Stephen Merchant

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Stephen Merchant
StephenMerchantAltNov09.jpg
Merchant in November 2009
Born (1974-11-24) 24 November 1974 (age 39)
Hanham, Bristol, England
Occupation Actor, director, writer, presenter, comedian
Years active 1998–present

Stephen James Merchant (born 24 November 1974) is an English writer, director, radio presenter, comedian, and actor. He is best known for his collaborations with Ricky Gervais, as the co-writer and co-director of the popular British sitcom The Office, co-writer, co-director, and co-star of Extras, and co-host of The Ricky Gervais Show in its radio, podcast, audiobook, and television show forms. The Ricky Gervais Show in radio form won a bronze Sony Award.

Merchant appeared in the BBC series Life's Too Short, which he co-wrote and co-directed. He also voiced the character Wheatley in the popular 2011 video game Portal 2, co-developed the Sky1 travel series An Idiot Abroad, and performs as a stand-up comedian. He has won three BAFTA Awards, four British Comedy Awards, two Golden Globes, and an Emmy Award. His latest role is Stuart on a show he writes and directs, called Hello Ladies.

Early life[edit]

Merchant was born in Hanham, 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 on school work. His school yearbook predicted that he would enjoy success.

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.[2] The station's 1995/96 yearbook tipped him for great things:

Members of Merchant's "posse" included film critic James King, Dan Warren, Neil the Maskell and Geraint the Welshman. Recently, a number of tapes of "The Steve Show", recorded at the time, have been rediscovered and are being distributed on various Merchant fansites.[3] He graduated with a 2:1 in Film and Literature in 1996.[4]

Career[edit]

Pre–2001[edit]

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 as 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.) Merchant and Gervais hosted a Saturday afternoon radio show together from January through to 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.

Merchant did a total of 7 years on XFM 104.9. The Saturday show never had a large audience; Gervais says "It's a tin pot radio station... It's not even the biggest radio station in the building." Merchant created the features 'Hip Hop Hooray', 'Make Ricky Gervais laugh' and 'Song for the Ladies.'

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 mid-life crisis; the pilot aired on Channel 4's Comedy Lab series in September 1998, but failed to find further success.

2001–03 (The Office and return to XFM)[edit]

In mid-2001, BBC Two aired the first series 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 programme, 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 year; 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 known by the name Oggy or Oggmonster. (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. The same year, The Office aired in the U.S to critical acclaim. It went on to win the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy which both Merchant and Gervais accepted.

This was followed in 2005 by a 4th series of the radio show, consisting of six episodes.

US series of The Office[edit]

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".[5]

Podcast series[edit]

In December 2005, with sponsorship by The Guardian, Merchant, Gervais and Pilkington began recording a weekly podcast (also called The Ricky Gervais Show).[6] Throughout its first series (through 20 February 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 instalments (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[edit]

In July 2005, 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 instalments aired on HBO in the United States. Merchant won a 2006 British Comedy Award for Best TV Actor for his performance as Lamb.[7]

The Steve Show[edit]

Merchant in January 2011

In January 2007, Merchant began hosting his own radio show on BBC 6 Music, airing weekly on Sunday afternoons.[8] 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[9] joining the ensemble. "The Steve Show" aired for four seasons and concluded in May 2009.

Stand-up[edit]

Merchant began performing stand-up comedy in the late 1990s to critical success, though he decided to focus more on his work with writing partner Ricky Gervais after the success of The Office. Merchant returned to stand-up with a nationwide tour of the United Kingdom in September 2011, under the title Hello Ladies. The tour was later released on DVD. In late 2012, the tour is set to continue with dates being announced for Australia and New Zealand. Merchant will perform his first-ever stand-up tour of Europe in October 2014, playing at least seven nights as part of a new European festival circuit.[10]

Hello Ladies[edit]

Merchant's sitcom Hello Ladies premiered on September 29, 2013 on HBO. It has been adapted from his stand-up show of the same name. Merchant's frequent partner, Ricky Gervais is not involved in any part of the show which was instead written by Merchant, Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky. After its initial run of eight episodes, HBO did not renew the show for a second season but will air a special that will serve as the series' last episode.[11]

Other work[edit]

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. In 2009, Merchant and Gervais collaborated on the film Cemetery Junction, set in working-class England in the 1970s, which received mixed to positive reviews on its release in 2010. Later in 2010, Gervais and Merchant wrote, and had cameo roles in, Life's Too Short, a television show starring Warwick Davis.[12] For television Merchant and Gervais also produced An Idiot Abroad, starring Karl Pilkington. In 2011, he lent his voice to the CGI film Gnomeo and Juliet, and had a role in the Farrelly brothers' comedy Hall Pass. In 2012, he starred in I Give It a Year (released in Feb 2013), as the best man.[13] On 18 October 2013 he hosted an episode of the panel show Have I Got News For You.[14] and was featured in Short Poppies [15] In 2014, he made an appearance in Modern Family's Las Vegas episode[16]

In January 2011, Merchant appeared alongside many other comedians at the 'Free Fringe Benefit' at the Bloomsbury Theatre, London, in a show of stand-up to benefit the Free Fringe at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival.

