Stephen Merchant: Wikis

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Stephen Merchant

Stephen Merchant, 29 March 2007
Born Stephen James Merchant
24 November 1974 (1974-11-24) (age 35)
Bristol, England

Stephen James Merchant (born 24 November 1974) is an English writer, director, radio presenter, and comic actor.

He is best known as the co-writer of the popular British sitcoms The Office, as the co-writer and a co-star of Extras, and as the co-host of The Ricky Gervais Show in its radio (for which the show won a bronze Sony Award) and podcast forms.

Contents

Early life

Merchant was born in Bristol, England, the son of Jane Elaine (née Hibbs), a nursery nurse, and Ronald John Merchant, an insurance representative.[1] He attended Hanham High School. As he has described in Xfm London shows and podcasts, Merchant was a very shy child, tending to focus more on school work as opposed to sport. His school yearbook predicted that he would enjoy success. Merchant has also described his relatively normal childhood, which is often contrasted with that of his associate Karl Pilkington.

Merchant is a graduate of the University of Warwick and a former film reviewer on the student radio station, Radio Warwick where he began his broadcasting career. The station's 1995/96 yearbook tipped him for great things:

Merchant, Steve: The man behind the funniest show on W963, the "Steve Show", highlights of which included an inspired take-off of the IRN news ('we spoke to Gerry Adams...'), an advert for Coventry Library ('Coventry Library makes no claims to be infinite'), attempting to give away an Aerosmith video to people on the toilet in Rootes [hall of residence], telephoning the library bridge security post to ask if they had seen a lost ball, as well as a series of snippets entitled 'At home with Rose and Fred West'. This show stood out, as it was actually genuinely good. It's only a matter of time before Steve and his posse follow in the footsteps of Newman and Baddiel.

Members of Merchant's posse included film critic James King, Dan Warren, and Geraint the Welshman. He graduated with a first class degree in Film and Literature in 1996.

Career

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Pre-2001

Merchant began his career performing stand-up comedy at Bristol's Comedy Box, where, he recalls, "The first week I did really well...The second week I died on my arse. I realised that stand-up was not that easy after all." He also appeared a contestant on a 1997 episode of the TV game show Blockbusters and worked for a short time as a DJ for Radio Caroline.

Merchant met Ricky Gervais for the first time in 1997, when Gervais (then in the position of "Head of Speech" at the London radio station Xfm) hired Merchant as his assistant. (Gervais said later that he had called Merchant for an interview simply because it was the first CV handed to him.) The two hosted a Saturday afternoon radio show together from January through August 1998, when both of them left XFM as it was bought by the Capital Radio Group. In the same year, Merchant was a finalist at the Daily Telegraph Open Mic Awards.

After leaving XFM, Merchant began a production course at the BBC. As part of his coursework, he enlisted Gervais to perform in a 30-minute short film, "Seedy Boss," which became the earliest inspiration for their sitcom The Office. They collaborated on a sitcom pilot called Golden Years featuring a manager suffering a midlife crisis; the pilot aired on BBC's Comedy Lab series in September 1998, but failed to find further success.

2001-2003 (The Office and return to XFM)

In summer 2001, BBC Two aired the first season of The Office, co-written and co-directed by Merchant and Gervais and starring the latter as paper sales office manager David Brent; the show initially received low ratings. Beginning in September, Merchant and Gervais returned to Xfm as co-hosts of The Ricky Gervais Show, another Saturday afternoon program, which led to their fruitful relationship with producer Karl Pilkington.

They took a break from the radio show in mid-2002 in order to film the second series of The Office, which aired that autumn; in addition to writing and directing the show, Merchant made a cameo performance in the episode "Charity" as a friend of Gareth Keenan's character. (Merchant's father also appears in multiple episodes as an office handyman named Gordon.) Merchant also directed a sitcom pilot called The Last Chancers, which aired on Comedy Lab in November 2002 and became a five-part series broadcast in December on E4.

Merchant and Gervais continued to host The Ricky Gervais Show through 2003, taking another break to film the Office Christmas special, which aired that December. The radio show went off the air indefinitely in January 2004. During 2004, Merchant appeared in a recurring role as a chef on Garth Marenghi's Darkplace and in a cameo on Green Wing, and served as a script associate on the Chris Morris and Charlie Brooker sitcom Nathan Barley.

U.S. Office

In March 2005, the American version of The Office premiered, with Merchant and Gervais credited as executive producers. They would later co-write the third-season episode "The Convict", and Merchant would direct the fifth-season episode "Customer Survey".[2]

Podcast series

In December 2005, with sponsorship by The Guardian, Merchant, Gervais and Pilkington began recording a weekly podcast (also called The Ricky Gervais Show) .[3] Throughout its first series (through February 20, 2006), the podcast was consistently ranked the most popular in the world, and was certified as the most-downloaded of all time by Guinness World Records. Two more series and three special installments (the "Podfather Trilogy") were recorded in 2006, with the final episode released on Christmas Eve. In late 2008, they recorded four more podcasts and began a series of audiobooks examining Pilkington's perspective on various subjects.

