Radio: The Ricky Gervais Show
The Ricky Gervais Show
Oh, this is ABSOLUTE BOLLOCKS!
Ricky Gervais basically describing the entire show.
is an online radio show
starring comedians Ricky Gervais
and Stephen Merchant
(of The Office (UK)
fame) and producer Karl Pilkington
. The show started as a weekly radio show on UK digital music station XFM, but has gone online since 2005. For a number of years, it held the Guinness record for most downloaded podcast. HBO
aired three seasons of an Animated Adaptation
of the podcast, running from 2010 to 2012.
The show basically has the format of a Seinfeldian Conversation
: Ricky, Stephen and Karl talk about life in general, the news, amusing anecdotes and sometimes even a little life philosophy. The show started with just Ricky and Stephen, but eventually, Karl was included into the show, since Ricky and Stephen realized from talking to him that Karl's bizarre worldview
was a source of humor they just had
to exploit. Recently, they produced a series called "The Ricky Gervais Guide to..." and focused on topics like Medicine, England, Society, the Future, and the Human Body, though the discussions rarely remained that focused.
This show provides examples of:
- Accidental Art: Karl's story of how Salvador Dali came to think of making a lobster telephone after throwing a lobster at another artist in a restaurant and it happening to land on a nearby phone. Ricky naturally tells him that it's a load of bollocks.
- Actor Allusion: In the animated episode "Comic Relief", when Steve is telling a story about shopping for records in a thrift shop, he is shown picking up a Seona Dancing record—that being the boy band Ricky Gervais belonged to when he was young.
- Actually Pretty Funny: As much as he disliked (or at least constantly ridiculed) most of Karl's features like Rockbusters, Educating Ricky, Monkey News, etc., Ricky seemed to genuinely enjoy the "Karl in a Film" segments in which Karl edited his voice into a scene from a famous movie.
- Agent Mulder: Karl.
- All There in the Manual: The trio refer to photos and such that are sent in, they are available here.
- And Now You Must Marry Me: Steve re-tells a story he saw on TV about a tribe in Papua New Guinea. After one of their members was killed by a rival tribe, they forced the killer to pay them in livestock and then marry the widow.
- Angrish: Ricky at times; he uses it purposely in some of the intros to Karl's segments (Karl's diary: "Oh, he's gone and written it down, the fffnnnn... *trails off into wordless grumbling*")
- Animated Adaptation: Originally started as a radio show, then a podcast. It basically just animates the stories the characters tell on the show, with truly hilarious results.
- Apocalypse Anarchy: Stephen Merchant says that, if the world were ending soon, he might kill a man, just to know what it's like. Karl would "kick a duck up the arse."
- Armed Farces: Some of the stories involving Karl's brother Mark. He had an affair with his commanding officer's wife and was kicked out of the army for "nipping out for some fags in a tank".
- Art Evolution: Starting with the second season of the cartoon, the animation started to gain more Kricfalusi-style elements and become more expressive and lively.
- Artistic License – Biology: Karl doesn't understand nature, and frequently speculates to fill in the gaps. For example: He was convinced that slugs eating postage stamps was a nationwide problem, and that slugs were sticky because they ate so much stamp glue that they sweated it from their pores when nervous.
- Artistic License – History: Karl is seemingly convinced that dinosaurs lived alongside humans, ala The Flintstones.
- Ascended Extra: Karl. He started as producer of the show and was not on the air at all, but Ricky and Stephen then started actually talking to him and realized he was comedy gold. He's become pretty much everyone's favorite participant in the show, which isn't surprising since Ricky can become an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist in a matter of seconds and Stephen often acts as The Watson. It's reached the point where in the animated adaptation, only a few non-Karl bits (ie stories and such told exclusively by Ricky and/or Stephen with little or no interjection by Karl) have appeared.
- Author Appeal: Both of Karl's movie pitches revolve around someone having their brain (or part of their brain) transplanted into the body of another person.
- Baby-Doll Baby: Karl Pilktington tells a story about a homeless lady who used to walk around town pushing a baby carriage. It turned out that inside was a bucket with a face painted on it.
- Beware the Nice Ones: When Steve is propositioned with the idea of humanity's final day on earth, he rather calmly admits that in such a situation he might just go mad and murder an innocent stranger. The reasons he gives for this are: because he's been a reserved and docile person all his life; because everyone is doomed to die anyway; and because there wouldn't be normal repercussions and it wouldn't matter anymore. Ricky soberly calls him out on this. Karl, on the other hand, simply remarks that he's always wanted to kick a duck up the arse.
- Bile Fascination: In-Universe: throughout the second season on XFM, Richard Anderson repeatedly tuned in solely to e-mail in comments such as, "What actually is the point of your show? Is it to confuse, irritate, depress, or what?"
- Biting-the-Hand Humor: Back when the show was being broadcast on XFM, Ricky and Steve would make fun of the radio station and its listeners almost as much as they'd make fun of Karl and each other.
- Bluff the Impostor: On the XFM show, they discussed Britney Spears holding a concert at a small gay nightclub in London. However, to get tickets, the bouncers would "quiz" you to ensure you were a frequent patron. Steve and Ricky, of course, acted out this scenario.
- Blunt Metaphors Trauma: Karl.
- Breathless Non Sequitur: Karl makes these constantly, but it's not so much him actually setting up jokes and more of a case of him kinda losing track of what he's talking about.
- Brick Joke: On the 21st episode of the second season, shortly after Christmas, Steve recounts a visit to an HMV in which he signs a fan's The Office DVD. Since the fan works at the store, Steve asks, "Selling well, is it?" The fan says it is, but many people have been returning it as well. Later in the show, they receive an e-mail from their "number one fan," Richard Anderson, who, as usual, has a snarky comment. Ricky then notes the previous week had been the first week without an e-mail from him in a while. Much later in the show, Steve reads another e-mail from Richard, in which he explains he was unable to tune in the previous week because he was at HMV returning the copies of The Office he received for Christmas.
- Butt Monkey: Part of the reason Ricky and Stephen added Karl to the show is because he's SO great at being on the receiving end of their verbal jabs. He actually takes it in pretty good stride, though. Ricky and Stephen have even hung a lampshade on it by comparing him, both physically and in attitude, to Charlie Brown.
