The creator of "The Office," "Extras," and "Derek" has become famous for his successful brand of "cringe comedy" - deliberately un-PC humor that taunts taboos, crosses boundaries and elicits painful laughs. His success - and the fact that the Brit's work has found international appeal - surprises even Gervais.
"I shouldn't be this famous, or rich, with the stuff I do," he laughingly admitted to CBS News' Mark Phillips. "No, I should be a fringe comedian that a few people have heard of that isn't allowed on telly, yeah."
By CBSNews.com senior producer David Morgan
Born and raised in the county of Berskhire in England, Gervais earned a degree in philosophy and played in bands and wrote comedy sketches for British radio and TV (including "The 11 O'Clock Show").
"The Office"Gervais was an unknown 40-year-old comic when his BBC series "The Office" debuted in 2001. The fake fly-on-the-wall documentary (created, written, and directed by Gervais and Stephen Merchant) told of the office mates of a small company in a backwater London suburb.
"The Office"In "The Office" Gervais played the tragic-comic main character, David Brent, the manager whose inflated sense of self creates painful (and painfully funny) interactions with his long-suffering coworkers.
"If you do what you do and you're uncompromised - you don't listen to focus groups and it's not by committee - something's going to come out that wasn't there before," he told Mark Phillips.
What came out for Gervais was an obscure little British sitcom that conquered the world.
"The Office"Ricky Gervais as David Brent, with the cast of "The Office."
"He wasn't that bad," Gervais said of Brent. "He tried to please everyone all the time, and he ended up pleasing no one. Which is a nice metaphor for being a comedian, I think!"
"The Office" WorldwideIt turned out the inept boss who only wanted to be loved, but who everybody loved to ridicule, was a character with international appeal. The show was exported to about 90 countries, and re-made in eight, including Steve Carell's version that ran for nine seasons in the United States.
Clockwise from top left: "The Office" as reimagined in Canada ("La Job"), the U.S., Sweden ("Kontoret"), Israel ("HaMisrad"), Chile ("La Ofis"), Germany ("Stromberg") and France ("Le Bureau").
61st Golden Globe AwardsWinner of the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series, the cast of "The Office" - Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, Ash Atalla, Lucy Davis and Martin Freeman - pose backstage at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, January 25, 2004 in Beverly Hills, California.
Teenage Cancer TrustComedian Ricky Gervais performs on stage on the first night of a series of concerts and events in aid of Teenage Cancer Trust organized by Roger Daltrey, at the Royal Albert Hall on March 27, 2006 in London, England.
58th Emmy AwardsRicky Gervais, Conan O'Brien and Jason Lee attends the Governor's Ball after the 58th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium on August 27, 2006 in Los Angeles, California.
"Extras"In the sitcom "Extras" (2005-2007), Ricky Gervais played Andy Millman, a frustrated actor who could only get work as a background player. The show featured guest stars pretty much mocking themselves (such as George Michael and Clive Owen, left).
Gervais won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for "Extras."
"Life's Too Short"In "Life's Too Short" (2011-2012), Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant play themselves in a mockumentary about the life and travails of a little person (Warwick Davis).
"Life's Too Short"Ricky Gervais described "Life's Too Short" to The Telegraph as "a cross between 'Extras' and 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' and 'One Foot in the Grave,' but with a dwarf. That is out-and-out funny.''
"Curb Your Enthusiasm"Ricky Gervais appeared as an obnoxious actor named Ricky Gervais in a Season 8 episode of Larry David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm."
Night at the Museum"Ricky Gervais starred as the boss of night watchman Ben Stiller in the 2006 comedy, "Night at the Museum," and its sequel, "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian."
Night at the Museum"Ricky Gervais and Ben Stiller arrive for the world premiere of the sequel to "Night at the Museum" at the Empire Leicester Square, May 12, 2009 in London, England.
"Ghost Town"In "Ghost Town" (2008), Ricky Gervais (pictured with Aasif Mandvi and Melissa Thomas) played a dentist who can see the dead.
"The Invention of Lying"In 2009's "The Invention of Lying," which Ricky Gervais co-wrote and co-directed with Matthew Robinson, Gervais plays a writer in an alternate universe in which human beings do not have the ability to tells lies, fictions or untruths - until Gervais discovers this comically useful trait. Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe, Jonah Hill, Louis C.K. and Tina Fey costar.
68th Annual Golden Globe AwardsActor Ricky Gervais and producer Jane Fallon, his longtime partner, arrive at the 68th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at The Beverly Hilton hotel on January 16, 2011 in Beverly Hills, California.
His Hollywood bad-boy act hosting the Golden Globe Awards in 2010 offended stars more used to flattery. ("Looking at all the faces here makes me remember all the great work that's been done this year by cosmetic surgeons.") His act was deemed so offensive, he was asked to come back and do it two more times.
"It was mild ribbing of some of the most famous, loved people in the world. It wasn't a room full of wounded soldiers, you know? I made some jokes," explained Gervais. "I don't think those people went home crying about some little, you know, upstart Brit making fun of their film. Really?"
69th Annual Golden Globe AwardsDespite some criticism that Ricky Gervais had gone too far in his wisecracks targeting Hollywood heavyweights, ratings for his Golden Globe hosting duties were up, and so he was invited for a third time to emcee the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards on January 15, 2012.
Introducing Colin Firth, Gervais said glowing things about the "King's Speech" actor, then joked, "What you don't know about him is he's very racist ... I've seen him punch a little blind kitten! Please welcome the evil Colin Firth!"
69th Annual Golden Globe AwardsRicky Gervais ribbed presenter Johnny Depp ("Have you seen 'The Tourist' yet?") during the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton International Ballroom, January 15, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California.
"Muppets Most Wanted"Ricky Gervais is among the flesh-and-blood cast of the upcoming film, "Muppets Most Wanted."
"Derek"Ricky Gervais plays "Derek," an assistant in an old age home, in another odd-ball, even controversial comedy on Netflix.
When it ran in Britain, critics wondered whether Gervais had crossed a line -- even for him.
"I've never considered [Derek] disabled," Gervais told Phillips. "Someone said that he could be autistic, that he could be Down's syndrome. Someone said that he could be learning difficulties. What's Mr. Bean, you know? He's a fictional character, and he's based on people that I've met [who] are like Derek.
"I deal in taboo subjects for a reason. I want to investigate the audience's and my discomfort around those things."
"Derek"Ricky Gervais, of the television show "Derek," speaks during the 2013 Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour at the Langham Hotel and Spa on January 9, 2013 in Pasadena, California.
For more info:
Ricky Gervais' Channel on YouTube
Follow @RickyGervais on Twitter
"The Office" (U.K.) (BBC)
"The Office" (U.S.)
By CBSNews.com senior producer David Morgan