Extras

In July 2006, following a brief return of the XFM radio show (filling in for Adam and Joe), Gervais and Merchant's new sitcom Extras premiered on BBC2. The series features Merchant in a supporting role as Darren Lamb, the incompetent agent to struggling actor Andy Millman, played by Gervais. Series 2 of Extras aired in late 2006, followed by a Christmas special in December 2007; all three installments aired on HBO in the United States. Merchant won a 2006 British Comedy Award for Best TV Actor for his performance as Lamb.[4]

The Steve Show

In January 2007, Merchant began hosting his own radio show on BBC 6 Music, airing weekly on Sunday afternoons.[5] Instead of comedy, The Steve Show focused on music and particularly "new music," defined by Merchant as "music you've not heard before." Many of the songs on the show were suggested by listeners or co-presenters. In addition to Merchant, the show featured several of his friends, including his housemate Dan, his childhood friend Harry, and actor Rufus Gerrard-Wright (who also appeared in an episode of Extras). A spring search for a "she-J" resulted in the addition of former Byker Grove actor Sammy T. Dobson[6] joining the ensemble. "The Steve Show" aired for four seasons and concluded in May 2009; the presenters continue to contribute to a music blog called the Steve Show Posse.

Other work

Merchant has played small roles in the films Hot Fuzz (2007), Run Fatboy Run (2007), and The Invention of Lying (2009), the latter starring Ricky Gervais. He has a supporting role in the 2010 film Tooth Fairy. On television, Merchant made a cameo appearance in a non-speaking role on the sixth season premiere of 24; he also starred as a sports commentator in the unaired pilot No Skillz. Additionally, Merchant provides the voice-over in 2009 advertisements for Barclays and Waterstone's.

In 2009, Merchant and Gervais collaborated on the film Cemetery Junction, set in working-class England in the 1970s. It is expected to be released in April 2010.

Personal life

Merchant spent two years dating digital advertising producer Claire Jones, although their relationship reportedly ended in 2009. He has several close friends such as Karl Pilkington and Ricky Gervais.[7]

Appearance

Merchant's considerable height (6 ft 7ins or 2.01 m tall)[8] has been a source of humour and teasing throughout his career. He made a cameo appearance in The Office, playing a character called the Ogg-Monster, whom David Brent called "a big lanky goggle-eyed freak" because of his size.[9] His height, and also dance moves, have attracted comments from several sources. The Daily Mail newspaper described him as a "giant albatross hopping on stilts"[10] as he danced in a London pub (although Merchant refuted this claim during an episode of the Ricky Gervais Show, stating that he did not take to the dance floor on that occasion). While discussing what the Daily Mail had said on the show, friend and collaborator Ricky Gervais has likened him to an "upright lizard being given electro-shock treatment"[11] and a "stick insect with glasses"[11] or Beaker from The Muppet Show.[12] while radio producer and co-host of Merchant, Karl Pilkington, has described his moves as a "bit of weird art"[13] in the past, while British comic and broadcaster Russell Brand has likened him to a "graceful grasshopper".[14] Merchant has commented that he prefers to liken himself to fellow tall man and English football player, Peter Crouch[11] who is also six foot seven inches. Merchant impersonated Crouch in a BBC sketch broadcast as part of the pre-match build-up to England's opening game at the 2006 World Cup.

References

  1. ^ Family detective: Stephen Merchant - Telegraph.
  2. ^ Gervais to write US office episode
  3. ^ Plumplard.com August 2004. "Ricky Gervais... Obviously". Rickygervais.com. http://www.rickygervais.com/podcasts2.php. Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  4. ^ Owen Gibson, media correspondent. "Tate and Merchant win comedy awards | Media". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1971460,00.html. Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  5. ^ "Stephen Merchant presents new show for BBC 6 Music". Bbc.co.uk. http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2006/11_november/30/merchant.shtml. Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  6. ^ "http://www.tv.com/sammy-dobson/person/95277/appearances.html". Tv.com. http://www.tv.com/sammy-dobson/person/95277/appearances.html. Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  7. ^ 10/05/2009. "News of the World ''"TV Steve Dumps his Girl"''". Newsoftheworld.co.uk. http://www.newsoftheworld.co.uk/showbiz/299503/COMEDY-star-Stephen-Merchant-has-split-from-his-girlfriend-of-two-years.html. Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  8. ^ "Stephen Merchant: A giant of comedy". The Independent. 2007-03-25. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/stephen-merchant-a-giant-of-comedy-441755.html. Retrieved 2007-12-26. 
  9. ^ "Episode Five". The Office. 2002-10-28. No. 5, season 2.
  10. ^ "Daily Mail 22 August 2006 retrieved 6th September 2009". Dailymail.co.uk. 2006-08-22. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/columnists/article-401729/Stop-sexing-news-begs-Selina.html. Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  11. ^ a b c "Part 2". The Ricky Gervais Show. 2006-08-22. No. 2, season 3.
  12. ^ The Ricky Gervais Show — The Early Years/Part 3
  13. ^ The Ricky Gervais Show. Episode No. 4, season 3.
  14. ^ BBC Podcast — The Russell Brand Show

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