After a seven-year hiatus, Ricky Gervais returned to stand-up this month in a Netflix special titled Humanity.
While his return was long-awaited, his jokes (as always) controversial and his audience enthralled, a consistent thread through the special centred on his relationship with partner, Jane.
And while his relationship with her is by no means new, nor is it a secret, by making her such a core part of his stand-up routine, Gervais – perhaps accidentally – put into sharp focus the length and concrete-nature of their union.
After all, Ricky Gervais and best-selling author Jane Fallon first began dating 36 years ago in 1982 after meeting at college. Both Fallon, 54, and Gervais, 56, were decades from fame and success in their respective fields: Ricky Gervais as Ricky Gervais and Jane Fallon as the author of eight top ten best-selling novels.
In the early 1980s, Fallon once told The Times they were broke and lived in a bedsit above a brothel in King’s Cross in London.
“Drunk, horny men ringing my doorbell all night. Grim," she told the news outlet of their early years there.
From there, Gervais had a failed career as a popstar and a long-term office job while Fallon was a successful TV producer, working on shows such as EastEnders and Teachers.
It wasn't until both were in their 40s that their respective careers took a turn and took off. In 2001, Gervais directed, produced and starred in The Office, making him an internationally recognised comedian. In 2007, Fallon published her first novel Getting Rid of Matthew which became a national bestseller.
In an interview with People last year, Gervais said he is incredibly grateful his success came much later in life.
“I said to Jane, ‘Why didn’t I do this earlier?'” he says, referring to The Office. “And she said, ‘Cause you wouldn’t have been any good at it.’ And I think it did take till I was 40 to have a voice, and to know how to deal with all this, and to do it for the right reasons. I think if I’d have done it at 21, it’d have been over in a year maybe.”
In a 2014 interview with Marie Claire, Fallon said her and Gervais had always been similar in their desire to not have children.
"I remember steeling myself, trying to imagine what I would do if he’d had a change of heart," she told the magazine. "I was so convinced of my decision that I couldn’t even imagine the alternative. It turned out he had been having the same anxiety about me. Cue much relief and celebration."
Writing for The Guardian in 2016, Fallon elaborated, saying being mother was never something that felt innate to her.
"My dreams were all about becoming a writer, a vet or a gymnast, not having a family. As I got older it became something I actively didn’t want to do.
"I didn’t want to have children because doing so just didn’t feel like me. Being a mother wasn’t who I was meant to be," she said.
Gervais, in many interviews, has echoed her sentiment. In another, he said he doesn't "see the point" in marrying.
"We are married in everything but the ceremony. We share everything and everything is in both names. We've lived together for 29 years - how are we not married except in the eyes of God?
"It's just irrelevant. Our 'marriage' has lasted longer than most marriages."
While Fallon has experienced exceptional success as a novelist, it's been grappling with her partner's fame, and its implications on her work, that she has struggled to navigate the most.
“Sometimes we’ll go somewhere and people will be looking at him and I’ll think, ‘Why are they looking at my boyfriend?’ It’s actually easy to forget. And that’s all right," she told The Times this year.
"We made a decision very early on that we were going to not do those couply things, the spreads in the magazines and stuff like that. It is a mental-health choice as much as anything else. With my ‘I want to do something with my own life’ obsession I didn’t want to be known as the partner of a celebrity before anything else.”
She added it has taken many years to be known first as a plus one rather than an internationally-regarded author.
"If I die I know the news item would be, ‘Partner of Ricky Gervais and novelist dies.’ I know that would come first. But I’ve come to terms with it. As long as they do still add the ‘and novelist’ that will be fine.”
They may no longer be living above a brothel (instead they have a reported $20 million place in Hampstead), but after 36 years and the sharp re-directions of their respective careers, you get the sense money and fame has changed very little of the nature of the long-standing relationship between Gervais and Fallon.
Comedian Wil Anderson tells Mia Freedman every reason he does not want to bring children into the world.