Dark comedy ‘After Life’ heartwarming, easily relatable

Gervais' character, Tony, with his dog, Brandy, from Netflix's new hit show "After Life." It was released for streaming on March 8.

Gervais' character, Tony, with his dog, Brandy, from Netflix's new hit show "After Life." It was released for streaming on March 8.

Image By: Courtesy of The Los Angeles Times

Ricky Gervais is known for his unfiltered, politically incorrect style of comedy, both on stage as a stand-up comic and in his other media appearances. People either get offended by or fall in love with the British comedian. I’ve loved Gervais’ work — not just his brutally honest style, but also the stories he crafts that are a proper blend of humor and heart.

After his hit creation “The Office” which later went on to inspire the wildly popular American remake, Gervais created endearing shows like “Extras” and “Derek." Both shows had their moments of cringe-worthy laughs but remained rooted in rich character development and heartwarming moments depicting true-to-life human struggles. 

Gervais’ next project was recently released on Netflix and is a six-part mini-series entitled “After Life," in which Gervais portrays a man named Tony, who after losing his wife to cancer is emotionally empty and takes out his bitterness on those around him. 

Tony has several regular interactions, whether that be with his quirky coworkers, a prostitute he befriends, his dog, a heroin addict, his snarky therapist, his boss and brother-in-law, his nephew, his elderly father, his father's caretaker and a fellow widow he sees at the cemetery. 

Tony’s bitter approach and suicidal thoughts are tested as he tries to cope with his loss and see the better in life. That said, Tony can be truly brutal in his insults, providing us as the audience a sense of comic relief in the midst of a depressing subject matter.

In "After Life", Gervais' character Tony battles depression and suicide by seeking revenge on the world, saying and doing whatever he pleases.

Tony isn’t a likable person due to his rudeness. There are times we hate him, yet throughout each episode we can’t help but root for him due to the pain he’s experienced. Ricky Gervais may be a witty comedian, but few have truly noted or appreciated his tremendous gifts as a serious actor, which is evident not only in prior shows like “Derek," but is put on full display in “After Life."

It takes a truly talented actor to make an audience laugh out loud, feel sad inside and feel turned off by his character’s rude behavior all at once. Gervais doesn’t tell us how to interpret Tony, but it’s nearly impossible not to want him to overcome his emotional struggles and become the person he once was.

Even though the tendency of constant bitterness does weigh down on us at times, “After Life” proves dramatically and comedically effective due to how Gervais writes and directs each episode. Few people in show business know how to mix comedy with drama so honestly in a style that isn’t forced or unrealistic. 

“After Life” may not be Gervais’ best hit comedic work (find a funnier sitcom than “Extras” and a better stand up routine than “Humanity”), yet Gervais reminds us of the value of life and the purpose to care for others. Both heartbreaking and uplifting, “After Life” is a deeply personal project that incorporates lots of Gervais’ personal philosophy and allows us to examine a second approach at life through unfiltered comedy and soulful revelations.

Final Grade: A-


Dominic LeRose is a staff writer for the Daily Cardinal. To read more of his work, click here. 

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