A potted history of the phenomenally popular series of podcasts - The Ricky Gervais Show, with Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington.

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The Ricky Gervais Show features Ricky Gervais, Steve Merchant and Karl Pilkington chatting about stuff. Basically each episode is a half-hour or so of audio drivel. With 24 episodes and counting - it's been quite popular, garnering an award from 'Wired' magazine and a Guinness World Record. The first episode became the number one download within hours of launch and the show has been there pretty much ever since with over eight million downloads and counting.

In the beginning...
There was a radio show on London's Xfm. Ricky and Steve would play records for a couple of hours and engage in light banter with their producer, one Karl Pilkington. This was proto-podcast stuff with Ricky and Steve playing the logical yin to Karl's idiot savant yang. Karl would frequently propose preposterous theories about life, death and state of the planet - theories which Ricky and Steve would knock down mercilessly by the simple application of human reasoning. Another common theme was the edification of Karl by Ricky and Steve in order to compensate for Karl's limited exposure to conventional schooling.

November 2005
Ricky decides that this internet podcasting thing could be a good idea. Potential for a wider audience than local radio plus no Radio Authority to stymie the scope of the dialogue. He sets up a little studio in his office and gets together with The Guardian newspaper (to promote the shows) and Positive Internet (to provide the wherewithal to send copies of the show to those who want it - it's technical.)

5 December 2005
Episode 1 of Series 1 launches and creates a bit of a stir. Downloads wildly exceed expectations and the show goes straight to number one in the iTunes chart in the UK and, a few hours later, in the US too.

The global reach of the podcasts and Karl's innocent remark in episode 3 regarding the best time of day to ingest the reproductive organ of a male Macropus Giganteus lead to cultish flurry of dance remixes, T-shirts and graffito all proclaiming "I could eat a knob at night".

For the uninitiated, the shows take the form of a freeform discussion between the three. Favourite topics would be Karl's fascination with all things supernatural, persons of unusual appearance (or "freaks" as Karl would have it), Karl's various ill-considered theories and opinions about the planet and society in general. A regular feature of the shows, "Monkey News", gives Karl the opportunity to read up a some primate-related news and then present it to Ricky and Steve - who point out the inevitable flaws.

In episode 8 of the first series, Karl dicloses that he has been keeping a diary and promises to continue to do so. Readings from the diary become a popular regular feature of the show.

The first series runs to 12 episodes between Dec 5 and 20 Feb 2006. When logs are analysed early in 2006, Guinness World Records ratified The Ricky Gervais Show as the most downloaded podcasts ever with well over 250,000 downloads in the first month.

You can get all 12 episodes of the original podcasts in one gasp for a small charge at either audible.com or iTunes

There are some images which are refered to in the shows - these can be found here

February 2006
With the end of the first series of 12 episodes in sight, listeners are seemingly legion and Ricky decides to try something new. Enter Audible.com and iTunes. This time there would be no sponsor and listeners would pay a small fee to download.

27 February 2006
Hot on the heels of the last of series 1 comes the first episode of series 2. There are six episodes in series 2, ending on 3 April 2006.

Karl's Diary continues to be a popular feature, but Monkey News has been dropped in the face of Ricky and Steve's growing contempt for Karl's reporting. Also in this series is the generally unwelcome return of the tiresomely non-cryptic "quiz", Rockbusters.

Ricky continues to use the podcasts to reinforce his previously stated belief that Karl is indeed in posession of a "head like a fucking orange".

At the time, the episodes cost about £1 but can now be downloaded as a complete set for about £4 at either audible.com or iTunes.

Summer 2006
Having been filming the second series of 'Extras', Ricky and Steve had little time to spend with Karl recording podcasts. But to try something new and keep their hand in, they have a go at video podcasting. The video podcasts give Karl an opportunity to expand on his ideas without so much systematic abuse from Ricky and Steve.

It's about this time too that Karl is invited to put together a book based on the original series of podcasts. He buys some suitable writing implements and begins the arduous process of putting crayon to paper in order to illustrate the finer points of the text.

The book - The World Of Karl Pilkington - was published 18 Sep 2006 and you can get a copy here.

21 August 2006
Ricky, Steve and Karl return with series 3. Another six-week run of paid-for shows.

Highlights in this series are some poems that Karl has written. Ricky encourages Karl's literary efforts up until the point at which the poems become too good and Ricky worries that he may have destroyed Karl's essential imbecility. He need not have worried.

Karl's diary continues and there's special farewell Monkey News which manages to reduce both Ricky and Steve to a torpor.

Again, at the time, the episodes cost about £1 but can now be downloaded as a complete set for about £4 at either audible.com or iTunes.

31 October 2006 - 25 December 2006
Three special free podcasts - The Podfather Parts I, II and III - go out under the auspices of The Guradian and hosted by Positive Internet, just like the very first series.

13 November 2006
Universal releases a CD box set of edited highlights (plus the entire first series as MP3s) together with an extra hour of exclusive specially recorded drivel. Karl drew a special Monky News poster too.

Aimed at the iPod-less and stoic admirers of 'physical product', it's to be hoped that this seemingly retrograde step may introduce a whole new tranche of the population to the mind-numbing effects of Karl Pilkington

April 2008
For a month or so, Ricky spent a month on a blog dedicated to annoying Karl Pilkington, instigating a small but global (figuratively as well as literally) campaign. For reference only, it is available here...

September 2008
Series 5 of The Ricky Gervais Show is released on iTunes and Audible, going straight to the top of the charts around the world.
Available here.

Podcasts News Archive...

Karl Pilkington is a cult
News from Reuters that the podcasts have created an unlikely internet icon in the spherical shape of Karl Pilkington.
read all about it.
Number ones across the board
The UK iTunes charts are in danger of becoming saturated with Ricky, Steve and Karl as they take the top podcast, top audiobook and even top album, outdoing the likes of the Arctic Monkeys
iTunes UK store
CD box out now
A 3 CD set of podcast highlights and an hour-long chunk of all-new drivel is out now. Includes a Karl-penned monkey news poster.
order now at play.com

Podcasts Explained...

What is a podcast?
It's a radio programme that you listen to on your computer or iPod - hence 'podcast'.

What's an iPod?
It's a Sony Walkman that plays digitally instead of using cassettes. You plug it into a computer and copy audio files across so you can play them on the move.

Why are people talking about podcasts more and more?
Podcasts are clever in that you can choose to have successive episodes of a series arrive automatically as and when they're available. So you only have to subscribe once and you won't miss an episode.

How much does it cost?
Aside from the cost of your equipment and internet fees, podcasts are free. Subscribing to a podcasts doesn't even need you to register your details.

Aren't there some podcasts that charge? e.g. Ricky's?
Some shows are charged for such as series 1, 2 and 3, but these are listed in iTunes under 'audiobooks' not 'podcasts'. The links on this page to the various shows make it clear whether they're free or not.

How do I listen to a podcast?
First, you need a computer with internet access (the fact that you're reading this is a good sign).
Second, you need a programme called iTunes (which is free, but usually doesn't come pre-installed).
To get iTunes, go to this web page and follow the instructions;
If you have trouble with getting iTunes installed you'll have to ask around for help, but it's failry straightforward.
Once installed, you can use the links on this page to automatically open iTunes and go straight to the relevant show.
To listen to shows that aren't free, you need to set up an iTunes account.
You'll need a credit card number to set up an account - click 'account' on the main page and follow the instructions under 'create account'.
That's it! You should now be able to get free and paid shows, listen to them on your computer or copy them to an iPod and listen on the move.