The Genius of Karl Pilkington
Karl Pilkington was originally a technician hired to push buttons for a radio show starring Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. As time went on, and Karl made some of his opinions known, on topics like charity and monkeys, it became obvious that Karl was the catalyst for humor on the show.
Gervais and Merchant brought Pilkington into the podcasts for that reason. They read emails from listeners or interesting news articles, then asked Karl for his opinion. Inevitably Karl would answer with something mindblowing, straight out of an urban legend. Or he would lead them onto unrelated topics during a rant. He would rant about Chinese homeless men, reversing the aging process and lecherous chimpanzees.
Speaking of chimpanzees, each episode has a Monkey News segment. It seems Karl is obsessed with monkeys of any kind, and tells story upon story of monkeys doing amazing things, such as hosting a TV talk show and getting record-breaking ratings.
Not only are Karl's stories and rants absolutely hysterical, but also listening to Gervais and Merchant ridicule his theories is just as gut-busting. Ricky Gervais, in particular, laughs so wholeheartedly and freely that it is infectious.
Yabba Dabba Duh
The Ricky Gervais show is animated in a very rounded, cutesy style that immediately reminds you of The Flintstones, mainly because Ricky Gervais is drawn to look like Fred himself. This style lends itself well to the humor, because the cartoon lightens the topics that are being discussed and makes the conversations easy to swallow.
For instance, when Karl is describing a pet chimpanzee who gets it on with the zookeeper's wife, it's laughable because the style is childish and silly, portraying the chimp smoking a cigar and the wife winking. If the animators would have tried for any kind of realism, or made the style too harsh or jagged, it would have seemed as if they were taking themselves more seriously. And who wants to really picture a chimp and that poor zookeeper's wife? Who wants to be serious about that?
The colors, the roundness and the retro quality of the cartoon make it feel safe and fun to laugh at Karl (or the character of Karl) and his conspiracy theories.
What's an iPod?
Airing these podcasts as cartoons not only fills a half-hour comedy timeslot on HBO, but also brings the podcasts to a huge audience who probably haven't heard them before. There is no doubt a large demographic of folks who have never listened to a podcast, may not even know what a podcast is. But through the magic of animation, they can now enjoy the hilarious dialogue between Gervais, Merchant and Pilkington.
However, if you are already famimliar with the podcasts, enough time has passed since their first distribution that you can enjoy them all over again, with visual aids to boot.
The Ricky Gervais Show only flounders when the audio gets too confusing to make out what's being said, or a conversation drones on too long or is cut short in editing. All in all, Ricky Gervais and his pals give us more laughs with their spontaneous discussions than most scripted shows.