- Camp Gay:
- This Segment.
- In one Series 3 discussion about care nurses for disabled people helping said disabled person have sex - Ricky acts out a situation with two Camp Gay tetraplegic men asking Karl to help them.
- Can Not Spit It Out: When Suzanne asks if he loves her, Karl replies "Yeah, you're all right."
- Cannot Tell a Joke: The biggest difference between Karl and Ricky and Stephen: Ricky and Stephen CAN tell a joke. Then again, Karl doesn't need to tell any jokes, since he's naturally (and accidentally) hilarious.
- Cargo Ship: Ricky and Steve suggest Karl had this relationship with a calculator from his childhood.
- And before that, a house brick.
- Catch Phrase: Karl's "What I'm saying is..." (or "I'm just sayin' that...") or "No, but what I mean is", Ricky's "THINK, you idiot!"
- Gervais' exasperation has spawned a new one; "Don't. Talk. Shit."
- Karl also uses the phrase "knocking about" a lot, even in situations where he is trying to make a serious point. Naturally this renders whatever he's saying hilarious.
- Lampshaded by Steve at one point:
Steve: How many times have we heard Karl use the phrase "I'm just saying that..." followed by such a stream of nonsense that it's blown our minds?
- Ricky cutting a conversation short with "Play a record." Once he went one better and told Karl to play two records, and another time he immediately changed his mind and ordered Karl to stop the record so he could continue berating him.
Karl: [about Derren Brown]
I was talking to people at work about him, and one lad said, apparently the trick that he uses is the same thing that Hitler did. [beat] Ricky:
Play a record.
Then later, when Karl has been expounding on Derren's superhuman abilities:
Steve: But what are you claiming? Because Derren Brown himself admits that it is not paranormal, it is not supernatural, it is a trick.
Karl: [knowingly] Mmm, well.
Ricky: But he would say that, wouldn't he? Hitler said that. Play a record.
- When Ricky interrupts one of Karl's anecdotes or unorthodox lines of reasoning, Steve will talk over him, exclaiming, "Let him finish!"
- "Alrigh'." Karl's usual method of acknowledgement.
- Centipede's Dilemma: Many times Karl will be telling a story and Ricky and Stephen call him on the possibility of said scenario working. This leads to some very, VERY outlandish explanations.
- Characterization Marches On: When Paul "The Party Animal" Parker was first mentioned in the cartoon, he was imagined as a schoolkid wearing bowling shoes and a Doctor Who scarf who was asked to plan his school's parties. From his second appearance, where he was discovered to be an adult, he was reinvented into a Ferris Bueller-esque legit party animal.
- Chew Toy: Stephen. While Karl is the butt of the show's jokes, Steve tends to be the butt of the world's. He believes that tallness should be considered a disability because of all the insults he gets and the expensive things he has to buy because of his tallness (like he can't fit into small cars, has to buy things from expensive Big And Tall stores). His story about Carnival in Rio is epic (basically, despite the reputation of Brazil's women as being sex fiends, he couldn't get a single woman to pay attention to him, and STILL can't), along with the story about how he was not allowed in a night club because he didn't bring any women with him.
- One woman said that she was "frightened" by a picture of him on a subway because he looked absolutely gargantuan compared to everyone else.
- Cloudcuckooland: The Manchester estate where Karl grew up. So far, we've heard of "the lady whose mom was a witch", Shorts Man (who used short shorts to flash people), a woman who kept a horse in her house and had a son who chased cars, Jimmy the Hat (who never wore a hat), Scruffy Sandra (Exactly What It Says on the Tin), a man who tattooed himself and accordingly had terrible tattoos on his dominant arm, and Karl's uncle Alf who had a mattress in the back of his van but slept in a rubber dinghy. Among many others.
- There's also Miss Piggy - a spouse-abusing thief who tries to steal biscuits and, when accused, talks in a mirror, as well as 'Benny', a friend of Karl's father, who owned - and 'thumped' - a monkey.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Karl Pilkington. His grip on reality is openly questioned by Ricky and Stephen, but they wouldn't have him any other way.
- The Cuckoo Lander Was Right: Sometimes Karl will say something utterly preposterous that is quickly dismissed by Ricky and Steve, but actually is telling the truth, such as his claim about modern cavemen living in the South Pacific.
- The general consensus on Karl (at least on YouTube) seems to be he's quite insightful and intelligent, but lacks the vocabulary to express what he means properly.
- Comic Trio: Ricky is the bossy one, Karl is the idiot (albeit more contrary than the classic model), and Steve is The Smart Guy who tries to mediate but is constantly put down.
- The Comically Serious: Karl delivers almost every single line in a flat monotone and appears to be permanently serious. This, of course, just makes his ramblings even funnier, as it gives the impression that he believes every single word he's saying, no matter how ludicrous. He does make jokes on rare occasion, which seems to delight Steve and Ricky.
- He also seldom laughs at the jokes the other two make - although given he's the butt of much of Ricky's material, that may be understandable. As such, it's genuinely surprising when he openly laughs at a line of Ricky's, to the point where Gervais seems openly pleased about it - see The Stoic entry down below.
- Comically Missing the Point: Happens to Karl OH SO MUCH. For example, he was talking about idiomatic expressions, and he said he didn't get "don't throw rocks if you live in a glass house", since he can't see why anyone would wreck their own house by throwing rocks from inside it. Ricky and Stephen were howling in laughter.
- Karl gets asked what would his superpower be if he could have any. The first things he questions is "But why have I been picked?" Stephen immediately goes "OH, FOR GOD'S SAKES!!" Then Karl says the reason he asks is that it carries responsibility. Touche.
- Then there's the time when Karl came up with the idea of a watch that tells you how much time you have left to live. Ricky asks him how such a watch would work. Karl's reply: "Well you just put it on your wrist..."
- Ricky is telling Karl about a tree frog with enough poison in it to kill 1000 full-grown men. Karl being Karl takes this as meaning the frog in its lifetime will go out and murder 1000 people. They are never able to convince him otherwise, even when he mentions it in other podcasts.
- Really, we could list half the podcast under this item, so it might be best to stop here.
