Film stars are a joke for Ricky Gervais

The Golden Globes ceremony is usually all about praise. But this year, Hollywood’s finest were also the butt of jokes. Should comedy upset people?

‘I probably won’t be here next year,’ said Ricky Gervais after presenting the Golden Globes ceremony this year. And there are a few Hollywood stars who’ll be pleased if that’s true.

The Golden Globe awards have been running since 1944, recognising excellence in television and film. It’s a star-studded event, with many of Hollywood’s top performers in attendance.

Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, and Tom Hanks were all there, as was the Englishman Colin Firth, who won the ‘Best Actor’ award for his part in the film, ‘The King’s Speech’.

But did Ricky Gervais go too far with his comedy? Many Americans feel he did. As the The Washington Post asked: ‘Are we at war with England? If not, then why have we been subjected to two years of Ricky Gervais hosting the Golden Globe Awards?’

So what did he say to cause so much upset? ‘It’s going to be a night of partying and heavy drinking’ said Gervais at the start of the show, ‘or, as Charlie Sheen calls it, breakfast.’

And he didn’t like the film ‘The Tourist’ which starred Angeline Jolie and Johnny Depp. ‘It was a big year for 3D movies – it seems everything was three dimensional... except for the characters in The Tourist.’

People laughed the laughter of recognition. It’s what everyone thought about the film; but no one had put it quite so well.

The celebrities fought back. When Tom Hanks came up on stage with Tim Allen, he was clearly angry. ‘We can recall back when Ricky Gervais was a slightly chubby but very kind comedian...' and Allen added: '...neither of which he is now.'

Robert Downey Jr. also expressed his unhappiness. Hurt by jokes about his private life, he told the audience: ‘Aside from the fact that it's been hugely mean-spirited with mildly sinister undertones, I'd say the show's going pretty good so far, wouldn't you?'

Only joking
So is the comedy of Ricky Gervais in bad taste or just very funny? Perhaps it depends on whether you’re on the receiving end or not.

After the ceremony, Robert Downey Jr. spoke more about the issue: ‘I think it's great to be funny, but it's just better if you can do it without hurting people,’ he said.

Others believe that it’s good for film stars to have their bubble pricked once in a while. They desperately seek public attention. So can they really complain if the attention isn’t always kind?

Comedy only works if it is rooted in truth. And shouldn’t we want the truth, however much it hurts?

You Decide

  1. Ricky Gervais made jokes about people’s drinking habits, age, dishonesty, failures and religion. Do you think any subject is off limits for comedy?
  2. ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.’

Activities

  1. Get into a group and create a role-play of what happens back stage after the ceremonies. The star is complaining to their publicist; the publicist is trying to calm them down saying how wonderful they are. And then Ricky Gervais walks in…
  2. Do some research and then write an email to one of the stars Gervais was rude to. What line will you take? Will you be sympathetic towards them? Or will you tell them to get over themselves? Perhaps both…

Some People Say...

“No one tells their friends the truth. That would be a serious mistake.”

What do you think?

Q & A

Does all comedy have to be cruel?
It doesn’t have to be, no. But the best comedy is describing the world as it is. It may use exaggeration, but basically, it’s saying ‘This is how we are’. And a lot of people don’t like to be exposed in this way.
Why is it so hard to hear the truth?
I suppose a lot of us are brought up to tell polite lies. If someone says, ‘Do you like my hat?’ and we don’t, we’ll still probably say it looks great. So when someone comes along and tells the truth to our face, it can be a bit of a shock.
It sounds like the film stars were all a bit frightened.
I think they were, yes; shocked even. They’re used to publicists telling them they’re wonderful, but that isn’t how Gervais sees his role: ‘For three hours every year,’ he says, ‘Hollywood is scared to death of me. It’s great!’