There’s a strange — oh, strange indeed — new comedy series that was just launched on HBO. Life’s Too Short from Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant is a faux documentary-styled show starring “little person” Warwick Davis. The fine actor who has been in the most prestigious productions throughout his career, such as Willow, Star Wars, and the Harry Potter films, plays a fictionalized version of himself. The premise is a little person who’s down on his luck, desperately trying to hustle and connive his way back into the spotlight.
In his struggle to jumpstart his career and maintain his status as Britain’s “go-to” little person for gigs, he also runs a talent agency called Dwarves for Hire. Davis is always ready to seek the advice of his peculiar old pals Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, in minor roles playing versions of themselves.
In each episode, major stars are featured in cameos; on the list for the season is Johnny Depp, Liam Neeson, Sting, Helena Bonham Carter, Cat Deeley, and Steve Carell, all thanks to the Ricky Gervais.
The idea for the show came from Ricky’s and Warwick’s friendship over the years. Gervais said, “Warwick asked me for a quote for his autobiography. The quote I gave was the rather cheeky ‘pound for pound, Warwick Davis is one of the funniest people I know.’ It all started from that.” From the idea of making Davis’ bizarre situation into a traditional sitcom, it developed into a fake documentary.
Taking the bull by the horns, Gervais addressed any concerns about some viewers who would think he’s just making fun of a dwarf. “You can’t legislate against stupidity. Someone somewhere in the world will find anything you say offensive. But just because someone is offended, that doesn’t mean they’re right. Some people are offended by equality, by mixed marriage, or by homosexuality.”
Gervais believes no harm can come from discussing so-called “taboo” subjects. “I think the job of a comedian is to make you think, as well as laugh,” he said.
“As for my own comedy, it’s really all about humanity. It’s always about doing the right thing. It’s cutting edge. Actually always on the side of good and goodness, really. There’s always hope with the worst person in the world. I really believe there is.”
Ricky doesn’t believe non-comics, especially actors, should try to do comedy “because they aren’t funny. With some, it’s the worst, and with others it’s passionless. The most. Imagine someone doing improv that wasn’t right for it.” But he had high praise for the comedy chops of Liam Neeson, who he called “the best person in the world. He’s imposing and physical, and he is funny. Really funny. Good.”
And what does he think about reality “stars” nowadays? He said, “I realize the world is getting even worse when it comes to people wanting to be famous. Fame itself is a profession now. A person just being famous for being famous is considered a respectable job. They don’t make anything. They don’t provide anything. They don’t make the world a better place.”
Those who watch HBO’s Life’s Too Short will see how he and his longtime production partner Merchant operate “sort of like Laurel and Hardy. We’re always together, always sort of doing something. We do film and TV. We’re in charge of the comedy, but it’s because we want to be in it. It’s fun. And we get to hang out with people like Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. We feel every show is a masterpiece. Sort of like The Office. But this is all about Warwick Davis, and what a funny life he has.”
Gervais is happy to be able to offer a different look at showbiz, as he did with Extras. And he explained his motivation, “It’s another opportunity to show there isn’t anything that is so ridiculous that it isn’t happening in Hollywood.” That’s a fact.