- Complaining About Shows You Don't Like: During the second season of the radio show, Richard Anderson regularly e-mailed the show solely to make fun of it.
- Country Matters: Ricky uses it a lot, as it doesn't really carry the same insult in the UK.
- Creepy Cross Dresser: One scene in "War Time" feature Karl's face on a woman's body and hair to match
- Crippling Overspecialization: In discussing bodies of knowledge in connection with quiz shows, Karl suggests that there's snobbery about being an expert on something like Coronation Street and suggests a respectable "brainy" specialty would be "Latin Tattoos"
- Crying Wolf: Occasionally becomes a problem for Karl; he spends so much time talking about stuff which is obviously ludicrous nonsense that when he actually says something that has the element of truth to it (or is indeed just entirely accurate), Steve and Ricky are automatically primed to reject it out of hand.
- Deranged Animation
- Does Not Like Spam: Ricky has it in for Turkey Twizzlers, every mention of them is to point out how only Fat Idiots eat them.
- Dope Slap: Karl is CONSTANTLY in the receiving end of the verbal version of these.
- Double Entendre: Ricky and Stephen love making them, despite (or perhaps because) of how uncomfortable it makes Karl. This is doubly true, although more legitimate, on the older XFM (radio) shows, as Karl was afraid of the repercussions of Ricky or Steve swearing on-air. Of course, the one time XFM got a complaint and Ricky and Steve were meant to be reprimanded, Karl forgot to tell them.
- Double Standard: Ricky and Steve are allowed to say anything, pretty much literally anything, in terms of insulting Karl and his overall lack of intelligence, appearance, and attitude, but the second he says anything about them, they will act like he's being ingrateful or biting the hand that feeds. Often justified due to the complete drivel that Karl comes out with, but sometimes, it does feel like Ricky in particular crosses a line.
- Double Take: Sometimes, the things Karl says will drive Ricky and Stephen to baffled, stupefied silence.
- Dude, Not Funny!: During one show, Karl refers to Steve as an "invalid". What follows is a long awkward silence. Then, Ricky quickly states that they had a request to play a song. It's one of the few times where Ricky doesn't have a snarky remark. You can hear Steve's bitter remark of "I...I don't want to do this right now" in the background while the music was playing.
- Every so often, Karl's lack of political correctness about certain issues will prompt Ricky and Steve — themselves not exactly shy about playing with politically incorrect humour — to react in a "Whoa! Hold on there!" fashion.
- Probably the best example is when Karl is talking when he went out with a girl who he later found out had a (supposedly) terminal illness. He broke up with her soon after because he didn't see the point in spending time and money on her when "she's going to die on me". Ricky literally screams "Oh God!" in disgust before calming down and saying, even though he understood what Karl meant, you still can't say something like that in public.
- Another instance happened on the 46th episode of the second season. When they were discussing swearing, Karl says he thinks Jesus swore. When asked why he thinks this, one of the reasons he mentions is that having nails in your hands and feet has got to hurt. Ricky quickly attempts to change the subject and tells Karl he hopes he didn't offend any Christians.
- Deus ex Machina/: During the monkey news segment about the bank robbery, the Monkey in questions turns up out of nowhere, disarms the robber, steals the cash and runs off with no explanation of where he came from or what he was planning. Still, he at the very least saved the customers from being killed by the gunman.
- Dull Surprise: In one podcast, Ricky reads Karl a fan letter telling him how awesome he is. Karl's reply is a flat "Cheers."
- Dumbass Has a Point: Occasionally, Karl does say something profound, even if he doesn't recognize it as such and was usually thinking of something a lot less profound (often involving a monkey) at the time. Other times, Karl would actually tell stories or recite facts that either had actual factual basis or were even just plain correct, but would get shouted down by Ricky and Steve all the same.
- In a 2002 episode, when Karl presents a 'logic' puzzle to Ricky and Steve (nutshell: man turns on light before he goes to bed, why?). The answer is that he is a lighthouse keeper, with Ricky blasting him about the fact that the light is off at day and calling him a buffoon. When Steve (and hopefully ANYONE listening) realises that Karl is right, this leads him to cheer jubilantly on-air.
- When talking about the "Russian Shop" with it's antiques Karl wonders why somebody in Russia who went off to live in seclusion in the forest on his own was canonized as a saint and commemorated when everybody else who stayed in the city and "put up with it" (ie: the stresses of the day-to-day grind) has been forgotten, and asks "Why has he got a plaque?". Why indeed?!
- Except in that instance, the story is related to us via Karl, who doesn't even tell us the saint's name or go into real specifics about earning sainthood.
- Ricky actively calls Karl out on several occasions for the question of "What are those things in Gremlins called?", which naturally suggests that Karl is being a complete idiot for not being able to remember the name of the monsters who actively feature in the title. However, the creatures in Gremlins are, prior to turning into the more reptilian monsters, called 'Mogwai'.
- While Ricky admits later in the broadcast that he realizes Karl was thinking of Mogwai, it doesn't stop him from making fun of the question in future appearances.
- Dumb Is Good: Despite being a complete moron, Karl is all in all an innocent, good person. In An Idiot Abroad, the only sins he could come up with were reading the unforwarded mail of his flat's former tenant. He also took pride in saving flies from drowning in his pool so they could live another day, and felt sorry for a worm being eaten by a robin.
- Meanwhile, Ricky is clearly fairly clever and comes up with terms like "metabrain" (to describe a secondary brain that influences your primary brain, when Karl is discussing whether "you control your brain or your brain controls you"). And he's also a big jerk.
- Eccentric Townsfolk: Karl's stories about his childhood feature a lot of these.
- The Eeyore: Karl. Ricky often gets angry at him for complaining so much when, as Ricky sees it, he has close to no problems or responsibilities.
- Emotionless Guy: The only thing that keeps Karl from drifting completely into woobie territory from his co-hosts' put-downs is his apparent lack of an emotional reaction. Despite being on the receiving end of their insults, being so detached he rarely if ever seems genuinely hurt by it.
- Everything Is Better With Monkeys: Monkey News, a section of the show where Karl tells a news story which stars a monkey. Highlights include a fire-fighting monkey and a space monkey who committed suicide after not adapting to life back on earth.
