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Stephen Merchant

A fresh pass from the Farrelly brothers

The kingpins of dirty comedy's comeback film aims at a mature audience, but they haven't given up on gross-out gags. Gill Pringle hears how the toilet humour titans keep the laughs coming

The Diary: Woody Allen; Stephen Merchant; DC Moore's Honest; Ai

Another year, another Woody Allen film. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, released on 18 March, is typical late-period Allen – London whimsy, performed by a wonderful cast including Anthony Hopkins, Naomi Watts, Josh Brolin, Freida Pinto and Antonio Banderas. "Most of them ask me no questions about the character or about the script," says Allen. "They just come in and do it... and then we move on." Not quite, Woody! Apparently a couple had their reservations. Pinto asked to change the name of her character as it was the same – Latika – as her Slumdog Millionaire heroine. Allen's second suggestion was also rejected by the actress for not being of the correct class. Finally, Pinto had to come up with her own name, Dia. Brolin, though, found Allen less accommodating of his proposals – namely that his character should be wheelchair-bound and Yugoslavian. "He wrote me back an email response that just said 'no'," he admits.

DVD: Cemetery Junction, For retail & rental (Sony)

Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant spent two series of Extras scoffing at Hollywood clichés and sitcom banalities, so it's bizarre to see the pair embracing those very clichés and banalities in the first film they've written and directed together.

Film: The British are coming!

With new films from old masters Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, fresh comedy talents behind the camera and two Roman epics in the pipeline, these are exciting times for homegrown movies. Geoffrey Macnab looks ahead

The Diary: Stephen Merchant; Shakespeare's Globe; Cirque du Soleil;

Ricky Gervais has been busy conquering Hollywood, most recently with the announcement that he would be presenting the next Golden Globes, but what has become of his more retiring 'Office' co-writer Stephen Merchant? He has turned to stand-up – and, on the evidence of this latest (rare) outing, he's well on the way to eclipsing Gervais's last live effort, 'Science', which received, at best, lukewarm reviews. The shy, bespectacled comedy giant, who has said that he struggled to find his voice when he first tried stand-up in the late Nineties, tried out new material at Feature Spot's 100 Club night in London and received a rapturous response. He briefly referred to "the other one", but Gervais was soon forgotten in a set of polished, eminently likeable routines about being 6ft 7in tall, the expensive business of dating and 'Blue Peter' badges. Plus there was some inspired, unexpected riffing on his many awards. Let's hope that he makes it into a full-length show and takes it on tour next year.

Ricky Gervais returns with new workplace comedy

More than eight years after The Office changed British comedy forever, Ricky Gervais has helped create a new television sitcom that finds its laughs in the drudgery and absurdities of another unglamorous workplace.

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Merton earns 11th Bafta nomination by going to China

Paul Merton is best known for the dry humour he brings to Have I Got News For You, but his talent as a tour guide to a hidden side of China has now caught the eye and earned him a nomination for a prestigious television award for the 11th time in his career.

The joy of 6: Who says digital radio is dead?

Some say digital radio is dead – go tell that to Radio 6. On the station's sixth birthday, Stephen Merchant, Russell Brand and a quirky cast of DJs reveal how the BBC's first major music station for 35 years conquered the airwaves