For the longest time in comedy, you’re always going to get some sort of competitive rivalries. That’s not to say that comedians who engage in competitive rivalries can’t be friends in real life, but in some cases, you can find two comedians come up at the same time, who inevitably interact with each other, that end up feeling as though they are in competition with each other.
And that, fans have speculated, is the case with Ricky Gervais and Peter Kay. Though there is over a decade of years between them (at 56, Gervais is twelve years older than Kay) the pair came through the comedy circuit at around the same time in Britain.
Before we go into Gervias’ three digs let’s see both comedians backgrounds and why there may be a rivalry.
Ricky Gervais’ rise to the top
The Reading native Ricky Gervais first made a name for himself in the eyes of the mainstream public in the late 90s, after years in the radio and music business, by contributing to the BAFTA winning The Sketch Show.
Ricky Gervais The Office was a huge hit and help propel his careerRicky Gervais was a late bloomer in comedy – he didn’t really gain any recognition in the country until he was in his late 30s – but when The Office came around, Gervais’ profile blew up, and over the next 15 years, he became arguably one of the biggest stars in the world.
After The Office blew up, and set the record at the time for the fasting selling comedy DVD of all time, Ricky Gervais became a star, and followed that up with a Extras, as well as a string of hugely successful stand up shows and films.
Peter Kay’s journey to king of northern comedy
Peter Kay’s first TV project was in 1997, just a year before Gervais made his mainstream debut on TV, called New Voices, which was a comedy series that showcased rising talent.
Peter Kay was always the consummate stand up before cornering TV, with Ricky Gervais doing things the other way around, which is something that almost no stand ups have done, to any great success at least.
In many ways, these two comedy giants were defined in their early days by two shows that threw them into realms that many comedians never see in this country. For Ricky Gervais, it was The Office, and for Peter Kay, it was Phoenix Nights.
Phoenix Nights centred around a northern working man’s club and is still remembered today as one of the most loved sitcoms ever produced. Not only that, but it catapulted Peter Kay into the public conscious, as he became very much the every man of comedy.
He too has followed his success with other hit TV shows, as well as a record setting live tour.
And as the BBC said back in 2002, when the pair were riding separate but very similar ways of success: “Although there is a distinctly North-South divide between Kay and Gervais, there are many similarities as both are writers, directors and the acting stars of their own show and draw on their backgrounds for their work.”
And when you have two stars that rise at almost exactly the same time, you’re bound to get some professional rivalry, but sometimes that professional rivalry can turn personal, which is what some fans over the years have argued.
How much is Ricky Gervais worth?
It’s no doubt that Humanity has added to Gervais’ bank balance, and with writing and directing most of his own work, Gervais has hit it big with a number of projects, such as Extras, Derek, The Invention of Lying, and the one that changed the game, The Office.
And he certainly knows how to spend his cash. Gervais, who has built up a personal wealth of a staggering £55 million, and who didn’t get into comedy until he was almost 40, jets to and from London and New York between his £10.5 million Hampstead, North London home and his two flats in New York City. He also owns property in Marlow, Buckinghamshire.
How much is Peter Kay worth?
It’s clear to see that after coming up together, they’ve both done very well, and in the case of Peter Kay, in the words of Fatboy Slim, you’ve come a long way baby, and in the case of the working class kid from Bolton done good, truer words were never uttered.
When it comes to his style of comedy, you can’t deny that he’s the master of his art, with the record for the most successful stand-up show ever going to his 2010-11 tour, as he played to over 1.2 million Brits. Astonishingly, he’s sold an estimated 10 million DVDs as well. All of this has led to Peter Kay amassing a fortune of around £45 million.
Despite being behind some of the best sitcoms in recent history as well, such as Phoenix Nights, Max and Paddy and Peter Kay’s Car Share, and amazingly, he still lives in Bolton – a true test of the man that, no matter how successful he becomes – never forgets his roots.
