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"My proudest moment here wasn't when I increased profits by 17%, or cut expenditure without losing a single member of staff. No. It was a young Greek guy, first job in the country, hardly spoke a word of English, but he came to me and he went 'Mr. Brent, will you be the Godfather to my child?'. Didn't happen in the end. We had to let him go, he was rubbish. He was rubbish."
- David's proudest momentDavid Brent (born 1962/1963) is a character in the BBC sitcom The Office. He is played by co-creator Ricky Gervais. His counterpart in the US version is Michael Scott.
Brent is a white-collar office middle-manager and the principal character of the series; he is the general manager of the Slough branch of the Wernham-Hogg paper merchants and the boss to most other characters in the series. Much of the comedy of the series centres on Brent's many idiosyncrasies, hypocrisies, self-delusions, and self-promotion.
Brent is the type of boss who wants to be a friend and mentor to those who work for him. He imagines his workers find him very funny and enjoy his company, while still respecting him and looking up to him as a boss, even a fatherly figure. However, his employees generally find him pretentious, arrogant and mean.
David is the manager of the Slough branch of Wernham-Hogg Paper Company. He sees himself as an entertaining figure, but his staff don't share that view.
In "Work Experience", a pornographic image of him is circulated around the office, and he is determined to find the culprit. When he discovers that his "friend" Chris Finch sent the photo, he dismisses it as a joke and tries to laugh it off.
In the same episode, he is faced with the threat if his branch being downsized, and lies that he has fired a warehouse employee.
In "The Quiz", he takes part in the annual office quiz with Chris Finch, where they end up coming second.
In "Training", David holds a staff training exercise, but attempts to hijack the session at every given opportunity. He later bring a guitar to the office and plays songs he has written, much to the annoyance of the instructor.
In "New Girl", David hires a new secretary, even though he should be making people redundant. He and the rest of the staff later go out to a nightclub, where David finds out his lodger Donna is in a relationship with temporary employee Ricky Howard.
In "Judgement", David is given the choice of either a promotion that would lead to his branch being merged with Swindon and his employees being redundant, or to keep his job and have the Swindon branch merged with his and the chance to keep his employees. Without thinking, David takes the promotion, and breaks the news to his staff, who are angry about losing their jobs. He later fails a medical test, and isn't given the promotion, resulting in the Swindon branch being merged into the Slough branch.
When the Swindon branch arrives in Slough, David meets their manager Neil Godwin, who is now immediately above David in a corporate position. Neil later gives a speech to the staff which is met with much praise. David tries to do the same, but he gets a negative reception for joking about someone who has a disability.
Later in the episode, David is reported to Neil and Jennifer Taylor-Clarke for making racist jokes.
In "Appraisals", David carries out staff appraisals and takes the Swindon branch out for lunch so they can bond. He is later given a stern telling off by Neil due to ending a harmless game of cricket he was playing in the office.
In "Party", David is given the chance to do motivational speaking for a consultancy firm. He hastily accepts the offer, and then tries to stop Neil from being given the same offer. He also discovers that Neil is good friends with Chris Finch, a fact that upsets him.
In "Motivation", David gets told off by Neil for failing to pay an employee. He later carries out a motivational speech, which consists of a rambling monologue, and use of both a Native American book of wisdom, and a boombox playing "The Best" by Tina Turner. His speech doesn't get the reaction he wanted.
In "Charity", after seeing Neil perform a dance with Rachel, David performs his own embarrassing dance, which he describes as a fusion of "Flashdance and MC Hammer shit."
Later in the episode, David is told by Neil and Jennifer that he is being made redundant, and unsuccessfully begs for them to keep his job.
In "Interview", David is unhappy that the staff don't seem to care about his redundancy, and hands out cards to them. He is later interviewed for an article in Inside Paper. When he told by Cooper & Webb that they won't be using him again as a motivational speaker, he begs to Neil to reconsider his dismissal.
Almost a year after being made redundant, David is now working as a travelling salesman, following the failed release of his single "If You Don't Know Me By Now", and is leeching of the fame he had from the documentary by making appearances at nightclubs with other minor celebrities.
Despite being fired, he still makes frequent visits to Wernham-Hogg "to keep morale up", which doesn't sit well with new manager Gareth and David's former boss Neil.
