simpsons venture, and his tragic Charles creation was hard not to feel sympathy for.

4. Sesame Street (2009)


Ricky loves to get a song into his film and TV roles, and that even extends to his guest roles. In 2009 he made an appearance on Sesame Street to sing Elmo a lullaby based around the letter 'n'. Things didn't quite go according to plan, however, and Elmo left the encounter traumatised and unable to sleep.

The Sesame Street cameo helped pave the way for Ricky's role in Muppets Most Wanted, where he played the devious Dominic Badguy. Many actors struggle when faced with Jim Henson's creations, but Ricky was at ease right from the off with Sesame Street - he managed to sell every second. Check out this Elmo interview for added hilarity.

5. Louie (2010)


Before Louis C.K. turned into the Louis C.K. a few years back, he was a true comedian's comedian and Gervais spent most interviews bigging him up as the funniest guy around. Gervais handed him a role in his 2009 fantasy rom-com The Invention of Lying and C.K. returned the favour when Gervais appeared as Dr Ben in the first season of C.K.'s brilliant comedy-drama Louie.

In what is our personal favourite of Gervais's guest parts, Dr Ben can't help but infinitely tease Louie that he "looks like someone's poured diarrhoea into a face-shaped mould", "tits are meant to be on women" and that Louie is in possession of "the ugliest penis I've ever seen in my life". Then comes the full rectal examination... Gervais clearly didn't have to dig deep to play the joker to C.K.'s victim here, but he was simply hysterical at doing so.

6. The Office US (2011)


The US version of The Office started off similarly to Ricky and Stephen Merchant's original series - the pilot was a direct adaptation - but what it became was a whole different beast and it really took hold of the hearts of many. Aside from being credited as an exec producer, Gervais guest starred in two episodes as none other than David Brent.

The second was merely a Skype application to be the next boss of Dunder Mifflin, but the first saw Brent bump into Steve Carell's Michael Scott outside of a lift and made for a cute, albeit somewhat staged moment. After instantly bonding (Brent: "Comedy is a place where the mind goes to tickle itself"), Brent chips in a "That's what she said" and Michael's eyes light up like it's Christmas. Double-awww.

7. Curb Your Enthusiasm (2011)


Ricky's interview with Seinfeld/Curb Your Enthusiasm genius Larry David in 2006, a few years after The Office and in between Extras' two seasons, was a sweet meeting of two comedic minds in which one prodigy met a bonafide hero. It also led to a friendship that saw Gervais cameo in Curb's eighth season: a story where Larry's manager Jeff is after Ricky as his next client.

Much like Extras' necessity with showing the arsehole side of celebrities, Gervais is portrayed in Curb as a greedier, cockier version of himself. Not only does Ricky try to steal Larry's girlfriend Donna, but he also orders a $300 bottle of wine as a 'gift' from Larry and Jeff. To be fair to Ricky, Curb stopped being quite so superior a couple of seasons before this, but he did fit into David's classic minutiae pretty, pretty well.

What are your favourite Ricky Gervais guest roles? Leave your comments below!

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