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Stephen Merchant Busting Out In the U.S.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Stephen Merchant might be the funniest Brit you never knew you were laughing at, but Ricky Gervais' low-key writing partner is about to come out of the shadows.

    Merchant has signed on to the Farrelly brother comedy "Hall Pass," a New Line comedy starring Owen Wilson. He'll play one of Wilson's pals along with newly cast J.B. Smoove (Leon on HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm"), according to the Hollywood Reporter. The movie revolves around a pair of married couples who decide to experiment with the concept of a free pass for approved romantic encounters outside the marriage.

    The 6-foot-7 Merchant, who co-wrote the British version of "The Office," has previously kept a low-profile. Even when appearing on HBO's "The Extras" (which he also co-wrote with Gervais) he kept his hilarious scenes to a minimum. He is currently starring in HBO's fantastic "Ricky Gervais Show," the animated version of the internet-phenom podcast.

    Merchant said his uncommon height, a constant source of needling from his famous writing partner, drew laughs long before he decided to go into comedy.

    "I've always been freakishly tall. Even in school. It's probably one of the reasons I went into comedy," Merchant said in a recent press conference. "People were always pointing and laughing at me. I thought might as well make money off it."