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Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes: Right Host, Wrong Time

January 19, 2010

Of Ricky Gervais’ nervy, unsympathetic performance as Sunday’s Golden Globes host, I was wondering how long it would take for the negative reviews to come pouring in. Not long.

Solely because Gervais was the host, I watched as much of the Golden Globes as I could stomach. Like most of us here at TBTS, I am a staunch fan of the Ricky Gervais/Steve Merchant (and Karl Pilkington) creative team, as well as Gervais’ solo stand-up comedy work.

So, having seen and heard a David Brent-sized chunk of Gervais’ creative output from the past few years, I join the millions of Ricky’s fans who are probably asking his newly minted, post-Golden Globe critics:

What the hell did you expect? If you wanted bland, why didn’t you get Leno?

As an actual fan, I know beyond any doubt that much of Gervais’ public persona, especially in his podcasts and during his stand-up shows, is based on being a complete bastard. The public Ricky Gervais is often an unreservedly arrogant, insensitive, mean-spirited prat.

As a comedian, Gervais excels at making his audiences laugh at the uncomfortable. I sense that he consciously plays off and undermines characteristically British notions of propriety. Even more, with great precision, he deflates self-righteous cultural and political orthodoxy. As we all know, there are things no one is “supposed” to joke about. Ricky Gervais is among the very few who can make jokes on those topics and make them funny. Like all the great ones, Gervais finds most of the humor not at the expense of people the usual restrictions are meant to protect (his fat jokes excluded), but at the expense of the restrictions themselves and those who would try to rigidly enforce said barriers to expression. That’s his act, and that’s exactly WHY and HOW he’s funny.

And that’s why, in most years, Gervais could be an ideal host for the Golden Globes. Who among us doesn’t love to see the biggest, most undeservedly revered Hollywood stars taken down a notch or two? Isn’t that why the tabloids and the US Weeklys of the world exist? And is it not even better to take the same mentality and add some intelligence and insight via Ricky Gervais’ scalding wit?

Well, as it turns out, this year the answer was a fairly resounding “No.” I promise I’m not going all Limbaugh, “blame the victims” here, but I think the events of the time, including the utter tragedies in Haiti, made it impossible for a lot of viewers unaccustomed to Gervais to get into the critical mindset that would have made it a lot easier to appreciate a host who would dare take the piss out of award-show sentimentality and self-aggrandizement.

The self-important Hollywood blowhards (I’m looking at you, Jim “Give yourselves a round of applause” Cameron) were still self-important blowhards, but for once many of them actually seemed to show compassion and genuine human emotion. Even the most annoying, maudlin speeches (I’m looking at you, Mo’Nique and Drew Barrymore) seemed to come from a well-meaning place and/or were from completely surprised and gratified underdogs.

All these things are ingredients in an awards-show recipe that makes someone like Ricky Gervais, because of his brilliantly irreverent sensibilities, the right host at the wrong time.

Oh well. No big loss—Ricky didn’t need the Golden Globes to keep his career momentum going. That gig was just gravy. His legions of fans will continue to grow, and he’s still gonna be one of the funniest people alive.

And perhaps the biggest consolation: At least it wasn’t the Oscars. If he’d hosted the Academy Awards in this climate, Gervais would have been run out of town by an even bigger mob of gift-bag-wielding Botoxic Avengers and the fans who, at least during earthquake relief telethons, love them.

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4 Comments
  1. March 16, 2013 8:05 am

    Oh, don’t get me wrong, satire and irony is wnoedrful and over the years, the brilliant comedy writers have been in full force around the Globe. But Gervais is base’ or basic.’ It is not only his lack of writing ability, but ‘it’s all in the delivery.’Over the years in the UK you have had wnoedrful comedy writers churning out such marvels as Black Adder, Fawlty Towers, Yes Prime Minister, Allo allo and I could go on. They sent up sacred cows with panache and a flourish, with a twist of lime. In the States you have had your Mel Brooks, Billy Crystals and the delivery of your acid tongued Walter Matthau. They possibly could say the same as Ricky Gervais but in a cleverer way. He doesn’t have the sophisticated ability to put the knife in and twist it with savour faire’ and that is where he looses the edge and deserves only to be churning his stuff out at the local pub instead of the Golden Globes.

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