David tells Neil that he has a date for the Christmas party, when he really does not. With Gareth's help, he searches Internet romance websites for suitable women, and lines up three possible candidates for blind dates. He takes the first to dinner, but accidentally steers the conversation to breasts. He calls from his car to arrange a meeting with the second woman, who does not realise who Brent is, and mocks the manager from The Office documentary. Brent hangs up. On the third date, Brent immediately finds the woman unattractive and boring. Brent pushes Neil's patience too far when he brings his dog into the office to show to the staff. Neil bars Brent from the office and later stops anyone who does not work for Wernham Hogg from going to the Christmas dinner. At the party, Brent anxiously awaits his fourth blind date. When the woman, Carol, arrives, she and Brent hit it off straight away.
Brent walks his date to her car and she gestures through the window for him to call her. Returning to the office, he is subject to yet another offensive comment from Chris Finch about his date, and Brent, in a moment of anger, and having finally been pushed too far with the insults, tells him bluntly, "why don't you fuck off". In the final scenes. The whole office staff gather for a group photo. Brent asks to have a group photo of just him and the "old gang". While David, Tim, Dawn, Gareth, and the rest of the office members gather round for the photo, David finally manages to make his colleagues laugh, with an impersonation of Frank Spencer.
Character information and personality
A key aspect of the character of Brent is his obliviousness to how other people actually see him, causing him to lash out whenever the veil of ignorance and vanity he maintains is pierced. Brent often asks other characters how old they think he is, only to be dismayed and offended when their guesses — even when accurate (39 in Series One) — are older than he wishes to hear. He has a consistent need to be acknowledged as a renaissance man and to be recognised as exceptionally skilled at his many desired accomplishments. These include writing poetry and lyrics, composing and playing music, being a rockstar, managing his adoring team, dancing, and even dating and marriage. He especially believes himself to be a remarkably talented stand-up comedian, and rarely misses an opportunity to show off to the cameras. His "material", however, is invariably unoriginal and badly executed, consisting almost entirely of poor impressions and banal routines recycled from British comedy shows such as Fawlty Towers, The Two Ronnies and Harry Enfield and Chums. He also boasts frequently about the amount of alcohol he consumes, believing this will gain him respect. He also revealed that he was in a rock band called Foregone Conclusion, and claimed that they were once supported by Texas. He is a supporter of Reading F.C..
Brent has a tendency to promote himself as an intelligent and politically correct middle-class man, but often demonstrates an unwittingly offensive attitude towards ethnic minorities, disabled people and women. However, his various attitudes and faux-pas — cringeworthy and insulting though they may appear — are rarely maliciously intended; they are frequently the result of extreme naivety and self-delusion, combined with a tendency to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. This is usually compounded by clumsy attempts at retractions, after realising the insulting interpretations of his remarks.
Similarly, while wanting to be regarded by his staff as "A friend first, and a boss second, probably an entertainer third", he displays a chronic lack of awareness and regard for others' feelings. In the first episode of the series, he brings Dawn to tears by joking that she is to be fired for stealing Post-it notes. At the end of Series One, a not-unexpected restructuring of Wernham-Hogg sees Brent's boss pose him an unattractive choice: he can accept a promotion to the Corporate board, which would lead to the Slough office being merged to Swindon and most of his employees ending up unemployed, or he can keep his post in Slough and the Swindon office would then be merged to Slough, with his workers remaining on the payroll. Brent, failing to see any dilemma or conflict of loyalty, immediately and delightedly accepts the job and is later bewildered by the failure of those who will be made redundant to be pleased for him. However, he later fails a medical test and the plan for the branch merger is reworked, with Brent's Swindon counterpart moving to Slough as David's superior and bringing several of his own genuinely loyal personnel with him. An unctuous older worker named Malcolm, tries to confront his (in Malcolm's view) falsely noble tale of "turning down" the corporate job with the medical news by faking high blood pressure, Brent refuses to admit this to Malcolm.
In Series Two, Brent thus has to deal with the arrival of Neil Godwin in a role immediately above his own. Unlike Brent, Neil is genuinely funny, friendly, hard working, and confident in himself. Recognising this, Brent quickly grows to despise Neil, and spends most of series two trying to one-up him at every point, most memorably with a dance routine in episode five, which he describes with typical false modesty and inaccuracy, saying "I've sort of fused Flashdance and MC Hammer shit".
