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Ricky Gervais’s Remarkable Golden Globes Performance

Ricky Gervais’s performance at the Golden Globes tonight was classic Gervais: incisive, brutal, and loaded with uncomfortable truths [Watch his opening monologue now, if you haven’t. It’s the stuff of legend.]

But it’s a good thing we have reporters like Mary McNamara, writing for the LA Times, to protect the bruised egos of these poor, poor millionaire superstar actors and directors:
This year, [Gervais] was far better prepared, and one would imagine, much sweatier, as it quickly became clear that his material wasn’t just falling flat, it was making many audience members and presenters uncomfortable and even angry…Poking fun at big stars is in the job description. But televised teasing requires a lightness of touch or else it quickly becomes bullying.
For a few short hours, an awards show host wields undeniable power. He or she can make a joke about someone in the audience and that person is stuck between a camera and a hard place — get all shirty about it and you risk looking like Sean Penn defending Jude Law from Chris Rock’s rather gentle ribbing. So most just smiled, perhaps at the memory of Gervais’ own dismal box office record, and prayed for a quick cutaway.
McNamara’s piece is well-written, but sheesh. Here we have a situation where we finally have a comedian who is willing to speak truth to (box office) power and shake things up a bit, and you’re going to argue for the status quo? Take a step back from your job and think about the extraordinary dressing down that Gervais gave everyone, HFPA-included, tonight. Gervais may not ever be invited back again, but for one night, he knocked a few inches off the Hollywood pedestal that the public is only too-willing to place our stars upon. For that, we can marvel and be grateful.
  • I completely agree. Honesty should be commended. Actors are on way too high of a pedestal in our society, and the Golden Globes are a big part of why that is (with their crazy amount of acting categories). Gervais chose the perfect place to make fun of these stars, even if I do respect the talent of many of the stars (like Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp), they are nonetheless way too highly respected by the general populace compared to directors and writers.

  • Did you hear his parting words when he "thanked God for making him atheist"? The cameras weren't even on him and the credits had already started to roll, so I wonder if he was taking a parting shot that was otherwise prohibited in his "hosting contract/limitations." Any thoughts?

    And I agree, his destruction of the glossy and "goldenness" of Hollywood was a breath of honest fresh air.

  • Anonymous

    Curious: What's the difference between what Armond White and Ricky Gervais did? Not implying anything about you, since I don't think you wrote anything about White, nor am I negative on Gervais' statements, though I do think the monologue is getting more attention than deserved. Those jokes were all made on Twitter and/or South Park and/or everywhere on the internet ages ago. He gets points for doing it while the people were in the room, but Tom Cruise-is-gay jokes? Not exactly timely.

  • Flap Jackson

    The LA Times writers, the ones that cover entertainment at least, the most insipid bunch of logic-shunning kiss-asses known to the industry.

    But yes, Gervais was especially brilliant and funny. And I think everyone will gain a new appreciation for him when we have to sit through whatever hack work James Franco and Anne Hathaway are supposed to perform.

  • Anonymous

    I thought Gervais' performance was perfectly suited to the farce that is the Golden Globes. Hollywood may be full of people that require another night of self-congratulations and reminders that they are just oh so awesome at their craft (despite the total amount of dreck released in 2010, they seem to push forward), but the general public is tired of boring, overly serious affairs. Newsflash, people tune into awards shows to see the outfits, celebrities get drunk and the occasional crazy speech.

  • Supplimentary thought!

    I agree with your stance Dave, but to add a qualifier, I think that Gervais' "insurrection" (as someone else put it) was only positive because it seemed jarring against the conventional pomp of an American awards show. His crudeness offset the pretense but did not extinguish it.

    If everyone rose (or sunk) to Gervais' level of blunt honesty we would probably get a much uglier show. Something that would most likely devolve into a mean spirited hate fest fueled by collective cynicism and jealousy from both the viewers and participants.

