Always Steal from the Best

I’m a big fan of all things to do with the creative process, so the following unsurprisingly struck my fancy. It is from a fascinating BBC documentary on the origins of the original BBC version of The Office.

In this exchange, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, the series’s creators, talk about where their ideas came from, and they unapologetically concede that they came via stealing from others, but not just any others — the best:

Ricky Gervais: We ripped off the best.
Stephen Merchant: No, there’s not one new idea in that whole goddamn show.
Rick Gervais: We ripped off Laurel & Hardy, The Simpsons, Spinal Tap, and what was the other one you said?
Stephen Merchant: Woody Allen. Larry Sanders.
Ricky Gervais: We ripped them all off.
Stephen Merchant: And we got away with it.


  1. Doesn’t matter if they borrowed ideas from other shows; their program is still an original work, and a quality one at that. Shakespeare borrowed most of his plots from existing stories and added his own genius to come up with the finished plays. Plots are a dime a dozen; its how you execute the performance that makes a difference.

  2. Of course, and that’s my point. Invention is overrated, and innovative theft is underrated. Also has been, always will be.

  3. as wh auden once said,
    “mediocre authors borrow,
    great authors steal!”