Fragile Egos – Handle With Care

Some quick thoughts on the storm in a teacup that is the reaction to Ricky Gervais’s performance as Golden Globes host on Monday.

In the approximately five years it has taken Gervais to become well-known in the United States he has made it clear that his sense of humour is neither polite nor deferential. Some see his jokes as refreshingly honest others, such as myself, see him as a smug attention-seeker employing a perverse method of social climbing where he whips Hollywood, his victims masochistically enjoy the encounter and then clamour to be part of the Gervais Experience.

Whether you are a fan or not, anyone with a passing interest in the Entertainment Industry was aware of how Ricky Gervais was going to approach last night’s gig. In a News.Com story he is quoted as saying of his Golden Globe Hosting performance last year, “I don’t think I went far enough. So I’m going to do it again, do a proper job. And I guarantee they will not invite me back.”

Nothing could be clearer. To see the Hollywood Foreign Press Association complain is curious. They got exactly what they paid for. Rich Little or Bill Cosby or even Dane Cook  would have gladly taken the gig and done an ultra-respectful job. It’s as though they were confusing Gervais with someone much nicer. The HFPA’s president Phillip Berk is quoted as saying, “He definitely crossed the line.”

And what line would that be? The line of good taste? The Golden Globes are ridiculous. Even for an entertainment award this one is compromised. As far as reputations for junketeering and transparency go, The HFPA make the International Olympic Committee look good. However, some genius in marketing decided that saying the Golden Globes are a predictor of who would win an Oscar would make people take the awards more seriously. Turns out some people do, despite the fact the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture  has only coincided with the Oscar for Best Picture once in the last five years (ie. SLUM DOG MILLIONAIRE).

Gervais crossed the line where reality meets Hollywood ego. He insulted the most powerful actors, producers and directors in the world. Publicly these people have been positive about Gervais’s performance. Privately who knows? Is all the silly press that has bubbled up today the result of minions being told they must now skewer the insolent Limey, or are the hangers on merely anticipating the pain those higher up the Hollywood food chain must feel? Are the critics and journalists playing attack dog in hope of their efforts being rewarded later? Turns out Freedom of Speech doesn’t include the freedom to make gags at the expense of a roomful of over-privileged entertainers and their enablers.

There’s an interesting Australian sidebar to this. When Andrew Denton hosted the Logies in 1999 and 2000 he also held up showbiz to ridicule. He also received some criticism about the perceived harshness of some of the jokes. Fortunately it didn’t harm his career.

If Gervais has made it difficult for himself in Hollywood, then he’s a foreigner who read the room wrong and must now head home, tail between his legs. However it seems unlikely that something that produces so much heat and publicity could end a career. I doubt that the mouthy Englishman will lose anything much after last night’s effort.

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3 Comments

  1. I tend to agree here. I’ll admit to chuckling a few times through the clips I saw (I’ve only seen a youtube clip of the Gervais bits, and not the rest of the night), but for the most part, it did come across as “I wonder how many people I can piss off?”

    Not only that, but his targets were pretty easy. Even what came across as the ballsiest joke (regarding two high profile Scientologists) was lacking teeth. It’s old news, and nothing South Park hasn’t covered (to death) in the past. Plus, neither actor was actually in the room. The girls from Sex and the City are old? We know! Robert Downey Jnr has been to jail? Yup. It’s almost like a list of jokes that could’ve been offensive five years ago, but now it’s just old news.

    The whole Hollywood loves Gervais thing has always puzzled me. I don’t understand what they see in him, and while they’ve let him into their system to make films (which has always been his goal), from what I can tell, no one actually goes to see them.

    Also, the Invention of Lying was bloody awful, but I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for The Office & Extras.

  2. Good call on the easy targets, I hadn’t even noticed how obvious and non-edgy his material was. And The Invention of Lying WAS terrible. It was like a Woody Allen short story that should never have been greenlit as movie.

  3. I didn’t see it (if it was on television) but I did watch the UK Office series 2. Ricky is possibly the darkest comedian to walk the Earth. He has no hesitation humiliating himself – which to my mind is the hallmark of great actor (ego being the actor’s enemy). So I say good on him if he brought a little Brentian humor by projecting humility at the over inflated egos of, let’s face it, a bunch American Multi-millionaires.

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