Ricky Gervais: The new podcast

Sausages and Descartes feature in his new podcast, says Julian Hall

In September 2006, Ricky Gervais announced that he was to stop recording comedy podcasts with Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington, saying he wanted to "knock it on the head for a while before everyone hates us". But the pontificating triumvirate are back, and today sees the release of the latest podcast in the series, The Ricky Gervais Guide to... This one's about philosophy, the series having so far covered medicine, natural history and the arts. The final podcast will be on "England and the English".

Gervais's website is a packed scrapbook trumpeting each of the comedian's projects, achievements and interviews. On it, the success story of The Ricky Gervais Show (five seasons on Xfm from 2001 to 2005, when the first podcast was launched) is laid out in a bewildering display of number-crunching. "The first series runs to 12 episodes between 5 Dec and 20 Feb 2006. When logs are analysed early in 2006, Guinness World Records ratified The Ricky Gervais Show as the most downloaded podcasts ever, with well over 250,000 downloads in the first month." Elsewhere we learn that "The Ricky Gervais Show was downloaded 4,611,655 times by 1,681,098 unique users in February [2009]. That puts the total at nearly 160 million." Meanwhile, the press release for the latest series boasts: "Ricky Gervais's audiobooks have sold over 3 million episodes and the new series is at No 1 in the charts in 14 countries worldwide including America and the UK." Oh; and don't forget that Gervais's blog is read by half a million people a week.

If these statistics sound a bit Brentian, it's fair to say that Gervais has made a success of the podcast medium, certainly more so than his film career up to this point. The success of his podcasts is down to the same approach that, by and large, makes his stand-up so enjoyable; they are both about the appeal of the down-to-earth humour of the "man down the pub" who can toy with trivia. Unlike stand-up, or short bursts of banter between records, the rhythm of the podcast demands closer listening in order to follow the trail as the trio grope their way towards something approaching a punchline. In Gervais's broad-brush stand-up shows, particularly Politics and Fame, the subjects themselves barely get lip service. But with the nebulous subject matter of "philosophy", it's virtually impossible for this pub chat to go too far awry. Perhaps that's to be expected from Gervais, a former student of the subject.

At the start, Gervais observes that "cod philosophies" of the new-age kind – mediums, crystals, feng shui – have given the discipline a bad name. Merchant recounts that when he was hosting a BBC World Service show, a medium told him: "You like to communicate with people on a global level."

From there, they move to one of the key building blocks of philosophy, Descartes's cogito ergo sum – "the first thing we did at university", according to Gervais. Pilkington, asked how he knows that life is not a dream, replies: "Because I haven't been sleeping that well lately."

Gervais cracks up here. Though his cackling can feel a little forced, he's right to find Karl Pilkington funny. We learn that, as long as Karl's boiler is fixed, he doesn't mind whether he is living in a dream or not, and that a packet of Munchies is integral to his limited capacity to enjoy life.

Sausages and curry also feature on the menu of illustrative philosophy. The morsels served up by the trio are intermittently tasty rather than a comedy banquet, but they'll whet your appetite for the rest of the series.

'The Ricky Gervais Guide to... Philosophy' will be available to download at iTunes or audible.co.uk (or .com) from today

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade

Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?