But there are certain perks with being that successful, as when on his big tours, he splurges on a helicopter to get him back to his home in Bolton each night.
The 1st dig fans have picked up on
Some people have argued that Ricky Gervais has made sly digs at Peter Kay and his public persona through shows such as Extras, which takes a look at the more negative side of show business in the Christmas special episode. In a forum, one person said: “I’ve noticed a fair few digs that Gervais has made to Peter Kay, especially in the Extras Christmas special. Obviously their was the catchphrase t-shirt, but also when he said in the Extras special about not wanting to be the sort of performer who performs a music video where he would sing a famous song and get celebrities to be in the video, but for the really famous people he would get lookalikes – which is what Kay and Matt Lucas did.
“I’ve heard Ricky say on XFM that he likes Peter Kay’s stuff, but maybe over the last few years he’s been annoyed by the same things I (many) have about Kay.”
And one person replied: “It’s worth remembering that The Office, Extras and Phoenix Nights are all co-written. There’s no evidence to suggest that either Ricky Gervais or Peter Kay could equal their quality working alone.
“There is some recent evidence to suggest that Kay can’t.
“Ricky Gervais has some ‘issues’ that seem to drive his statements about British comedy and British performers. It’s not unreasonable to suppose that Gervais resents the public affection shown to Kay since it’s likely he considers him an inferior talent.”
There could well be a point to all this, as there seems to be a dig, perhaps not at Peter Kay directly, but at how some comedians go about releasing charity singles, who they get and why they do it. In the last episode of Extras, Andy Millman, played by Gervais, has amassed somewhat of a public persona, and now he plans to release a charity special.
When he is interviewed by someone at the Guardian, he goes into detail about it, and perhaps this is where the truth to some of the digs may lie (we have highlighted the key parts):
“Guardian interviewer: So, you mentioned your charity work. What charities are you involved with?
“Andy: Africa. The main one that people care about, innit?
“Guardian interviewer: You’re not going to release an awful comedy single, are you? – Just so you can boost your profile?
“Andy: Not just so I can boost my profile.
“Guardian interviewer: So you are releasing a comedy single?
“Andy: It’s not. It’s me as Ray. I’m doing a cover of “9 to 5”. And it’s a fun video, cos we’ve got loads of sort of celebs in it. We’ve got, er, Craig Charles, Sam Fox, Jade Goody’s mum.
“Guardian interviewer: God! Bunch of saddos.
“Andy: Well, the good ones didn’t want to do it. We had to use lookalikes for some of them. They’ll be sorry. When it gets to number one.”
Whether it’s about Peter Kay or not (this would have been filmed just after Peter Kay released his version of Amarillo), it could be argued through this conversation on the show that Ricky Gervais has issues with what some celebrities do to try and boost their image, whether they admit to it or not.
Furthermore, Peter Kay used some lookalikes in his charity single, could it be too much of coincidence that Gervais has referenced this in Extras? Many fans think not but we will let you make up your own mind!
The rumours about Ricky Gervais not liking Peter Kay, or perhaps having some sort of problem with him have abounded for years. It all seems to stem from comments that Ricky Gervais made, though he didn’t name names, about comedians “spreading themselves too thin.” The topic has been up for discussion on forums for years, with one person asking the question:
“I know Ricky has said before that he’s a fan of Peter’s stuff but am I the only person to think that maybe he doesn’t like Peter? An example was an interview I read with Ricky where he said something along the lines of ‘Some comedians spread themselves too thin..they’ll look back in a few years time and wonder why they did that’ and I assumed it was because Peter was on Coronation Street.
“I also remember an old Ricky Gervais interview in FHM which also had Johnny Vegas and Peter Kay in, and Ricky seemed to not like Peter all too much.”
The question had many responses, with one person saying: “I’m glad I’m not the only one that sensed a bit of Gervais/Kay dislike. I remember hearing on a “That Peter Kay Thing” episode commentary Kay mentioning how some of the stuff he did about Marc Park being a failing Reality TV star being “YEARS before The f’fin Office ever did it”.”
