Many of Hollywood’s biggest stars attended college before becoming famous. Did the British comedian Ricky Gervais also find value in higher education?
Stick around to learn more about Ricky Gervais’ time at UCL, and meet some other superstars who graduated from this prestigious university.
Ricky’s Time at College
Ricky Gervais grew up on a council estate in Reading. He even had a brief stint as a gardener at the University of Reading, before deciding to pursue higher education elsewhere.
He enrolled at University College London in 1980, and studying biology seemed like the obvious option. According to The Telegraph, he was obsessed with frogs in his youth and was “utterly gutted” after finding a hedgehog drowned in a pond.
His love for animals didn’t translate into academic interest, and he quickly realized that studying biology wasn’t the right call. Gervais decided to switch majors, and opted for philosophy because he already went “through a Marxist phase when he was about 16.”
He graduated from University College London in 1983, earning an upper second-class honors degree in philosophy. Honors degrees in the UK are based on a weighted average, and it’s safe to assume that Gervais wasn’t top of his class since he failed to earn a first-class honor degree.
College was still a transformative experience for the famous comedian. He met his long-time partner Jane Fallon during his time at UCL, and they’ve been going strong for almost four decades.
During his final years of college, Ricky Gervais started a new-wave band called Seona Dancing with his friend Bill Macrae. They recorded a sixteen-track demo tape and released singles “More to Lose” and “Bitter Heart” in 1983.
Their music failed to make a splash on the charts, and they parted ways only a year later. Gervais managed the rock band Suede for a short while before securing a spot as an entertainment officer with the University of London Union.
Gervais admitted that he never thought his job with the students union was bad. It actually provided him with a lot of material for The Office, because he spent “years and years standing around a student bar hearing bad comedians getting rounds of applause.”
Gervais later accepted a position as head of speech at the alternative radio station Xfm. He desperately needed an assistant and decided to interview Stephen Merchant because his resume was the first one he picked up.
Dumb luck brought the two men together, and they went on to become long-term collaborators. In addition to co-creating The Office, Gervais and Merchant worked on a number of other projects, including Extras, Life’s Too Short, and An Idiot Abroad.
Celebrity UCL Alumni
University College London ranks as one of the best universities in the UK, so it goes without saying it produced a long list of notable alumni over the years. Some of them went on to win Nobel Prizes in different fields, while others become international superstars.
Ricky Gervais had a chance to work closely with several musicians who attended this university, starting with the Suede singer Brett Anderson. He used to manage this rock band for a short while, but they parted ways before Suede scored a major record deal and became successful.
Chris Martin and Jonny Buckland formed Coldplay while attending University College London, and their band grew from there. Gervais was nowhere near UCL by that time, but Martin later joined him on an episode of Extras.
Gervais still haven’t had a chance to collaborate with one of UCL’s most notable alumni – filmmaker Christopher Nolan, who directed Inception and The Dark Knight trilogy. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature at this university but picked it for its first-rate filmmaking facilities.