The creator and star of the original version of "The Office" has watched his celebrity status grow over the years with a sense of wry incredulity. But that won't stop him from going minus a script (and plus a cocktail or two) as he hosts the Golden Globes this Sunday.
Ricky Gervais can't believe his luck. Even after creating a few beloved award-winning TV shows, writing and directing films and cracking people up with his popular standup specials, the host of this weekend's 68th annual Golden Globe awards ceremony is still in awe of his own celebrity and the perks that come along with it.
Gervais tells Weekend Edition Sunday host Liane Hansen that he is frankly amazed at the freedom he has had in his career.
"It's not like a career. It's like I've won a competition," Gervais says. "I'm worried I'm dying, and the doctors got together with everyone in Hollywood and said, 'Just let him do what he wants ... just let him do anything. Let him be in all his favorite TV shows.' "
Some of those favorite shows that have welcomed Gervais for guest appearances include Family Guy, The Simpsons and Curb Your Enthusiasm. He also recently filmed a conversation between himself and Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock and Louis C.K. -- whom he counts as his three favorite comedians in the world -- which will be edited down for an HBO special.
"I'd be lying if I still didn't [have] a smile come across my face when I see my icon walk up to me and say hello, you know. It's crazy. It's strange. I had a normal job until I was about 36, 37. ... [Now] I'm walking down the corridor, and Al Pacino walks up to me, and goes, 'I just saw you in a terrific film about lying, terrific.' And I go, 'Yeah, you've been in a few good films as well yourself.' It's mad. It's crazy."
Gervais hosted the Golden Globes for the first time in 2010. Back in 2004, Gervais won a Golden Globe himself for his performance in the British version of The Office, which was then airing on BBC America. Before that awards ceremony, Gervais spoke with Hansen about his aversion to celebrity and how thankful he was for his relative anonymity in the U.S.
"The good thing is that no one knows who I am," he told NPR in 2004. "They probably think I'm a waiter. So I'm going to wear a red jacket, and then I think the people will leave me alone, definitely. I can't even go shopping for pants now without people looking in my basket."
Coming back to the Golden Globes seven years later as a third-time host and much more of a household name, Gervais says that he will stick to his off-the-cuff style of improvised remarks. He won't follow a script and has no qualms about drinking through the ceremony -- a technique that led to more than a few controversial remarks last year as he introduced celebrity presenters throughout the show.
"I'm going all out," Gervais says. "They will never invite me back again. ... If they wanted someone to read an Autocue, there's lots of better people than me at that. And they look better. So whenever I'm hired, I'm hired for my particular cocktail of skills -- or lack of them."
But more than his role as the master of ceremonies at the Golden Globes, Gervais wants people to recognize him for the things he himself has created -- like The Office or Extras. He knows that after the awards ceremony ends, he'll return to work on Monday morning with his writing partner Stephen Merchant and concentrate on creating his own body of work.
"Winston Churchill said, 'If you find a job you really love, you'll never work again.' And that's what it feels like, you know. I went from the laziest, least ambitious man in the world to a workaholic, because I can't believe my luck. I cannot believe my luck," he says. "And some people listening to this are agreeing with me."
Copyright 2011 National Public Radio.