Ricky Gervais Turned Down a Host Gig on Top Gear Because He Doesn’t Know How to Drive and Doesn’t Have a Driver’s License

Perhaps best known for his groundbreaking mockumentary sitcom, The Office, Ricky Gervais is also a massive fan of the automotive show Top Gear. He’s appeared on Top Gear and was rumored to be taking over hosting duties from former host Jeremy Clarkson. However, there’s just one problem. He doesn’t have a driver’s license.

You don’t need a license to be a fan

Ricky Gervais waving from a black car.
Ricky Gervais | Getty Images

For those familiar with Top Gear, it’s not hard to see why the show has cultivated a passionate audience of drivers and nondrivers alike. The show first aired in 1977 and lasted till 2001. It focused on a range of automotive news segments, including consumer advice and car reviews. By 1999, after some high-profile departures, viewership declined, leading to Top Gear‘s relaunch in 2002 in a new format.

The new Top Gear has included special timed races involving notable vehicles, celebrity interviews, and racing challenges, and different automotive-themed comedic segments. Executive produced by Andy Wilman, it was initially helmed by Jeremy Clarkson, a presenter on the original series, as well as Richard Hammond and Jason Dawe. Dawe was replaced after the first series by James May, and the new trio went on to host Top Gear until 2015.

With Clarkson, Hammond, and May hosting the show, Top Gear quickly regained some of the early acclaim and popularity of the original program. However, an assault allegation against Clarkson led to the BBC not renewing his contract in 2015. Clarkson’s departure led to the Hammond, May, and Wilman leaving as well. 

Ricky Gervais as a possible host

Gervais was rumored to be a possible host in 2015 after Clarkson left. According to Driving, Gervais indicated he didn’t find himself a good fit for the role because he couldn’t drive, which would be an expectation of a show about cars. 

He’s not alone, although the number of adult celebrities who can’t drive is probably a small pool. According to Leasing Options, Gervais stands alongside rapper Cardi B, Oasis frontman Noel Gallagher, songstress Mariah Carey, and entertainer Robbie Williams, as expensive car owners without licenses.  

Clarkson was also known for his fashion sense, which Gervais also noted he’d have a hard time emulating. “I very rarely wear a jacket with jeans and brogues,” he remarked in the interview, “So I wouldn’t fit in.” He noted that he provided the wardrobe to the title character in his 2012 to 2014 series Derek.

The lead character is a middle-aged care worker who is usually rather shabbily dressed. “Half of Derek’s costume is mine. I will tell you a secret—we got the cardigan from costume, but the first day of filming, I turned up in a pair of trainers and blue sweatpants, and I said these might as well be Derek’s.”

Top Gear’ eventual and current hosts

After Clarkson, Hammond, May, and Wilman’s departure, the subsequent series featured six hosts: Chris Evans (an English television producer and radio DJ, not the Captain America actor), Matt LeBlanc of Friends fame, Rory Reid, Sabine Schmitz, Chris Harris, and Eddie Jordan. The show also underwent a revamp, with changes to the studio layout, the celebrity segment, and more.

This series – the show’s 23 – received negative feedback, leading to Evans’ departure. LeBlanc, Harris, and Reid, who had received praise for their hosting, remained and became the main presenters for the next three seasons. The producers also rolled back the new elements that had seen criticism. However, by 2019, LeBlanc and Reid left. 

The show’s current hosting duties are handled by Chris Harris, Andrew Flintoff and Paddy McGuinness. Reviews for this trio have been positive, even though more recent series have been filmed with COVID-19 restrictions in mind. So while Gervais, who some were excited about as a potential host, did not take the role, the show has rebounded nicely since Clarkson’s departure. 

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