- Everything Is Trying to Kill You: Karl's feelings on Australia, naming several of the (many) dangerous species that live there as to why he refuses to go there. Especially camping.
- Eye Cam: Discussed Trope; when Karl's narrating his idea for a movie where a failed actor ends up being put into the body of Tom Cruise, he spends some time specifically pointing out that when the main character is coming to "the screen does that thing that makes it look like opening eyes".
- The Faceless: Suzanne in the animated show. Whenever they have her drawn for a story involving her, its always from behind, or her face obscured by an object, or in the fifth episode, completely enshrouded by darkness while standing in a lit doorway leading into a dark room. The reason why is that she's asked that her face not be in the public domain, a point which the fans have respected.
- Fire-Breathing Diner: Ricky relates how one time he and Karl went out for Japanese food. Ricky looked away for a moment, and when he looked back, Karl was scrambling for a glass of water. Turns out he ate their side of wasabi, thinking it was mushy peas.
- Flashback Cut: Done in the animated show.
- Flat "What.":
Karl: I told you, didn't I, about my dad's mate who had a monkey and he had to thump it?
- Fluffy the Terrible: Karl refers to Hurricane Katrina as "the bad wind."
- Foregone Conclusion: Almost every "Monkey News" segment ends with the 'shocking' revelation that the unidentified person at the centre of the story was, in fact, some kind of primate.
- Freudian Slip: Karl!
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: 95% of the XFM shows entire ouput was full of innuendo, blatant swearing and vulgar anecdotes from the trio. But special mention must go to the episode where Ricky and Steve discuss birds (the flying kind) that have knobs, and launch in to an entire segment (and indeed the whole episode) full of extremely blatant innuendo and swearing. It received the only complaint in the show's history (which Karl forgot to inform them about...)
- A Good Name for a Rock Band: During the Guide to the World Cup, Ricky Gervais comments that "Goz Unlimited" sounds like the name of a dance duo.
- Karl talks about looking through a gay magazine, describing the focus as "Just cock. Just, 100%, like, let's just talk about the knob..." Ricky comments that "100% Cock" would be a good name for a gay magazine.
- Grand Theft Me: The plot twist of "The Love of Two Brains."
- The Grinch: Karl doesn't enjoy Christmas. He claims it's because it's always the same every year and that he doesn't get a choice to celebrate it or not. Steve and Ricky claim it's because he's just a 'miserable bastard' who's always complaining.
- Haven't You Seen X Before?: Ricky and Stephen are sometimes AMAZED at the things Karl is ignorant of.
- Head-Tiltingly Kinky: The Boyz magazine in the animated adaptation.
- Historical Hilarity: Any time there's a discussion of human history, this turns up. Usually made even funnier by anything Karl says. Essentially the whole point of their "Guide to..." series.
- The Hyena: Ricky, usually when Karl says something.
- Hypocritical Humor: "Don't be ignorant." -Karl, near the end of season 1.
- Ricky seemed genuinely astonished and bemused when Karl, without a trace of irony, said that "I think I think more than most people."
- Ricky himself has sometimes gotten basic facts wrong in the course of berating Karl, or claimed that even the bits of his stories that are true couldn't happen. The latter part, at least, can possibly be justified through Karl's poor and inarticulate method of telling stories, which can often make it very difficult to tell what is fact, what is fact he's exaggerated and / or somehow distorted, and what's just completely made-up. Ricky even said that Stephen Hawking could be speaking to Karl and all that would come out of Karl was "gobbledygook".
- In "The Ricky Gervais Guide To Philosophy", Karl expressed annoyance at Rene Descartes ("I think, therefore, I am") obviously having plenty of free time on his hands. This annoyed Steve, who immediately pointed out that Karl himself is a rather lazy person who seems to have plenty of free time on his hands as well (Karl once lamented that the highlight of his week was going to the cobbler's) and has yet to produce anything from it on the same level as Descartes, so shouldn't be criticising others for having plenty of free time.
- I Love the Dead: In a Series 3 episode, Karl discusses who should be allowed to have a child. Stephen and Ricky pretend to be a couple asking if they can adopt; when Karl asks them what their jobs are Stephen says he's a rapist and Ricky responds "she" disposes of the bodies and that Stephen often does them in the wrong order. (It doubles as Black Comedy Rape simply due to how absurd the situation is.)
"Sometimes I dispose of a body and he's like 'I haven't raped that one yet!'"
- I Take Offense to That Last One: Steve thinks calling him lanky or goggle-eyed is fair enough but don't call him goofy!
- Ink-Suit Actor: In the animated adaptation, as shown in the photo on this page.
- Innocently Insensitive: A shining example in Karl over a myriad of subjects. He has even ended up hurting Stephen's feelings a few times all while being none the wiser.
- His comment on Vicky Lucas was especially controversial. He ended up apologizing for that one.
- Insane Troll Logic: Karl uses this a lot. For example, he's willing to donate all of his organs except his eyes. He doesn't want to donate his eyes because he's afraid of becoming a blind ghost. Even though he is convinced that blind people will get eyes in the afterlife.
- Another example: Karl believes that snakes and spiders like hiding under rocks. The Earth is essentially a giant rock, with Australia underneath. That's why there's so many snakes and spiders in Australia.
- Karl thought the dodo went extinct because it tasted terrible and no-one wanted to eat it.
- He believes that slugs move so slow because their slime is them sweating the glue they eat from stamps.
- Insistent Terminology: Ricky hates when Karl calls his Rock Busters clues "cryptic."
- Insult to Rocks: Karl says, "Back then I wasn't as wise then as I am now," to which Ricky asks, "What was he, some snot in a jar?" Steve promptly apologizes to any "snot-in-a-jar" listeners who may have been offended.
- Intellectual Animal: Karl has a tendency to attribute human-like thought processes and intelligence to animals and insects. Even worms. And then gets confused why they don't act the same way he would in various situations. Needless to say, this opens him up to a lot of jokes from Ricky and Steve about how these animals, while not possessing the kind of or level of intelligence that humans do, are still much smarter than him.
- Ironic Nickname: When discussing nicknames, Karl discusses the ones he remembered people had on the estate where he grew up. One was a man called Jimmy the Hat, who apparently had this nickname because he never wore a hat. Ricky and Steve are confused how anyone would pick up on this enough to make a nickname out of it.
