Stephen Merchant

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Stephen Merchant

Merchant in 2009
BornStephen James Merchant
(1974-11-24) 24 November 1974 (age 37)
Bristol, England
OccupationActor, director, writer, radio presenter, comedian
Years active1998–present
Height6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)
Jump to: navigation, search
Stephen Merchant

Merchant in 2009
BornStephen James Merchant
(1974-11-24) 24 November 1974 (age 37)
Bristol, England
OccupationActor, director, writer, radio presenter, comedian
Years active1998–present
Height6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)

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, as the co-writer, co-director and a co-star of Extras, and as the co-host of The Ricky Gervais Show in its radio, podcast, audiobook and television-show forms. The Ricky Gervais Show in radio form has won a bronze Sony Award.

Merchant appeared in the BBC TV series Life's Too Short in which he co-wrote and co-directs. 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, and an Emmy Award.


Early life

Merchant was born in Bristol, England, the son of 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 more on school work as opposed to sport. 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:

Merchant, Steve: The man behind the funniest show on W963, the "Steve Show", highlights of which included an inspired take-off of the IRN news ('we spoke to Gerry Adams...'), an advert for Coventry Library ('Coventry Library makes no claims to be infinite'), attempting to give away an Aerosmith video to people on the toilet in Rootes [hall of residence], telephoning the library bridge security post to ask if they had seen a lost ball, as well as a series of snippets entitled At home with Rose and Fred West. He once suckled milk from a cows udder. This show stood out, as it was actually genuinely good. It's only a matter of time before Steve and his posse follow in the footsteps of Newman and Baddiel.

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.



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)

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

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".[4]

Podcast series

In December 2005, with sponsorship by The Guardian, Merchant, Gervais and Pilkington began recording a weekly podcast (also called The Ricky Gervais Show).[5] 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.


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 installments aired on HBO in the United States. Merchant won a 2006 British Comedy Award for Best TV Actor for his performance as Lamb.[6]

The Steve Show

Merchant in January 2011

In January 2007, Merchant began hosting his own radio show on BBC 6 Music, airing weekly on Sunday afternoons.[7] 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[8] joining the ensemble. "The Steve Show" aired for four seasons and concluded in May 2009.


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.[9] 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.

Other work

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 2009 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.[10] 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 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,[11] a role which earned him widespread acclaim among reviewers.[12] 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."[13]

Merchant has provided the voice-over since 2009 of advertisements for Barclays and Waterstones.



2007Hot FuzzPeter Ian Staker
Run Fatboy RunMan with broken leg
2009The Invention of LyingMan at the door
2010Tooth FairyTracy
Cemetery JunctionDougie BodenWriter and director
Jackboots on WhitehallTomVoice only
Burke and HareHolyrood Footman
2011Hall PassGary
Gnomeo and JulietParisVoice only
2013Movie 43Donald


2000Meet Ricky GervaisStudio employee
2002The OfficeThe Ogg MonsterWriter and director
2004Garth Marenghi's DarkplaceChefEpisode 2
Green WingLab technicianEpisode 6
2005Bromwell HighMr. Phillips
2005ExtrasDarren LambWriter and director
200724CTU technician
2010–presentThe Ricky Gervais ShowHimself
2010An Idiot AbroadExecutive producer
2011Life's Too ShortVersion of himselfAlso writer and director
Ronnie Corbett's Comedy BritainHimself
An Idiot Abroad 2: The Bucket ListExecutive producer
2012An Idiot Abroad 3: The Short Way Round

Video games

2011Portal 2WheatleyVoice only


Awarding Body/EventAwarded
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
  • 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

Personal life

Merchant dated digital advertising producer Claire Jones for two years, although their relationship reportedly ended in 2009.[14] Merchant is an atheist.[15] He is the cousin of Sara Dallin of Bananarama.


Merchant's height (6 ft 7in; 2.01 m)[16] and his unusually large eyes meant that he has suffered teasing throughout his life. 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".[17] His height, and also dance moves, have attracted comments from several sources. The Daily Mail newspaper described him as a "giant albatross hopping on stilts"[18] as he danced in a London pub (although Merchant denied this during an episode of the Ricky Gervais Show, stating that he did not take to the dance floor on that occasion).

While discussing what the Daily Mail had said on the show, friend and collaborator Ricky Gervais has likened him to an "upright lizard being given electro-shock treatment"[19] and a "stick insect with glasses"[19] or Beaker from The Muppet Show.[20] Radio producer and co-host of Merchant, Karl Pilkington, has described his moves as a "bit of weird art"[21] in the past, while British comic and broadcaster Russell Brand has likened him to a "graceful grasshopper".[22] Merchant has commented that he prefers to liken himself to fellow tall man and English football player, Peter Crouch[23] 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.


  1. ^ Family detective: Stephen Merchant – Telegraph.
  2. ^ "Funny you asked". University of Warwick website.
  3. ^ "The Steve Show". Retrieved 23 January 2012.
  4. ^ Gervais to write US office episode[dead link]
  5. ^ August 2004. "Ricky Gervais... Obviously". Retrieved 17 March 2010.
  6. ^ Owen Gibson, media correspondent (14 December 2006). "Tate and Merchant win comedy awards , Media". The Guardian (UK).,,1971460,00.html. Retrieved 17 March 2010.
  7. ^ "Stephen Merchant presents new show for BBC 6 Music". BBC. Retrieved 17 March 2010.
  8. ^ "". Retrieved 17 March 2010.
  9. ^ "Beanpole funnyman Stephen Merchant hopes stand-up lines will help him bag a girlfriend". The Daily Record. 16 March 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2012.
  10. ^ "| Warwick Davis Official Website". Retrieved 23 January 2012.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Young, John (20 April 2011). "'Portal 2' Videogame Review: Physics is Phunny". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 20 April 2011.
  13. ^ Plunkett, Luke (13 May 2011). "Portal 2’s Wheatley Found it all "Exhausting"". Kotaku. Gawker Media. Retrieved 13 May 2011.
  14. ^ "News of the World ',"TV Steve Dumps his Girl"',". 5 October 2009 from preston.. Retrieved 17 March 2010.
  15. ^ The Ricky Gervais Show. Episode No. 2, season 1.
  16. ^ "Stephen Merchant: A giant of comedy". The Independent (UK). 25 March 2007. Retrieved 26 December 2007.
  17. ^ "Episode Five". The Office. episode 5. season 2. 28 October 2002.
  18. ^ Kay, Richard (22 August 2006). "Daily Mail 22 August 2006 retrieved 6th September 2009". The Daily Mail (UK). Retrieved 17 March 2010.
  19. ^ a b "Part 4". The Ricky Gervais Show. episode 2. season 3. 22 August 2006.
  20. ^ The Ricky Gervais Show — The Early Years/Part 3
  21. ^ The Ricky Gervais Show. Episode No. 4, season 3.
  22. ^ BBC Podcast — The Russell Brand Show
  23. ^ "Part 2". The Ricky Gervais Show. episode 2. season 3. 22 August 2006.

External links