Ricky Gervais was part of David Bowie’s inner circle and even he didn’t know the Thin White Duke was gravely ill. No one did, the British comedian has said.
In an interview with BBC Radio 5 live, Gervais has revealed he was in touch with Bowie prior to the singer’s death on Jan. 10 after a battle with cancer, but his poor health was never mentioned.
“[His death] was a total surprise. I was emailing him two weeks before, so he must have known. He kept it from everyone,” said Gervais.
Bowie died aged 69, just two days after the release of what turned out to be his final studio album, Blackstar.
“What dignity,” remarked Gervais. “He was an amazing man. It was something for him and his family. Dignity to the end.”
Gervais, like many others, grew up idolizing Bowie. When Gervais established himself as a rare talent with the original series of The Office and its lead character David Brent (played to perfection by himself), he formed a bond with Bowie. The friendship culminated in the equally-awesome and cringeworthy moment when Bowie (playing himself) serenaded Gervais with the “Little Fat Man” song for a 2006 episode of the BBC/HBO series Extras.
“He was a fan of comedy,” Gervais told Radio 5 Live. “It’s funny. I was a failed pop star. He loved comedy.” Bowie, he added, “was amazing in Extras. I sent him the lyrics and I said: ‘Do something quite retro like ‘Life On Mars’ and he went: ‘Oh yeah, I’ll just knock off a quick ‘Life On Mars.'”