Ricky Gervais chats with Richard Dawkins

May 18, 2020 • 2:00 pm

This video was posted a week ago, but shows a conversation that took place last fall. On 3 September 2019, Ricky Gervais was given the 2019 Richard Dawkins Award. The award recognizes individuals who proclaim “the values of secularism and rationalism, upholding scientific truths wherever it may lead.” Gervais received the award during a Center for Inquiry-sponsored ceremony at London’s Troxy Theatre. Dawkins praised Gervais for being a “witty hero of atheism and reason.” And I have to add, in a mixture of both solipsism and humility, that I received that award in 2015, and now, what with other awardees like Gervais, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Stephen Pinker, and Stephen Fry, I feel like I don’t deserve to be in this club. But I’m not giving my cat back (see below)!

Here are the YouTube notes:

Multi-award-winning stand-up comedian, screenwriter, and actor Ricky Gervais was presented with this year’s Richard Dawkins Award, from the Center for Inquiry. CFI campaigns to remove the influence of religion in science education and public policy, and to eliminate the stigma that surrounds atheism and non-belief.

The Richard Dawkins Award has been presented annually since 2003. Past winners have included philosopher and cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett, activist and feminist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and actor and writer Stephen Fry.

This event was an unscripted conversation between Gervais and Dawkins, in which everything is on the table and nothing is sacred. They were joined by host, best-selling author and professor of psychology, Richard Wiseman.

It’s worth listening to the conversation, but the best part is the last half. (Wiseman’s presence seems to detract a bit from the flow of conversation.) Robyn Blumner, CEO of CFI, introduces the event and Richard until 7:45, and then at 8:38 in Richard speaks, laying out the reasons why Gervais got the award. The award this year seems to be a glass double helix; mine was a small replica of a skull of a saber-tooth tiger (honoring my love of cats).

At 18:50 Gervais comes onstage for the conversation, and in fact has a gulp of beer as he begins.

I found the most enlightening part of the conversation to be Gervais’s defense of his in-your-face “offensive” comedy style, which starts at 48:00. Richard names his favorite book (you might be surprised), they discuss why comedians tend to be atheists rather than believers, and then Gervais talks about his new Netflix show After Life, which I am still very keen to see.

h/t: BJ

14 thoughts on “Ricky Gervais chats with Richard Dawkins

    1. Yes, the one with Stephen Fry is also delightful, though I submitted this one because it’s the most recent.

  1. I watched the first three episodes of After Life, then gave up. I don’t want to leave any spoilers, but suffice it to say the plot seldom changed and the show was way too dark for my tastes.

    1. I thought I was the only one who wasn’t wild about it, though I didn’t find it dark so much as just…kind of boring. I didn’t make it to the end either.

      1. Sub.

        I look forward to watching. Acknowledging Gervais’s approach to comedy, especially during awards ceremonies, I wonder if he’s ever similarly been on the receiving end and, if so, how well he took it.

  2. I read all of Richard Dawkins books in the order they came out starting from when only the first had been released. I was completely taken by “The Selfish Gene” but was absolutely enthralled when I read “The Extended Phenotype”.

    It is definitely his best book, so I am not surprised it is his favourite as well. He says it’s more for the professional but, from my personal perspective, I don’t think that is true. After all, it was only the second book on evolution that I’d ever read.

  3. What struck me watching is how quick-witted Gervais is. He just has a natural instinct and perfect comedic timing.


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