Ricky Gervais says comedians are obsessed with death amid After Life return

As the final series of After Life – his biggest show yet, about a bereaved local journalist – lands on Netflix this week, Ricky Gervais reveals comedians are “obsessed with death”.

While most people would never associate the passing of a loved one with fits of giggles, acerbic Ricky’s straight-talking style has won him legions of fans and made After Life the most-watched British comedy of the decade, with nearly 100million streaming the show.

He says: “In my stand-up I deal with the big subjects. It’s fine to deal with taboo or grave subjects.

“Comedians are obsessed with death I think, because we know there’s a discomfort about it, so that’s where the money could be – and comedy as well.

“It will all come to us. We can second guess as creators: ‘Can they handle this?’. Of course – real life’s worse!”

Given the turmoil during the pandemic, escapism of any kind has been welcomed.

After Life follows Ricky’s character Tony Johnson struggling after losing his wife Lisa (Kerry Godliman) to cancer.

The new series sees him battle with the return of suicidal thoughts as he has the added pressure of his dad dying, and faces guilt about his relationship with nurse Emma, played by The Office and Extras star Ashley Jensen.

Beloved German Shepherd Brandy, left, proves to be man’s best friend once again as a pillar of furry support.

With his clever writing, Ricky takes viewers through serious subject matters with a wry take that lifts the mood, as well as leaving them in tears.

He says: “Real life is you’re having a great day, you get a bad text and everyone deals with it and they get on and appreciate the good times more and you keep going.

“I think this is positive. I don’t think it’s depressing – it’s joyful in a way.”

Following only two series of his previous hit shows The Office, Extras and Derek, Ricky surprised fans when he agreed to a third of After Life – but, he vows, despite big money being dangled for more, this is definitely the end.

He says: “It seems mad to stop it for how big it’s got, how loved it is – the money goes up.

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“ I still have to stop and start again. If it was an American show it would have 24 writers who would keep going but I think you’ve got to get in, get out, burn your bridges, leave it and start again.”

Sympathising with Tony, Ricky – who has been in a relationship with author and producer Jane Fallon, inset, for 40 years – admits losing her would crush his world.

He says: “Like Tony I feel that losing my soulmate is the worst thing that can happen. There’s a lot of me in him.”

Despite the serious subject matter of After Life, Ricky, 60, kept the mood light on set by pulling pranks on his cast mates, who include Motherland’s Diane Morgan and Downton Abbey’s Dame Penelope Wilton.

He adds: “We’d finish way too early if I didn’t. The air horn is my favourite prop – making somebody jump.”

After Life season three is available to stream from Friday

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