Click here to preview the new Fast Company

Want to try out the new

If you’d like to return to the previous design, click the yellow button on the lower left corner.

Ricky Gervais Tells A Story About How He Learned To Write

In this first installment of Creation Stories, Ricky Gervais shares a doozy about an early, indelible writing lesson.

Note: This article is included in our year-end storytelling advice round-up.

Anyone who reads (nay, experiences), Co.Create with any regularity will recognize storytelling as one of the throughlines. Whether we're talking about marketing or movies, storytelling is one of the most mentioned words, one of the core concepts.

Stories are an elemental form of human communications; they are how we understand each other and the world. And, not for nothing, they are fun. With that in mind, we wanted to bring you ... stories! Creation Stories are stories from the minds and mouths of some of the most creative people around—stories that entertain while shedding some light on the creative process.

Here, in the inaugural episode, Ricky Gervais (whose new Netflix series, Derek, debuts September 12) shares a story about an early creative turning point that forever informed the way he writes and works. It has to do with a teacher, a cheeky kid who maybe watched too much TV, an elderly neighbor and an unexpected creative lesson. Of course, it being Ricky Gervais, he delivers the story with some inimitable extras. Watch it above.

[Photos by Joel Arbaje for Fast Company]

Add New Comment


  • The editor/director should be slapped. Quit switching angles and moving the camera uselessly left and right! No, it's not "boring" to have a fix shot on someone "just talking". On a video that want to show the value of story telling, you keep piling on annoying camera movements. Ridiculous.

  • I couldn't agree more. it's like 4 different angles and still a bunch of ugly jumpcuts. I had to change to a different browser frame, so I could concentrate on what he was actually saying.

  • Kat Larkin

    started with the RG video - and kept the feed on, and on, and on. brilliant. thanks.

  • eliseharper

    I loved this. I've heard RG say "write about what you know" in a hundred interviews (give or take - winky-face) but this is new to me. I'm sure it gets tedious trying to find new things to talk about when interviewed, so it's really lovely to hear this. Thanks!

  • A.J. Carter

    Just because you have a slider, doesn't mean you have to use it. The whole interview is ruined everytime it cuts to that stupid distracting slider shot.

    Film making 101-

  • Jeez, everyone calm down. The idea of real people, telling real stories, in real space and time, is not only appealing to me but I also think their intention was to evoke that through the tone of the video. I think it served its purpose - no fancy editing or cinematography needed. I loved his story and his message, and I think the new "Creation Stories" model is rather genius - very excited for more.

  • Martin Adolfsson

    The edit/shooting is so distracting that it's really hard to focus on what he actually talks about. Please don't overdo it next time.

  • Michael Guilfoyle

    Please keep the camera still, the shots simple and let the action make it vivid. Makes it hard to concentrate on the subject. Otherwise the shots look nice, lighting is spot on, the sound is great, the composition good. Let the subject matter be the action not the camera.

  • Billie Smith

    "Write what you know" is great advice when learning to write a creative piece. Because, once you know how to write, you will know the kind of details you have to include in whatever you write about.

  • Mandy Pinetown

    The "write what you know" mantra isn't to write about people, places or things you actually know. It's writing about what YOU know that makes YOU interested... so science fiction definitely falls into this.

    Many characters reflect the people YOU know in your life, or the people you wish you knew. It's all about your preference... what you like... what ya know... what you know!

  • Warnie

    This would've been a great interview with about 6 or 7 more moving cameras and funky angles. Also, I saw a GoPro in the background, but was saddened that Mr Gervais didn't have one strapped to his head. I needed his POV to have his story really SPEAK to me. 

    Also, what about a jib? Surely there was room to squeeze in a jib shot between the slide and the crash-zoom pull focus? Shame.