"Most people in America seem to know me best as that guy who insulted Mel Gibson," Gervais, 53, tells PEOPLE.
Gervais, who stars in the Netflix original comedy Special Correspondents alongside Eric Bana, also says young fans recognize him for some of his kid-friendly films.
"If a six-year-old kid is looking at me, it's probably for Night at the Museum or The Muppets," he says.
Overall, he says he's always pleasantly surprised when he's approached by fans who thank him for the work he's done as an animal activist, which he often posts about on social media.
For more on Gervais pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE on stands Friday.
The bawdy comedian also opens up about his process for vetting a joke, explaining that he knows when he's got a winner by the reaction he gets from his longtime girlfriend, Jane Fallon.
"I'll come home and I say to Jane, 'What do you think of this?' and she says, 'Please don't do that in public.' That's when I know it's good."