How David Brent Killed Comedy
[dropcap]R[/dropcap]icky Gervais and Steven Merchant are comic geniuses. That’s undeniable. They are also, in my opinion, the sole reason for my generation being bereft of any sort of comic creativity and this is due to one thing: The Office (or to Americans ‘The Office UK’).
You see The Office was too good. I’m not saying that nothing could follow it. Gervais himself would say that many great shows have done, shows like Extras, Life’s Too Short and Derek (to name a randomly selected few off UK TV). But the quotes from no other show quite entered the public lexicon like those from The Office and it was from this that the problem arose.
I was thirteen when The Office finale aired. My peers and I were just getting to grips with our sense of humour, developing slowly from the fart noise stage to the fart pun stage. Starting to consider jokes about sex and girls, and just generally broadening our comedic repertoire. And then they got the box set for Christmas.
Twelve half hour episodes, two Christmas specials and some bonus features, all bound up in a white card case, with a dancing Brent on the front, was all it took to ‘get their attention.’ Our generation’s creative renaissance was crushed.
For my teenage years the funniest kid in every class was the one who could best quote Brent and Gareth. If he could fit one of their lines, however tenuously, into conversation, he was a comic genius. If worst came to worst, however, he could just band about irrelevant sound bites and be sure to get a laugh. Some kids could quote entire episodes at a time, chuckling at the memory of each and every line. Sadly there is no creativity in this kind of humour, no originality. What’s more, each repeated quote is essentially an ‘in-joke’. They’re exclusive, understood and appreciated only by those with a decent knowledge of the series. If the funniest kids in my class were tasked with writing a comedy series they would each take a pen and write The Office. Merchant and Gervais created a monster. They didn’t dilute the quotability by making too many episodes either. They got it spot on, and ruined comedy forever. Whilst those box sets are still out there, still being lapped up by impressionable teenagers, then comedy’s got no future. As Brent himself mused ‘A good idea is a good idea forever’.