- I Was Just Joking: Karl was worried about swearing in the XFM days. In response, Ricky and Steve told him (off-air) that the Queen Mother used to swear profusely, citing a bunch of fake quotes riddled with 'F's and 'C's. At the beginning of the next week's show, Karl said on air that "the Queen Mum used to have a right mouth on her", and Ricky and Steve had to explain that they made it up.
- Jacob Marley Apparel: A trope that Karl happens to believe as fact for real ghosts.
- Jury Duty: A question about Karl's hair (or lack thereof) leads to an anecdote of Karl performing jury duty. Cue maniacal laughter by Ricky.
- Kiss of Life: Steve told a story about how a kid he knew thought he could resurrect a bird that had been hit by a car just by kissing it.
- Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Karl often proves to be a particularly frustrating example of this for Ricky and Steve, as he will often misread something or only briefly skim it without fully digesting what it's saying (or — frequently — just make something up entirely) and then use this half-understanding to come up with a flawed and inaccurate impression of what's going on. And then will refuse to accept that he's wrong about it. Conversations will frequently have examples of Karl stating an inaccurate or clearly misunderstood point, Ricky or Steve correcting him, a brief pause, and then Karl saying "No, but..." and continuing on as if they hadn't spoken.
- For example, he saw a blurb in the paper about a fly with glasses. He assumed that the fly was near-sighted and they were correcting his vision. This prompted a tirade from him about why humans are "saving everything". After laughing, Ricky has to explain to him that it's an art piece to show how awesome lasers are and that they didn't prescribe corrective lenses for a fly. They try to ask him how they would even test for near-sightedness in a fly and Karl replies, "Well, he'd be bumping into stuff". Cue maniacal laughter.
- Lack of Empathy: Karl seems to have a mild version of this; he's certainly not sociopathic by any means (he can be fairly sympathetic to others, including bugs drowning in his pool and worms), but he seems completely unable to put himself in the shoes of the person (or animal, as the case may be) that he's discussing, to the inevitable end that he's completely unable to understand why they just don't do what he'd do in that situation (such as, for example, why people in famine and poverty-stricken nations don't just move somewhere else). This tends to lead to some of his failures of logic.
- The aforementioned girlfriend with a terminal illness incident comes to mind, as he didn't see the point in spending time with someone who he thought was going to die soon. He was more worried about "wasting" his money and free time than he was giving someone who's presumably not in a happy stage in their life some comfort.
- Lamarck Was Right: Karl's apparent understanding of evolution. For example, he thinks that if we hadn't invented the aeroplane, we would have evolved wings by now. Yeeeeah.
- In Karl's world, seals are "between dogs and fish".
- Lampshade Hanging: Ricky is a master of this trope when it comes to Karl's insane ramblings, which becomes particularly prominent over time during Karl's Monkey News. Ricky frequently foresees the incoming twist — granted, something which is not exactly hard given that it nearly always involves something previously suspected to be a human turning out to be a monkey — and repeatedly points out how ridiculous certain events would have to be to reach that conclusion in the hopes of making him see how absolutely unbelievable his stories are. Karl always ignores him, of course.
Ricky: Choose the jockey wisely, then.
Karl: So he says to his, like, mate, "Look, I've got myself a horse and that, so we just need a jockey. Get someone to sort it out and what-have-you, so I can get in this race."
Karl: So his mate's like, "Alright, I'll have a word and that, have a look 'round and that, see if there's anyone decent knocking about—"
Ricky: (Cutting across Karl) The good thing about jockeys is that there's never going to be a shortage of jockeys, because a lot of them don't make the grade. There's always too many jockeys to go around.
: Yeah! There's never
a problem getting jockeys. (Turns back to Karl) Go on.
- Last Note Hilarity: The Guide to the World Cup peters out as Karl forlornly lists all the diseases he had to have vaccinations against, Steve and Ricky plaintively repeat the "Come on England" chant, and at the last moment Karl says one of his shots is in case he's bitten by a dirty monkey. Cue the inevitable burst of laughter from Ricky.
- The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: Karl's list of movies with great stories: The Elephant Man, Kes, and Mission: Impossible II.
- Life of the Party: Repeat contributor Paul "The Party Animal" Parker. Stephen and Ricky are convinced that it's an Informed Ability.
- Literal Change of Heart: Played with when Karl mistakenly thinks it's possible to replace a heart with a pacemaker.
- Literal-Minded: Most of Karl's misunderstandings and bizarre logical interpretations appear to stem from the fact that he is incredibly (and for Ricky and Steve, at least, infuriatingly at times) literal-minded and practical-minded, to the extent that he doesn't appear to understand basic analogies at all and tends to over-think even the most simple questions to the point where he's at times unable to answer them. For example, the phrase "throwing stones in glass houses" absolutely baffled him to the point where he was asking what kind of special people live in glass houses.
- Lost Episode: The first 8 or so episodes from XFM Series 1 (2001- 2002), which featured Karl's first appearances, are missing from the XFM archives and are not in circulation anywhere. Likewise, apart from a few compilation tapes and two full episodes, most of the original 1998 series has vanished into the ether.
- Ludd Was Right: Karl's stance on most new technology: for example, dismissing travelers who use sat-navs note as "lazy." This does not go unchallenged by Steve and Ricky who imagine Karl giving a hard time to Columbus for using a compass or — a boat.
- Malaproper: Karl does these frequently. For example, he once said he did not want to be bungled with anyone else instead of bundled.
- Several of these become Running Gags or in-jokes, like "foodage". Years later, Karl complained about iTunes: "They've increased the fuckerage."
- Karl mentioned he once thought he looked like the alien from the 'Boswell alien incident.' It took almost 2 minutes of laughter to tell Karl it's Roswell, New Mexico.
- Clive Warren!
- Married to the Job: When Ricky and Steve attack him for not, as they see it, putting enough effort into the podcasts, Karl claims that "family is important" and that he doesn't want to end up as this as a result. Ricky and Steve then point out that this is all he has to do and that he doesn't even like his family or enjoy spending time with them anyway.
- Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Played with. The animated series depicts Karl in a flowery apron doing the household tidying, while Susanne goes to work.
