Fans and critics will undoubtedly spend the upcoming days debating which of David Bowie’s many memorable songs should be considered his very greatest contributions to the canon of Western Music. While titles like “Life On Mars?,” “Changes,” and “The Man Who Sold The World” will be bandied about, some consideration should also go to “The Little Fat Man With The Pug-Nosed Face,” an impromptu ditty with which the erstwhile Ziggy Stardust joyously serenaded Ricky Gervais on a memorable 2006 episode of Extras. In the episode, actually titled “David Bowie,” Gervais’ character, self-involved actor Andy Millman, is already starting to chafe from the notoriety he’s gained from starring in a hacky, catchphrase-laden BBC sitcom called When The Whistle Blows. Spotting Bowie in the supposed “VIP” section of a bar, Gervais’ character makes the spectacularly ill-considered decision to accost the musical legend. Then, with no prompting whatsoever, he proceeds to spill his guts to this unwitting stranger. A gentleman to the last, Bowie actually listens politely as Gervais whinges about his own, hopelessly trivial “problems.”
And then a miracle occurs. As Gervais drones on tediously, David Bowie gets a twinkle in his eye and begins to sing: “Little fat man who sold his soul.” Gervais is understandably puzzled by this turn of events, but Bowie is a man in the throes of inspiration. The pathetic actor has given him the inspiration for a new song. Luckily, the VIP section is equipped with a piano, and Bowie hurries to it so as to continue the composition without delay. Words and music seem to flow out of him, all about what a fat, pathetic, unfunny loser Gervais is. It’s not long before a crowd has gathered around, and the event turns into a singalong. The moment is overwhelming for Gervais’ character. It’s simultaneously a great honor and a complete public debasement. Such is the magic of David Bowie.
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