Photo Credit: Netflix
Photo Credit: Netflix

Ricky Gervais has insisted no topic is off-limits for his devious comedy mind, as he prepares to unveil his latest comedy masterpiece depicting a grieving, depressed and suicidal widow.

Speaking to Female First ahead of the release of his critically-acclaimed Netflix drama After Life, the comedy giant has admitted viewers may be shocked by the darkness of a drama that is brilliantly enlightened by snapshots of Gervais's unique brand of humour.

Yet he insists the over-sensitivity of a generation guided by political correctness guidelines are in danger of allowing the easily-offended to thrive.

"Lots of people will be offended by aspects of After Life and maybe there are aspects of this show that are a little close to the bone, but I don't think there is any subject in the world that you cannot make a joke out of or parody," he begins. "That fear of offending people is nonsense.

"The great thing about freedom of speech is you can say what you want and people can come back to you and say you are an a***hole. If you don't have freedom of speech, how can that happen? It's a good system.

"Some people abuse freedom of speech and say horrible things and my comedy has never been about that. Quite the opposite in fact. You can make jokes about anything. There is no harm in exposing taboos. 

"You can tell jokes about race, about disability, about sex, without them being racist, disablist, if that's a word, or sexist. People don't get that sometimes.

"Half the problem in the world today is people mistake the target of a joke and try to turn that into a story. They see a buzzword and run with it. Twitter is guilty of promoting that. You see these heroes of the moral high ground bullying people if they are perceived to say something wrong, but it comes back to haunt them because they end up getting bullied down the road.

"You need to understand why a joke is there. If it's innovative, thoughtful, changes the way you think about something, then you have done your job. If you sent out to try and break the world record for using the 'C word', it's pointless and not funny.

"We are grown-ups. I'm 57 and I don't just do jokes about certain subjects to get a reaction. Not at all. I do it because I have thought about it and calculated what is funny and what is going too far.

"I'm a fan of political correctness and I understand why we have a watershed on TV and some censorship, but my stuff is different. As long as you warn someone and give them a choice, it is crazy to be offended by a joke. As soon as you deal with a taboo subject, people say you shouldn't joke about that, but I disagree. It depends on the target of the joke and if the target is not going to be offended then there is no problem."

Photo Credit: Netflix
Photo Credit: Netflix

After Life tracks the story of a beleaguered Tony as he tries to comes to terms with the death of his beloved wife Lisa due to cancer, with his pain encouraging him to dismiss anyone who may prod his understandably soft skin in brutal fashion.

From abusing a 'fat ginger kid' in a playground to fending off muggers with fearless abandon, Tony's misery is not helped by the daily chore of his work as a local newspaper journalist, as he is tasked with reporting on banal stories that include a child who can play the recorder with both nostrils and a baby who has a striking resemblance to Hitler.

"How do you make comedy out of a grieving, suicidal, depressed man?" questions Gervais. "Well, I guess you do it in the same way we make comedy out of everyday life. The more honest you are, the less compromised you are in what you say and think, the more real it is.

"In real life, we bite our tongue. We don't say what we are thinking, even if you look back on it a few minutes later and think you should have said something. 

"With this character Tony, he says what he thinks and that's where the comedy comes from. In real life, if your mate shouted back at someone, you'd laugh at their audacity, but we don't see it portrayed on TV normally and maybe that is the magic here.

"The reviews of this show in the last couple of weeks have been amazing and I've fallen in love with the characters. I'm already thinking about a second series."

After Life premieres on Netflix on Friday, March 8. 

Words by Kevin Palmer, who you can follow on Twitter @RealKevinPalmer.