- Mistaken for Gay: Ricky and Stephen seem to be convinced Karl is at least bisexual, and will frequently make jokes about it to him. Not that he does much to defend himself, but you can tell he gets flustered when the subject comes up and will try to drop it as quickly as he can. Any time Karl mentions meeting an attractive male or a gay person, Ricky and Stephen will NOT let it go.
- "I could eat a knob at night."
- Karl put a suspicious amount of thought into the scenario where he's a World War II housewife/war widow.
- When Karl talks about flipping through a gay magazine at the doctor's office, Ricky roleplays what would have happened if he had walked in on him.
- Monkeys on a Typewriter: At one point in season 1, Karl refuses to believe that they can actually write anything.
- Mood Whiplash: Season 3 opens with arguably the best episode the show's ever done, but shortly after the episode aired, Karl passed a kidney stone. The second episode is significantly more somber, but it does get better as they go on.
- Mood-Swinger: Steve and Ricky especially can wildly veer between helpless laughter and frothing rage as a result of Karl's anecdotes and personality.
- Moon Logic Puzzle: "Rockbusters" in Season 2 was an attempt to puzzle through Karl's unique logic to identify musicians by initials. Examples:
- W. H.: She was walking through Texas, but she slipped into a puddle and got part of her leg wet. Wet Knee Houston = Whitney Houston
- B.: "I don't want to live far from the water, I want to be right on top of it." Be On Sea = Beyonce
- C. D.: "If there was a Jamaican on the Titanic, he would have said this." "Christ, Da Burgh!" = Chris de Burgh
- Ms. Fanservice: Karl's girlfriend, Suzanne is depicted in the cartoon as a curvacious blond with a big ass. In season three there's a nice background shot of her silhouetted in the shower.
- And yet Karl somehow still finds a way to complain about this. And her 'square head'.
- My Girl Is a Slut: Karl and some friends were camping on the beach when another couple started camping nearby. When the husband offered Karl and his friends some sausages, they interpreted this as swinger's code and left.
- My New Gift Is Lame: Karl explains how he once gave Suzanne a Christmas gift of two industrial-size boxes of condoms (buy one, get one free). Upon being pressed, Karl admits that this was a "good year" for her.
- Poor gift-giving is a bit of a theme of the show. Karl blames his traditional lack of effort on the childhood experience of buying his mother (who's "into gnomes") a Victoria Plum figurine that she hated, and on the year he got a computer without enough memory to play any games, which caused him to throw up out of sheer anguish. Ricky is revealed to have bought his entire family scratch cards for Christmas and recalls the year he realized he was too old to just wrap things he'd found around the house to give to his older siblings. And the main attribute of Steve's father of which we're aware is his lack of gift-buying sensitivity: his birthday gifts to the adolescent Steve included "The Making of Thriller" and the collected wartime speeches of Winston Churchill ("Never forget, son"), and for his twentieth wedding anniversary, he passed over Steve's suggestion of a makeover/spa day and dinner for his wife in favor of a stainless-steel trowel ("Do you think I should've got it engraved?") and an industrial-size tin of coffee. Years later, Steve mentions that his father finally got his mother an appropriate Christmas gift — a gold bracelet — and then spent the entire day bragging to people about it.
- Near-Death Experience: In the third season of podcasts, Karl tends to act as if the surgery to remove his kidney stones was one of these. Ricky tends to disagree and be less-than-impressed with his complaining on the subject as a result.
- They once dedicated an entire segment of the radio show to Karl's stories about his "near-death experiences" as a kid. The first involved choking on a Mr. Freeze pop (which he credits with giving him a sense of a new lease on life, as a result of which he went to school for three whole days in a row); the second was a snowy day when his mother didn't think it was safe to go out, so he had to sneak out to do his paper route in time to get back and watch The Pink Panther, and he got caught in an upstairs window and almost fell; and the third was during the martial-arts craze in the eighties when he tried to "kick his height," but froze at the apex of the kick to try to get his father's attention, lost his balance and hit his head on the ground. There was also the story about the time he ate too many cream cakes and had a bad stomachache. His mother called the doctor, who sarcastically said he didn't have long to live, which his mother believed until Karl's dad came home and phoned the doctor to check. Ricky tactfully suggests that in another family, they might have realized the doctor was joking.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: In the animated "World Cup" episode, Karl is shown comforting an ersatz-David Beckham.
- Non-Answer: When Karl is explaining his first film pitch.
Karl: Why is that so weird when, that's what they do now. That's what they do now.
Ricky: What is?
Karl: That's what they do.
Karl: They do that.
Ricky & Steve: WHAT?!
- Non-Indicative Name: When discussing nicknames, Karl mentions "Jimmy the Hat", a guy on his Estate who was famous for never wearing a hat.
- The 'Guide to the World Cup' begins with Karl trying to 'calm his gums down' and immediately degenerates into discussions about liver transplants, musical instruments being used in battle, Steve pretending to be Peter Crouch, Ricky using his talking iPad app, and Karl talking about getting done for swearing by his P.E. teacher. Needless to say the World Cup tournament barely gets a mention.
- Not Good with People: Karl seems far more comfortable around bugs (or ghosts!) then friends or family. During a date with Suzanne, he becomes far more interested in the ladybug that lands on his arm.
- The Olympics: One of the Monkey News segments in Season 1 claims a monkey pushed a bobsled in what would have been the 2002 Salt Lake City games.
- One of the XFM Monkey News reports on a monkey that 'won' a gold medal at the 1908 Olympics.
- One-Hour Work Week/The Producer Who Doesn't Do Anything: To hear Ricky and Steve tell it, Karl has a large amount of holidays and free time and does only the bare minimum required for his job. And he does that very reluctantly.
- Overly Long Gag: Ricky and Stephen, pretending to be studio executives listening to Karl's film pitch, keep interrupting him to ask their fictional secretary, Cheryl, to bring them refreshments. Karl actually gets annoyed with it.
- People Fall Off Chairs: Occasionally Ricky will fall out of his chair laughing.
- Poe's Law: In the "Guide to Law and Order", Ricky reads off an online pastor's list of punishments for violating the Ten Commandments. It actually originates from The Landover Baptist Church, a Stealth Parody of fundamentalist Christianity.
