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Cringe Humor

10 Moments That Prove Stephen Merchant Is a Master of Cringe Comedy

Stephen Merchant brings the awkward to Comedy Bang! Bang!.

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They say that behind every squat, successful British writer-producer is a lanky, six-foot-seven bespectacled co-creator. All right, maybe no one said that ever, but it certainly applies to the duo responsible for some of the most awkward moments in television history. Masters of cringe comedy Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant produced The Office, Extras and Life’s Too Short — along with many other moments that caused viewers to avert their eyes and squirm in their seats. Even when flying solo in shows like Hello Ladies, Merchant can provide just as many unbearably uncomfortable moments as an incompetent talent agent, an inelegant pick-up artist or just a bloke sharing a story about being turned down by a nightclub doorman.

To get you ready for Stephen’s appearance on tonight’s Comedy Bang! Bang!, here are some of his funniest cringeworthy moments.

1. Performing Christina Aguilera’s “Dirrty,” Lip Sync Battle

When you have to sway a crowd and you’re built like a flailing-arm inflatable balloon man, you gotta play to your strengths. So when tasked to perform Christina Aguilera’s “Dirrty” on Lip Sync Battle, Merchant proudly bared his midriff, upper thighs and soul in a cutoff T-shirt and flared leather chaps. While we applaud his self-confidence, we don’t have the inner strength to be caught dead doing that.


2. Discussing his first Golden Globe win, The Graham Norton Show

It’s hard to imagine a time when The Office was something of an underdog, but the original UK version was just a plucky upstart when it won its first Golden Globe. Unfortunately for the then-unknown Gervais and Merchant, their long, awkward walk to the stage was punctuated by the announcer mispronouncing their names and Stephen’s head getting cut off for the front page photo.


3. The Oggmonster, The Office

Although Gervais’ David Brent was the poster boy for The Office, Merchant only appeared twice in the original series as Gareth’s gangly pal Nathan, AKA The Oggmonster. Even more ungainly and off-putting than the Assistant to the Regional Manager, Oggy is pushed to tears by David Brent’s relentless joshing about his appearance. We feel for ya, Oggy.


4. Nudie pen, Extras

In this very NSFW clip from Extras, Merchant plays the highly incompetent agent Darren who, between failing to get acting work for Gervais’ Andy, is caught in flagrante in the company of a novelty nudie pen. Inappropriate, unprofessional and utterly humiliating given the focal point, his moment of self-gratification is somewhat vindicated when assistant Barry is caught doing the same thing.


5. Trip to Rio, The Ricky Gervais Show

Debuting as a radio program in 2001, The Ricky Gervais Show was among the first wildly successful podcasts and spawned countless comedy audio programs in the years since. Co-host and whipping boy Karl Pilkington was the breakout star, but Merchant supplied a heapin’ helpin’ of embarrassment with cringeworthy anecdotes, including this story of his trip to Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.


6. Hopeless nightclub pick-up artist, Hello Ladies

Without Gervais on the roster, Merchant shined as hopeless romantic Stuart Pritchard in HBO’s Hello Ladies. Showcasing his true-to-life awkwardness around women, the sadly short-lived series upped the cringe-ante that he and Gervais injected into The Office — and this torturous nightclub scene is perfect proof.


7. Eager wedding guest, Hello Ladies

As we all know, weddings are a meet-cute hotbed, but it definitely requires optimal positioning. Unfortunately for the viewer’s nerve, Stuart is keenly aware of this. Persistent past the point of rejection, he monopolizes the line to congratulate the newlyweds and wedges himself into a table with single women. Eagerness has never been so unsettling.


8. Denying Warwick Davis a loan, Life’s Too Short

Having to turn down a friend in need is so unbearable, most of us will compromise our comfort with favors just to avoid it. Not surprisingly, Gervais and Merchant — playing heightened versions of themselves — don’t have an issue with sidestepping support for diminutive actor Warwick Davis when he asks the successful team for a loan.


9. Behind-the-scenes dance party, Extras

Yes, it’s Stephen dancing for the second time on this list. But honestly, it’s never not cringeworthy.


10. Nightclub zinger, Conan

Single life is unanimously the worst, but it can be easily mitigated through fortune and stardom. And while Stephen Merchant is a household name among comedy geeks, his notoriety has yet to hit the radar of certain LA nightclub doormen. Appearing on Conan, Merchant shares a story of trying to get into a nightclub but being thwarted by the bouncer at the door with a devastating putdown.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.