He has made a career out of winding people up in everything from The Office to his Golden Globes speeches – but is the comedian’s bark worse than his bite?

Ricky Gervais’s assistant leads me past a huge, empty room to the top floor of an office above a shop on a swanky London high street. Gervais is sitting behind a desk at his computer in another huge, empty room, and looks as if he’s just squatted the place. There is nothing that suggests this is his office, except for the branded mugs sitting on his desk; one shows his face, the second says Tambury Gazette, the fictional newspaper where Gervais’s character, Tony, works in his hit Netflix series After Life.

As soon as he sees me, he swings his legs off the floor and on to the desk. I expect him to say, “Right, shoot”, as his fabulous fictional creation David Brent might have done, but he reins himself in. It’s 20 years since Gervais made his name with The Office, and it’s often been difficult to know where Brent ends and Gervais begins.

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