Brent claims that the documentary crew "stitched him up" and portrayed him as the "boss from hell". Although depicted on-screen as incompetent, it is suggested that he has been successful in the past. In the first episode he lists achievements (e.g. raising profitability without losing staff), and in the second series, he is both interviewed for a trade magazine, and invited to be a motivational speaker, suggesting that his reputation is not as bad as viewers are led to expect. Many of Brent's insecurities may stem from the fact that he is no longer able to handle his own job, and his desperation to be liked may be a failed effort to hide this fact. In the Christmas specials, he is heard complaining that the “documentary” made him look stupid - an observation which also demonstrates some rare self-awareness. Interestingly, Gervais said once that in the show's universe, Brent did have many moments when he did his job well and even showed an effective sense of humour, for example during series 1 in which Brent is met with genuine laughter after telling what appeared to be a joke during a small meeting with his staff - These moments were deliberately NOT included in the documentary, but presumably helped shape viewer perceptions that Brent wasn't just a worthless empty suit and an idiot.
For all his many unlikeable and contemptible characteristics, Brent is not without redeeming merit and is largely depicted as a tragic figure, increasingly so as the show progresses: a lonely and somewhat forlorn man who places too much value in his unrewarding job. At several points, the audience is prompted to feel sympathetic towards Brent. This is especially true in the final episode of the second series — as Brent faces redundancy — and in parts of the Christmas special where he is seen struggling with life after losing his job and his fifteen minutes of fame (thus acknowledging that the supposed "documentary" filmed at Wernham-Hogg has been shown on television). These are the few times Brent is seen trying to hold on in the face of a somewhat bleak situation. Brent's future appears happier at the end of the Christmas special, when his lively and attractive blind date appears to genuinely enjoy his company. In the final scene, Brent also succeeds in achieving what he failed to do for the whole series up to that point: he makes the staff laugh. The Christmas special also reveals that Brent owns a pet Labrador Retriever named Nelson, which he named after Nelson Mandela.
In 2002, Brent gave his opinion of what makes a winner at the FA cup. He said, "Managing a Premiership football team is a bit like running a successful paper merchants. There's a lot of similarities. I have to pick the right team, I have to lead by example, I have to instill trust and discipline."
The United Kingdom branch of Microsoft, Gervais and Stephen Merchant (who co-created the show and the Brent character) put together two videos entitled The Office Values where David Brent is brought in as a motivational speaker. These were leaked online in August 2006, and reportedly, Microsoft was unhappy about the leak.
In the 2005 video game Resident Evil 4, a character listed in the game's credits as "Manic Brent" appears in two scenes driving a truck. Ricky Gervais' laugh was recorded to be used in these scenes.
At Wembley Stadium on the 1 July 2007, Ricky Gervais performed as David Brent at the Concert for Diana. Alongside Mackenzie Crook as Gareth, Gervais performed a rendition of the song "Freelove Freeway" from The Office.
In 2009, Ricky Gervais appeared on Inside the Actors Studio, in which the host James Lipton asked if he could interview Gervais in character as David Brent for a brief period in the show. Gervais went on to perform a shortened version of the song "Freelove Freeway".
The Brent character made two brief appearances in the American version of The Office. In the season 7 episode "The Seminar", he meets his American counterpartMichael Scott (Steve Carell) while coming out of an elevator the latter is waiting for. Unsurprisingly, the two are seen to develop an instant rapport. David learns that Michael manages the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin (the paper company that is the equivalent of Wernham-Hogg in the UK series) and asks if there are any jobs available there, only to be told there are no openings at the moment. In the final episode of the same season, "Search Committee", David appears (via pre-recorded video resume) as an interviewee for the Scranton manager's job, following the Michael Scott character's departure from the show several episodes earlier.
In March 2013, the BBC broadcast a mini-episode called "The Office Revisited" for Comic Relief 2013, a charity fund-raising event.
Also for Comic Relief, Brent, along with the rapper Doc Brown, did a music video for the song "Equality Street".
After 10 years, Gervais revived the character for his YouTube channel in the web series "Learn Guitar with David Brent." In each episode he plays the guitar, gives tips on how to play and answers fan questions. Among the songs he has played are "Freelove Freeway", "Spaceman Come Down", "Ooh, La La" and "Life on the Road".
On 5 August 2014, it was announced that Ricky Gervais would return to the role of Brent for a film titled Life on the Road, which features the character as he tours the UK with his Foregone Conclusion band. The film is set to be released on 19 August 2016.