- Rage Breaking Point: Happened a few times, but the most notable is when Karl is talking about two monkeys who got 'married' during one of the Monkey News segments. Ricky's reaction when Karl finishes the story is mental.
- Ricky has quite a short fuse for Karl's misunderstandings of science and history, such as in the discussion of the first chimps sent into space by NASA Ricky gets annoyed that Karl seems to think the chimps controlled parts of the spacecraft.
- Rapid Fire Interrupting: Ricky to Karl during many times when Karl is expounding one of his theories. Steve often gets quite annoyed by Ricky for doing this (such as during many Monkey News bits and the 'Problem Hole' conversation) and tells him (in all seriousness) to "Shut Up!" and let Karl finish his thought.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: Many people accuse Karl of being 'a character, since no one can possibly be that weird in real life.' Ricky and Stephen have constantly denied this, stating that not only is Karl for real, but Ricky and Stephen hopelessly wished they could write something half as funny as what Karl says in all seriousness. And Stephen has said that if Karl was a character, Ricky and Stephen certainly wouldn't have wasted him on a podcast.
- Ricky has more than once insisted a story Karl read or heard is untrue, only to receive wave after wave of e-mail confirming it as fact.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The very last e-mail Richard Anderson sent the show:
Commiserations on not winning a Sony. I can't believe you didn't win. I mean, apart from your show's obvious lack of quality and effort; having a monkey for a producer; offering the biggest load of tat as competition prizes; saying 'Hairy Chinese Kid' 48 times every show; Rockbusters; not bothering to turn up for weeks on end; only having three listeners; introducing the comedy characters Camp David, Ho-Lee Fuk, Stephen Merchant; apart from insulting every race, religion, sexual orientation; bickering like schoolgirls; and despite the fact you genuinely bring misery into the lives of anyone who listens, I thought you were surefire winners. Better luck next year.
- Recursive Reality: One of Karl's movie ideas involves a failed actor (in earlier versions a plumber, according to Ricky) called Bryan, who would be played by Ted Danson, who gets his mind put into the body of Tom Cruise when both are involved in serious accidents simultaneously, with Bryan going on to take Tom Cruise's place in a later Mission: Impossible sequel. Stephen is highly amused to point out that this would eventually result in a situation where Tom Cruise would be playing Ted Danson playing 'Bryan' playing Tom Cruise playing Ethan Hunt.
- Recycled In Space: At one point, the trio discusses remaking movies in the style of The Muppet Show (Including, of all things, Schindler's List). This leads to Stephen yelling, "Schindler's List IN SPAAAAAACE!"
- Retraux: The Animated Adaptation, which uses a very Hanna-Barbera-esque style. Ricky supposedly emphasized that his animated self should look like Fred Flintstone.
- The Scrooge: Steve, apparently. He went to Rio and stayed in a hostel.
- Judging by his attitude toward things in An Idiot Abroad, this might have been part of his approach to travelling - preferring to stay in more low-key places and really see the place rather than an immaculate hotel.
- Seinfeldian Conversation: The main format of the show, it's just Ricky, Stephen and Karl musing about life in general, commenting on news stories or telling funny anecdotes. The intro to the show is, "For the past few years, Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, and Karl Pilkington have met on a regular basis for a series of pointless conversations. This is one of them".
- Self-Deprecation: Steve finds his Rio adventure every bit as funny as the audience does. Ricky acknowledges his own weight gain and Big Eater tendencies.
- Steve is also usually the first to make fun of his poor track record with women, as in an example where they discuss a newspaper article reporting that Steve was apparently a hit with the ladies in a nightclub until he started dancing:
Steve: Right, I'll take issue with this, because firstly...
Ricky: You wouldn't be attracting female attention in the first place.
Steve: Rick, if I had been, I would have phoned the Daily Mail myself. Point A. I seem to distinctly remember talking to one of my mates the whole night and we were discussing the fact that we were too shy to talk to girls. So wrong there.
- Steve and Ricky (although primarily the former) often make fun of the show itself. For example, when they were accused of creating Karl as a character and scripting the show, Steve's response was essentially "If I wrote this show, I'd be ashamed."
- Sidetracked by the Analogy: Karl; for instance, he doesn't understand the "thousand monkeys on a thousand typewriters" probability theorem, because he imagines it's about monkeys trying to reproduce the works of Shakespeare and is convinced they would make mistakes.
- Don't get Karl started on people living in glass houses.
- Karl doesn't understand analogies at all. When outright asked for the definition of "analogy," he responded "A short story, told quickly." Apparently confusing it with the word "anecdote."
- Signature Laugh: Ricky has a rather distinctive one.
- Silly Song: During a discussion about Tic Tacs, Karl describes hearing a Tic Tac "ting-ing its way up the tube" while vacuuming, prompting Ricky and Steve to improvise a little song.
Ricky: It's tinging its way up the tube!
Both: It's tinging its way up the tube!
Ricky: Ting, tong, ping, pong!
Both: It's tinging its way up the tube! [laughter]
- The Social Darwinist: Karl seems to have this sort of mindset, such as when he describes his Auntie Nora as "a weak person" who's been "allowed" to live longer than she should have.
- This extends to his attitude towards zoology; he is convinced that were are too concerned with conservation, and believes animals must be "useful" to justify their existence.
- Sound to Screen Adaptation: The HBO show.
- Spell My Name with an "S": The now-infamous "Mr K. Dilkington" letter received by Karl and explained in one of his diary segments. Made particularly annoying for him that they suggest he's one of their most valued customers, and later crosspollenates with My Nayme Is when someone sends an e-mail addressing Karl as such.
- Spin-Off: An Idiot Abroad, a mock travelogue where Ricky and Steve send Karl around the world to see the seven wonders, and its sequel, where he does amazing and impressive things (that other people want to do, not him; but he gets to choose) to check off a bucket list.
- Stealing from the Till: Karl admitted that as a kid he used to steal Mars bars from a newsagent he did the paper round for because a Mars bar was 45p and he was only paid 50p per day.
- The Stoic: Karl. The most he changes facial expression is raised eyebrows. He practically always has the same pouty facial expression.