Merchant is the voice of Wheatley in Valve's 2011 video game Portal 2,[17] a role which earned him widespread acclaim among reviewers.[18] While he states his work on the project was "exhausting", Merchant is also "very pleased by the response people have had to it. What I was really pleased by how people seemed to respond to it in the way they do with a movie they've enjoyed, or a TV show they've enjoyed."[19] In 2013, he reprised this role as the voice of the Ap-Sap in Team Fortress 2, a weapon based on the Wheatley core.

Merchant has provided the voice-over since 2009 of advertisements for Barclays and Waterstones. He also starred in two commercials for Newcastle Brown Ale in 2014[20][21] and for the Cadillac 2015 ATS Coupe [22]

Personal life[edit]

Merchant is single and lives in Los Angeles. He recently purchased a home once owned by Ellen DeGeneres.[23] He is an atheist.[24]

Merchant has used his bad dating experiences for his comedy act.[25] He dated digital advertising executive Claire Jones from 2007 to 2009[26] and has since been romantically linked to actresses Rose Byrne [27] and Hayley Atwell.[28] He most recently has been seen with actress/model Christine Marzano [29][30][31]

Merchant's height is 6 ft 7in (2.01 m).[32] He made a cameo appearance in The Office, playing a character nicknamed the Ogg-Monster, whom David Brent called "a big lanky goggle-eyed freak".[33]

Friend and collaborator Ricky Gervais has likened him to an "upright lizard being given electro-shock treatment"[34] on the dance floor and a "stick insect with glasses"[34] or Beaker from The Muppet Show.[35] Karl Pilkington has described his dancing as like a "bit of weird art"[36] in the past but has since "got used to him", while British comic and broadcaster Russell Brand has likened him to a "graceful grasshopper".[37] Merchant has commented that he prefers to liken himself to fellow tall man and English football player, Peter Crouch[38] 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.

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2007 Hot Fuzz Peter Ian Staker
2007 Run Fatboy Run Man with Broken Leg
2009 The Invention of Lying Man at the Door
2010 Tooth Fairy Tracy
2010 Cemetery Junction Dougie Boden Writer, director
2010 Jackboots on Whitehall Tom Voice
2010 Burke and Hare Holyrood Footman
2011 Hall Pass Gary
2011 Gnomeo and Juliet Paris Voice
2013 Movie 43 Donald Segment: "Truth or Dare"
2013 I Give It a Year Dan

Television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2000 Meet Ricky Gervais Studio Employee
2001-2003 The Office The Ogg Monster Co-creator, writer, director
2004 Garth Marenghi's Darkplace Chef Episode 2 and 6
2004 Green Wing Lab Technician Episode 6
2005 Bromwell High Mr. Phillips Voice
2005–2007 Extras Darren Lamb Co-creator, writer, director
2007 24 CTU Technician
2010 An Idiot Abroad Himself Co-creator, executive producer
2010–2012 The Ricky Gervais Show Himself Voice
2011–2013 Life's Too Short Version of Himself Co-creator, writer, director
2011 Ronnie Corbett's Comedy Britain Himself Executive producer
2011 An Idiot Abroad 2: The Bucket List Himself Executive producer
2013 Hello Ladies Stuart Pritchard Co-creator, co-writer, director
2013-2014 Drunk History Abraham Lincoln and George Washington Episode: "Washington D.C." and "Philadelphia"
2014 Modern Family Higgins Episode: "Las Vegas"
2014 Short Poppies Insurance Broker Episode 1

Video games[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2011 Portal 2 Wheatley Voice
2013 Team Fortress 2 Wheatley (as the AP-SAP) Voice
Uncredited

Awards[edit]

