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When Ricky met Homer!

Ricky Gervais tells Sky Magazine about writing and guest-starring in a new episode of The Simpsons.

So you've written an episode of The Simpsons! How does that feel?

It feels fantastic. It really is one of the highlights of my career. I suppose if I had an ambition when I first got into comedy, it would have been to get a joke on The Simpsons. It's just the greatest TV show ever.

How did the invitation come about?

After the Golden Globes in 2004 we were called for an audience with Man Groening, Al Jean and the writers in LA. They started quoting The Office to me - it was incredible. Then they said: "Would you want to be in The Simpsons?" I said: "Of course!" And they said: "Got any ideas? You might as well write it." That's when I got an adrenaline rush.

How do you go about writing for the most successful TV show ever?

Just think of an idea! The jokes come easier than the concept itself. I was thinking about stuff and sat down with my girlfriend and said: "Have they done a Wife Swap episode?" I checked with Al and he said they hadn't, which was great for me. That's where I really see eye to eye with The Simpsons - its deconstruction of telly and modern culture. The standard it has kept up is something beyond the reach of anything over here, I think. So I never got complacent and started thinking: "Yeah, of course I'm writing The Simpsons." Every time I think about it, I go: "Oh my God, I've written an episode of The Simpsons.''

Did it feel strange to have to work within the framework of someone else's show?

I don't think I know a programme better than The Simpsons apart from The Office and Extras. It's in my fabric. So it was great for me to write for them - it was like writing for the second series of The Office. I knew what all the characters were like - I could pick and choose. I just put my favourite characters in and wrote myself a nice part.

Which characters have you chosen?

Well, obviously Homer is the greatest and I love Moe and Lenny and Carl, so they're in it. I love Chief Wiggum as well - he makes a brief appearance.

Can you reveal more about the episode and your character Charles?

Yeah, he's a very normal guy who goes on Wife Swap with his wife. She goes to the Simpson household and thinks she's landed in cave times and Marge comes to my house. Because she's so nice to me, I get the signals wrong and I get drunk and sing her a love song and try to woo her away from Homer!

What's it like to see yourself in Simpsons form?

I think they've nicely lost a few pounds, except on my top lip. I've got the Simpsons lip!

Are you like Homer?

I think all men are. If you're a man and you're not like Homer Simpson, you're lacking something! I love Homer because he's vulnerable, he's lazy, he's totally dependent on Marge, he's stupid, arrogant sometimes. It's a wonderfully drawn character.

How did your visit to LA go for the episode recording?

Amazing, just incredible. The first time Dan [Castellaneta] opened his mouth and spoke like Homer - forget it! It was like when you see a famous painting and you think: "Oh God, that's it!" I thought: "That's him! That's my hero Homer Simpson!" I was so nervous because everyone's so talented there. I'm sitting opposite Homer and sitting next to Marge and Hank Azaria and there's Harry Shearer doing about six voices and I'm thinking: "I've got to do one little weedy voice in this room full of talent."

But you did get to sing them the song you wrote for the show...

That was an amazing buzz. As you've probably noticed, I sneak a song in whenever I can. I did it in The Office and I do it in this. This one is the worst song in the world - the worst love song ever written and performed! I can say that now too: "I wrote a Simpsons song." Never mind Lennon and McCartney - I wrote a Simpsons song!

Matt Groening says you should be a regular character. Will you do more episodes?

Yeah, well, they did say I could do some more and I sent an email to Matt Greening and said: "Thank you for bigging me up and saying such nice things about me..." I am going to talk to some people about it, but anything can happen.

From Sky Magazine, April 2006