Peter giving some out there too?!
“Also, does anyone remember when Ricky and Steve were announcing the winner to Rockbusters one time and said that someone emailed in whose name was Peter Kay. Ricky said “We’re going to give him 2nd place cos I like the idea of Peter Kay coming in 2nd” then giggled.”
But some people have suggested that if Ricky either dislikes or disliked Peter Kay in the past, then the bad feelings go both ways.
One person replied: “I remember on one of the xfm shows (one of the ones available on the xfm website I think) Ricky mentioned his respect for Peter Kay’s work. It was on the show just after the team had been passed over at the Sony awards. Ricky was furious and said something like “It’s not as if I expect to win every award, I’ve lost to Peter Kay before, a lot of people think that Phoenix Nights is better than The Office, fair enough, it’s a good show, Peter Kay: good luck to him… but some the SHODDY SHITE that we lost to last night…” (he was ranting)
“On the other hand I get the impression that Kay really has an irrational hatred of Gervais. I think it was a couple of years ago at the British Comedy awards where Kay couldn’t make it because he was performing. He was presented with an award live via TV link-up and said hello to everyone at the ceremony then he said “Hello Ricky” in a strange way as if it was meant to mean something.”
And another person said: “Even though they hugely respect each others work, well each others ‘main’ show, there is an intense rivalry there. The rivalry is everything, there are so many binary opposites. For it’s North vs South, Brian Potter vs David Brent, Man united vs chelsea (this isn’t relavent to them two but I find that it is a north south thing), BBC vs Channel 4, all sorts.”
So what did Ricky Gervais mean if he was talking about Peter Kay spreading himself too thin? Maybe he was talking about these things…
Peter Kay in Coronation Street
Peter Kay appeared in Coronation Street on two separate occasions, he was on the show in 1997 as a shopfitter who was drafted in by Fred Elliot to refurbish the corner shop in November. But it was his second appearance that could well have been the reason for the comments. He appeared again on Coronation Street in 2004, with Peter Kay, by this point, being one of the most recognisable names in the UK.
He returned to the programme as Newton & Ridley drayman Eric Gartside, who went out on a date with Shelley Unwin in January 2004.
Peter Kay in the John Smiths advert
Peter Kay has been one of the most profitable spokesmen for advertising campaigns over the years. From the famous John Smiths adverts, to Sports Relief, Woolworths and Marks and Spencer, Peter Kay over the years has kept himself busy filming adverts for many of the top companies in the country on top of his stand up tours and creating shows.
Extras, in general, is about the piercing of the vanity of celebrity culture, and how Ricky Gervaus uses his character in the show, Andy Millman, to highlight how people change on the hunt for fame and fortune, but also to show how their priorities change when faced with the prospect of losing the adulation so necessary to measure not only how they wish to be measured by other people, but how they measure themselves.
And herein lies one of the key pieces of evidence that fans have looked at when discussing the topic of Ricky throwing digs at Peter Kay. In Extras, Andy looks down on roles such as playing monsters and aliens in Doctor Who, but after he gets desperate, he acquiesces and goes ahead with the cameo in the BBC science fiction show.
And what did Peter Kay do? Well, he played a lizard thing in Doctor Who at around the same time.
However, Peter Kay would later express regret about doing the role – even going as far as to say that it is the career choice that he regrets the most. Speaking in a rare interview, he said: It’s nice to have been in Doctor Who but that is regarded by fans as the worst episode ever.”
The star added, “I loved making it but when I saw it, I thought, ‘Oh my God. I’m big green lizard running around Cardiff? Is that it?”
Perhaps when you weigh the evidence up, there is a case to be made that Peter Kay was the subject for Ricky Gervais’ lampooning and mockery. Fans seem to think it, and whether it was a case of professional rivalry between two talented comedians who came up at the same time, or whether it’s more than that – only the pair of them truly know.