Ricky Gervais wonders in light of President Donald Trump's controversial behavior: "Can you imagine Abraham Lincoln getting into Twitter spats?"
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Credit: Natalie Cheery

Ricky Gervais believes “there’s a little David Brent in all of us.”

The creator of the beloved British sitcom The Office sees need for love, popularity and validation all over the world — but 15 years after Brent made his debut on The Office, even Gervais himself is surprised to see that facet of his cringe-inducing paper salesman’s personality playing out not just in the real world, but to reaches as high as the White House.

When discussing at his character’s attempt to become an internationally famous rock star in the newly released Netflix film David Brent: Life on the Road, the comedian tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue that “we’re still sort of laughing at his delusion.” In American politics, however, not everybody’s laughing.

Donald Trump has more in common with David Brent than he does with JFK,” says Gervais, 55. “He’s someone who’s always wanted to be famous. He’s someone who’s wanted to be loved and adored, who wants to win, be popular.”

He continues, “I suppose the big difference between these two idiot show-off narcissists is, one has great power and privilege, and the other one doesn’t. There’s a lot of people like [Brent and Trump]. But not many of them are in charge of the most powerful nation on Earth.”

The four-time Golden Globes host, who’s thumbed at nose at his fair share of rich and powerful celebrities, attributes Trump’s rise in part to the shifting tides of pop culture over the last decade and a half.

“Now fame is a different best,” he says. “It’s sensational, and it demands a lot more. There’s no difference now between fame and infamy. People will do anything to be famous — and they do bad things, and they’re rewarded for it. … When did people start bragging about being a millionaire or forcing themselves on women? When did that happen? Can you imagine Abraham Lincoln getting into Twitter spats?”

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The task of maintaining his perspective and brand of humor has become a challenge of late, Gervais admits. “I’ve found, as a performer who plays a bit of a misinformed bigot bore, that half the audience takes that on face value. So now I face a dilemma.”

And in that dilemma, he’s found “a new responsibility” that he urges others to embrace: “Be brave enough to tell the truth. Truth is more important than it’s ever been because power can crush the truth. We’ve seen it in other countries around the world. And any suppression of the truth is never a good thing. Even if it looks like it’s a good thing at the time, it’s not. It never is.”

David Brent: Life on the Road is streaming now on Netflix.