    It's an atmosphere that I've heard the jaded British celebrity culture has settled in, which is not a surprise considering how much of that Ricky has experienced with his multitude of BAFTA's.

    I guess what I'm saying is that while it would be great to see more of Gervais' style at these functions, we should also be careful what we wish for and be aware of how much might be too much.

    BTW Ricky is one of my all-time favorite entertainers.

  • Anonymous

    Great speech and I agree with your assessment of McNamara's article. But you have to see his side: He has to defend the status quo because else everybody would ask how the f***k nobody else was "brave" enough to deliver a Gervais.
    In addition he has to defend all the mild babbling about the missteps of out-of-control Sheen when he should be called out or the farce of the Heffner marriage which is obviously a money thing and should be treated as such.

    (posted by: FromWayDowntown)

  • edc

    invention of lying is still shit. or so I'm told.

  • I'm glad that Gervais just went out there and called it as he saw it.

    And I do agree with Josh Tyler over at CB who said that "A good comedian holds a mirror up to society and challenges our perceptions and attitudes with humor."

    There is an argument that comedy is a greater public service than any other genre of art or culture: it heals divisions, it is a balm for hurt minds, it binds social wounds, exposes real truths about how life is really led. Comedy connects.

    The history of BBC comedy (of which Gervais is a proud member) in particular is almost a register of character types, a social history of the UK. Hancock, Steptoe, Mainwaring, Alf Garnett, Basil Fawlty, Baldrick, Victor Meldrew, Alan Partridge, Ali G, David Brent, the matchlessly great General Melchett – it is much harder to list character types from serious drama who have so penetrated the consciousness of the nation and so closely defined the aspirations and failures of successive generations.

    A public service broadcasting without comedy, is in danger of being regarded as no more than a dumping ground for worthiness. Seriousness is no more a guarantee of truth, insight, authenticity or probity than humour is a guarantee of superficiality and stupidity. Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.

  • Ricky Gervais was the only watchable thing in that entire disaster. Speeches went on far too long and meandered far too much. Presenters, for the most part, looked uncomfortable and out of place. The lone exception being Steve Carell and Tina Fey, whom I enjoyed. And, the awards themselves were absolute garbage.

    Boardwalk Empire had no business beating out Breaking Bad in any category, yet here we sit…Boardwalk Empire – 2, Breaking Bad – 0. The massively underwhelming Glee, which hasn't been good since the first half of the first season, also took down Modern Family and the not even nominated Community, both of which are infinitely better shows than Glee.

    Lastly, The Kids Are All Right winning Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical is like giving a Best Student award to a B-student in a class of D-students. Is it a good film? Maybe…but have you seen its competition?

    Really, the only pleasant surprise for me all night was Jim Parsons winning, and Kaley Cuoco's very sweet reaction to it. It was a genuine moment that stood above the rest.

    All of that said, I presume next Ricky Gervais will not be invited back, and we'll be stuck with a "safe" host for another 180 minutes of back-patting and ego-boosting. Fitting, I suppose. Any time we're uncomfortable with something, we just censor it. Better to be the metaphorical ostrich with its head in the sand than address our own faults head on, eh?

  • Anonymous

    I don't mind biting comments, but Ricky is supposed to be funny and he just wasn't. I saw two of his specials on HBO and after the Golden Globes I am convinced he is a lousy comedian. "Mel Gibson is a jew hater" – hahaha! Really? That's all he got? It just WAS NOT funny, it was angry. Sure some people like it when Hollywood gets dug at, but this was hardly digging. No, this was blatant excavation. Can't you make it interesting and ever so subtle?
    Insults are not funny, they might be entertaining for some, but they are not funny.
    Gervais needs to shut up, lock himself up for a year or so and think of a new shtick.
    And by the way, American "Office" is hundred times better than British version. Thanks, Steve Carell, for not rubbing Ricky's nose in it. We got more class!