Ricky Gervais has been widely criticised for his style of comedy at this year’s Golden Globes, but Eoghan Dockrell appreciated his humour
Watch an awards show and what do you get? A love-in; where winners thank their family, friends and distant relatives. For most viewers, these spectacles are cringe inducing. This is partly due to the horribly feigned modesty of the delivery, as prize holders gush about the brilliance of the unsuccessful nominees and name-check almost every last loser in the room.
Reading some of the reviews of the show, you would be forgiven for thinking that Gervais insulted everyone in the room and then proceeded to throw a petrol bomb into the crowd. The latter is not true, and the former is only partially true, and mostly exaggerated.
What Gervais actually did was deliver some cutting comedic blows to normally untouchable Hollywood royalty. And by royalty, I don’t mean jokes at the expense of Paris Hilton (there was practically a standing ovation a few years ago when a different host mentioned she would be going to jail). Gervais focused his comedic attack on the real deal, the likes of Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp and other high profile stars who are not accustomed to being at the receiving end of mean-spirited barbs, as Robert Downey Jr put it.
Making normally immune A-listers the butt of jokes is healthy and only fair. A lot of these actors regularly depict real people and sometimes their portrayals of them are far from flattering and can even be wildly inaccurate.
Take The Social Network as a prime example. Aside from Ricky Gervais, that film was the big winner at this year’s Golden Globes. The lead actor, Jesse Eisenberg, portrayed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as a socially inept geek who is destined to be a prick all his life (those are the film’s words, not mine). So if those involved in the production of movies make fun of and criticise individuals, then it is only reasonable that these actors are occasionally made fun of, and Ricky Gervais did just that.
Gervais took full advantage of his invitation and turned it into a kamikaze mission, as he relentlessly bombarded unsuspecting victims. Many critics felt that his first performance as host of the Golden Globes in 2010 was underwhelming, with most noting that he failed to land any memorable jokes all night. Clearly, Gervais had a point to prove this time around. And instead of making general jokes about Hollywood and the movie business, which is considered the safe route and well trodden by American comedians, he took the less travelled road and went after individuals.
The result was mixed depending on where you were sitting. On the one hand, if you were in the ballroom at the Beverly Hilton, you’d probably be seen pulling at your collar while laughing nervously, surrounded by gasping guests with shocked expressions.
On the other hand, if you were one of the many millions of viewers watching at home, you probably enjoyed Gervais slagging off Tom Cruise or Charlie Sheen. From Gervais’ opening monologue right through to the end, where he signed off with “Thank you to God for making me an atheist”, the mostly God-fearing Americans suffered helplessly at his hands.
I suspect that the general consensus among the organisers of the event, despite a few statements to the effect that Gervais “went over the line” and “would not be invited back again”, were likely to have been pleased with the extensive coverage received, generated largely by Gervais’ controversial performance.
And even if Gervais is not invited back to host the show for a third year in a row, he shouldn’t be short of job offers. The critics who write furiously that he will be blacklisted are missing the point. Gervais provides a unique brand of comedy, one that is not fully catered for in the American market. His style is difficult to describe, but you could argue that part of the winning formula is attributable to his deadpan delivery of the truth
– a comedic philosophy which often comes across as abrasive and is not to everyone’s taste.
Gervais is a clever comedian who I expect will continue to capitalise on his growing popularity. For comedy’s sake however, let us hope that he will never sell out to the suits upstairs. Many comedians would do well to sit down and study Gervais’ style and a good place to begin would be watching the 2011 Golden Globes.