The Office's Ricky Gervais

updated 05/03/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/03/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

AGE: 42
CURRENT GIG: Writes, directs and stars in The Office on BBC America, which releases the second-season DVD April 20.

• The early years: Gervais, the show's insecure, insufferable office manager David Brent, credits his mother, Eva (a homemaker who died in 2000), as an early comedic influence: "My mum used to say things like, 'You're about as much use as a one-legged man in an arse-kicking contest,' " he says. As for how much of Brent's not-as-funny-as-he-thinks-he-is sensibility comes from life: "I once glued someone's phone together and then phoned him. In real life, it was worse [than on the show] because he tried to pick it up and hit himself in the face with the phone."

• His home life: Lives with TV producer Jane Fallon, 43; their cat Ollie; and Terry, a salamander. The cat is named for Oliver Hardy, although, says Gervais, "I think she looks like Norah Jones." As for the salamander, he says, "He looks like a huge newt." Fallon and Gervais have been together for more than 20 years, since they were students at the University of London (where he studied philosophy and played in a rock band; she was a history major). How exactly did they meet? He doesn't remember.

• The pitfalls of fame: "We're not meant to be famous," he says. "We're not meant to be looked at. I'm meant to be able to go shopping for underwear without worrying that people are looking at me. I miss anonymity."

• But what about the money? "The money's good," says Gervais, "but money's never been particularly important to me. What I enjoy is the work. Everything I've done I'd have done for a lot less money—and the things I've turned down I wouldn't do for any more money." One role he didn't turn down: a villain in a recent episode of Alias.

• Why there won't be a third season of The Office: "Because it won't get any better. The quality will go down. I don't want to let people down."

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