Awarding Body/Event Awarded
BAFTA Awards
British Comedy Award
  • 2001 Best New Television Comedy The Office (UK)
  • 2002 Best Television Comedy The Office (UK)
  • 2004 Writer of the Year Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant
  • 2006 Best TV Comedy Actor Extras
Broadcasting Press Guild
Emmy
  • 2006 Emmy Outstanding Comedy Series The Office (U.S.)
WGA Award
Golden Globe
  • 2003 Best Television Comedy The Office (UK)
  • 2008 Best Television Comedy or Musical (TV) Extras
Peabody Awards
  • 2004 Peabody Award The Office (UK)
Television Critics Association
  • 2004 Individual Achievement in Comedy The Office (UK)
Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences
Spike Video Game Awards

References[edit]

  1. ^ Family detective: Stephen Merchant – Telegraph.
  2. ^ "Funny you asked". University of Warwick website. 
  3. ^ "The Steve Show". Steveshow.wordpress.com. Retrieved 23 January 2012. 
  4. ^ Stevenson, Holly (8 June 2011). "10 Questions: Stephen Merchant". The Tab. 
  5. ^ Gervais to write US office episode[dead link]
  6. ^ Plumplard.com August 2004. "Ricky Gervais... Obviously". Rickygervais.com. Retrieved 17 March 2010. 
  7. ^ Owen Gibson, media correspondent (14 December 2006). "Tate and Merchant win comedy awards , Media". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 17 March 2010. 
  8. ^ "Stephen Merchant presents new show for BBC 6 Music". BBC. Retrieved 17 March 2010. 
  9. ^ "http://www.tv.com/sammy-dobson/person/95277/appearances.html". Tv.com. Retrieved 17 March 2010. 
  10. ^ http://www.chortle.co.uk/news/2014/04/11/19982/stephen_merchant_announces_european_tour
  11. ^ http://tvseriesfinale.com/tv-show/hello-ladies-cancelled-no-season-two-31327/
  12. ^ "| Warwick Davis Official Website". Warwickdavis.co.uk. Retrieved 23 January 2012. 
  13. ^ "I give it a year next year". www.stephenmerchant.com. November 22, 2012. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  14. ^ https://twitter.com/haveigotnews/status/391201492989796352
  15. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMXo19EipFc
  16. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VkGwO1sksWA
  17. ^ Kollar, Phil (18 August 2010). "Portal 2 Has A Release Date And A New Voice Actor". Game Informer Magazine. GameStop Corporation. Retrieved 13 May 2011. 
  18. ^ Young, John (20 April 2011). "'Portal 2' Videogame Review: Physics is Phunny". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 20 April 2011. 
  19. ^ Plunkett, Luke (13 May 2011). "Portal 2’s Wheatley Found it all "Exhausting"". Kotaku. Gawker Media. Retrieved 13 May 2011. 
  20. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1YvJBwC4xQ
  21. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQcPZWctDfM
  22. ^ https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=irresistible+2015+coupe
  23. ^ http://variety.com/2014/dirt/real-estalker/stephen-merchant-snags-nichols-canyon-post-and-beam-1201267589/
  24. ^ The Ricky Gervais Show. Episode No. 2, season 1.
  25. ^ http://metro.co.uk/2013/10/16/stephen-merchant-im-just-rejected-by-a-higher-class-of-women-now-im-famous-4147087/
  26. ^ http://www.express.co.uk/dayandnight/285075/Still-no-lady-luck-for-single-geek-Stephen-Merchant
  27. ^ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1330294/Stephen-Merchant-Australian-beauty-Rose-Byrne-cinema-date.html
  28. ^ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2473015/Stephen-Merchant-hide-smile-Hayley-Atwell.html
  29. ^ http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/bQyeV1TdblA/Premiere+of+The+White+Russian/6Oe1IOz-WiS/Stephen+Merchant
  30. ^ http://imagecollect.com/picture/christine-marzano-stephen-merchant-photo-6713782/entertainment-weekly-2014-pre-emmy-party
  31. ^ http://youhadmeathelloladies.tumblr.com/post/95976526453/here-are-a-few-more-photos-from-the-hbo-emmy
  32. ^ "Stephen Merchant: A giant of comedy". The Independent (UK). 25 March 2007. Retrieved 26 December 2007. 
  33. ^ "Episode Five". The Office. Season 2. Episode 5. 28 October 2002.
  34. ^ a b "Part 4". The Ricky Gervais Show. Season 3. Episode 2. 22 August 2006.
  35. ^ The Ricky Gervais Show — The Early Years/Part 3
  36. ^ The Ricky Gervais Show. Episode No. 4, season 3.
  37. ^ BBC Podcast — The Russell Brand Show
  38. ^ "Part 2". The Ricky Gervais Show. Season 3. Episode 2. 22 August 2006.

External links[edit]