With Ricky Gervais announcing that he’s to revive his infamous alter-ego, David Brent, for a one off episode of comic relief (click here, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-21613233) I started thinking about what makes Brent such an interesting and homage-worthy character. He has an incredible personal brand, not a good one, but a strong one.
For those of you that aren’t familiar with the UK version of The Office, David Brent is essentially an over-friendly, overzealous manager, with a petty streak constantly fighting his own desire to be loved. People often describe him as ‘the boss from hell’, but having worked for a few tyrants the point really is that he’s a nice guy, friendly to the point of being annoying, and incredibly narcissistic. Brent has favourites, breaks his own rules in attempts to impress, and is often caught trying to save his own position, or face, at the expense of others. He’s embarrassing, he’s pathetic, and he’s quite cowardly.
But the thing about Brent is, although he’s a caricature, he’s a very well observed creation. Despite his many flaws, he’s likeable. Gervais’ masterstroke was hiding Brent’s humility behind an apparent arrogance; he is vain and does anything to show off, but he does it because he’s lonely, he’s desperate for friendship, and he’s desperate for someone to give him a break. We all know people like this, they lack the emotional intelligence to successfully connect, but they really desire it. If you know someone like this, and if you were to reach out, you’d probably find a completely different person, and it’s the capturing of these sorts of layers that make Brent so interesting.