- It was a huge deal to Ricky that he actually made Karl laugh in a conversation animated for the television episode "Munchies". Ricky kept interrupting Karl, and finally Karl said, "You have to keep it-" "Erect!" and Karl finally gave in and started laughing as loud as the other two. Ricky even pointed out to the audience, "I made Karl LAUGH!"
- He also laughed when Ricky accused him over the phone of not actually meeting gorillas like he said and just having the director in a monkey suit.
- And Karl chuckled mildly when Monkey News included a chimp called 'Eighty Six', and Karl then introduced a Suede song as "One of Eighty-Sixes' favourites".
- Stupid Crooks: Ricky is scammed out of a quarter-million pounds by a fraudulent bank transfer for purchasing gold. The crooks (needing to impersonate him) show up with a fake passport using a cutout of David Brent as the picture.
- Stupid Statement Dance Mix: "I could eat a knob at night."
- Sure, Let's Go with That: While Ricky will usually challenge Karl aggressively on every single inane thing he says, Steve is often more willing to give Karl a pass or at least accept the (sort of) logic he's applying to the situation, if usually only out of some warped curiosity to see where Karl's going with it. This can lead to arguments between Ricky and Steve, with Steve usually coming to Karl's defense and yelling at Ricky to shut up and let him finish when Ricky tries to shout Karl down.
- Take Our Word for It: Karl's descriptions of Suzanne is the prime example, especially as she is The Unseen to everybody (she wishes for her face not to be in the public domain and the fansites are respecting that wish).
- Technology Marches On: One original 1998 series episode had Ricky and Steve run a three-in-a-row track set primarily for listeners to record onto a compilation cassette. Needless to say that the on-set Youtube and digital media devices now make this really funny to listen to.
- Numerous episodes of the 2001-2003 years had discussions about emails being better or worse than fax machines. Also numerous discussions by Ricky and Steve lamenting the Internet and how it's only for 'mentalists or computer geeks'. Listening to this around a decade later is rather amusing.
- Throw It In: In one of the podcasts, Ricky's intro keeps getting interrupted by Steve's chair and Karl's mic checks. It even ended up in the animated version.
- Troperiffic: Seriously, notice how many of these tropes are about Karl.
- Twin Threesome Fantasy: Karl doesn't understand it. Why would you want two of the same woman?
- Undesirable Prize: A staple of the XFM shows, where the games and features that Karl devised featured mostly incredibly mediocre prizes, such as albums that no-one wanted or VHS copies of films that were already out on DVD or generally stuff that most people hadn't heard of (probably because they were so bad).
- Unintentional Period Piece: To the point that it provides quite a lot of unintentional comedy, with frequent mentions of popular in the day bands such as The Darkness, mobile phones being new-fangled, cassette and VHS tapes as prizes, the choice of music played on the show itself and frequent mentions of the Internet being new and complicated being the prime examples.
- Unlucky Everydude: Steve. Karl once unwittingly touched a nerve with Steve regarding this. Steve was asking how Karl had met Suzanne as a friendly gesture. Somehow, Karl got offended and poked fun at Steve's status as a single guy. This prompted Steve to make a sarcastic remark on how he didn't want to be reminded of his loneliness on a comedy radio show. It's one of the few times that Steve is genuinely upset by what Karl said.
- The Untwist: "Monkey News." Karl always tells the story as if it's a shock that the mysterious character is always a monkey. *gasp* Ricky and Steve mock and Lampshade this repeatedly.
- Some "Monkey News" bits do a have a genuine Twist Ending, like the Bank Robbery The robber wasn't a monkey, the monkey disarmed the robber and then ran off with the money and the Cycle Race "So this tricycle...".
- Unusual Chapter Numbers: The "fourth" season was a series of holiday specials called the Podfather. When they returned to the traditional schedule, they just jumped to the fifth series.
- Unusual Euphemism: Karl once starts off a story by referring to the "bad wind" that hit America. It takes Ricky and Steve a few beats to puzzle out that he's talking about Hurricane Katrina.
- Urban Legend: Relating to the Unusual Euphemism, Karl retells the UL about Killer Dolphins.
- Verbal Tic: Karl says "and that" so frequently that in one episode, Steve started counting and turned "guess how many times Karl will say 'and that'" into a game.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: All three of them really. Especially on the XFM show where Karl gave as good as he got.
- Wangst: Invoked In-universe — Ricky and Steve frequently accuse Karl of over-exaggerating both the effects of his kidney stones in the third season, and often generally call him out on being an all-round moaner and misery-guts. On one occasion, when a discussion about toenails leads to Karl moaning about having to carry things in general, such as bags:
Steve: It's just an endless litany of stuff he doesn't want to do! I mean, carrying bags! Who the hell has a gripe about carrying bags?!
- We All Live in America: Mocked during the holiday podcasts, when the trio do a Thanksgiving podcast. Thanksgiving, of course, being an American holiday founded by British expatriates giving thanks that they didn't have to live in Britain any more.
- What Could Have Been: If Karl had got any of the previous jobs he applied for (like for Granada), then the world would never have heard his musings and Ricky and Steve's careers would be rather different.
- What Does She See in Him?: Karl has a long-term girlfriend, Suzanne, and Ricky and Steve are constantly wondering why she puts up with him.
- What Were You Thinking?: Ricky echoes the viewers when he wonders aloud why film executives would ask Karl to pitch film ideas. Karl later muses that they might have done it as an excuse to go out and get lunch.
- Who's Laughing Now?: After weeks of enduring verbal abuse from Ricky and Stephen, Karl finally snaps and kicks Stephen off his pub quiz team. The incident had a heart warmingly happy ending though: in the next episode, it is revealed that the trio has had a serious conversation about their friendship, and Karl allows Stephen back.
- Why Fandom Can't Have Nice Things: The podcasts used to be put online for free for a period before being uploaded to iTunes for sale. So many fans complained about them charging for something that was once free that Ricky got annoyed and now they charge right out of the gate.
- Wild Card Excuse: "He's got a perfectly round head... and that's why I'm doing this podcast".
- Wild Child: Karl states he was like this as a child, using a litterbox like a cat when younger. The animated series has a Flashback of him as a child running about naked, acting like an animal.