Ricky Gervais and David Bowie

For those who don’t know much about Ricky Gervais‘ style of edgy comedy, he actually co-wrote Extras and got David Bowie to sing a song to laugh at his character in the show.

I love Ricky‘s comedy. But if you want to hop on the bandwagon to hate him because of his recent Golden Globes performance, I recommend you rent or borrow from library his original “The Office” and “Extras” to watch first.

Other clips

Also check out UK Guardian, “Ricky Gervais: America can’t decide whether he’s funny, cruel or just British – Baffled Americans react badly to the comedian’s bitchy quips about the stars at the Golden Globes ceremony

And this Economist article. Yes, even Economist has something to say.

Ricky Gervais and the British way
Jan 18th 2011, 23:35 by J.G. | LONDON

“THANKS to its host, this year’s Golden Globes, Hollywood’s annual warm-up for the yet more soporific bombast of the Oscars, was uncharacteristically watchable. Ricky Gervais, the British comedian who made his name on BBC television with “The Office”, was presenting the show for the second year running. Last time, he was sporadically provocative. This year, he was, at least by non-British standards (something I’ll return to), incendiary.

Many of you will have already read or watched the full catalogue of his jibes at myriad A-listers, many of whom were in the audience. The victims included Charlie Sheen, Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, Tim Allen, Robert Downey Jr, Bruce Willis, cosmetic surgery, therapy chic, third-world adoptions, and the cast of Sex and the City, the franchise that just won’t die. Funnier than the jokes were the reactions of the assembled: Gordon Brown-style rictus grins on faces too taut to be entirely of Mother Nature’s manufacture, confused stares into empty space, and many a head in hand, all set to the soundtrack of audible gasps and censorious harrumphs. Some of the lampooned stars turned their wounded pride into retaliatory remarks when it was their turn at the podium, indifferent to the possibility that they might be confirming Mr Gervais’s insinuations of humourless self-regard in the process.

There has been considerable (though far from universal) anger at Mr Gervais in America, and it is not limited to Hollywood. Words like “disrespectful” and “mean-spirited” are showing up a lot, as are warnings that the comedian will never work in Tinseltown again. Over here, the American reaction to his jokes (which were actually pretty vanilla by his usual standards) are brandished as further proof of something that everybody observes but nobody can convincingly explain. America, despite being a young country defined by its extraordinary openness and freedom, is more bound than Britain by the strictures of politeness, sensitivity and good manners.

And it is the nihilism of the British way, not the decorousness of the American way, that is the outlier internationally. Anyone from anywhere can be cruel, anyone from anywhere can be witty, but there is something particularly British about cruel wit. John Lennon, with his withering remarks about Ringo Starr (“Not even the best drummer in The Beatles”) and the avant-garde (“French for bullshit”), had it. Writers past (Evelyn Waugh) and present (AA Gill) have it. George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer, has it, and gets into political scrapes when he flaunts it.

The anything-goes approach applies as much to everyday conversation as it does to comedy, where the subject of British irreverence has been analysed to death (and where America has plenty of acid-tongued geniuses itself). It feels natural to those of us who grew up with it, but British banter—the playfully barbed conversational style adopted by groups of friends in bars, offices and even classrooms up and down the country—can baffle and perturb foreigners. It is especially jarring when set against the popular image of Britain as a more decorous and civil place than most. Even tamer badinage in this country can, to a foreign ear, sound like enmity. The moment the ice is truly broken between two newly acquainted Britons is when one teases the other about something. Reginald D Hunter, an American comedian who does most of his work over here, says Britain is the only country where people will introduce you to a friend by saying, “This is my mate Barry, he’s a bit of a twat.”

America is a land of Regency etiquette in comparison. So much so that it pays any Briton to be a bit more mindful of what he says and how he says it when enjoying the company of Americans (with the exception of fervently Anglophile Americans who, judging by friends of mine who fit that description, are caustic conversationalists). The rules are just different. For example, the c-word, which in Britain has lost much of its toxicity, remains a no-no. Any teasing remark should be delivered with a smile and a pat on the arm, just to ward off any suspicion of malice. The proper response to a compliment is explicit gratitude, not a cynical, shrugging witticism. If anyone in your party does take offence at a jibe, apologise quickly and profusely. In Britain, of course, you can count on the rest of the group to gang up on the poor soul for committing the gravest faux-pas of them all: failure to take the joke. The guilty party is always a diminished figure, whether it is your mate in the bar or a megastar at a Hollywood awards show.”


Feb 1, 2011 Update: “Heat Magazine gives Ricky a centre-spread to document his hosting of the 2011 Golden Globes. Read the article here.” In the last bit of the article, Ricky wrote,

The ratings went up again and the organisers asked me to consider a third year. I don’t think I should. I don’t know what I could do better. I certainly couldn’t get more press for them, that’s for sure.

You know me. Two seasons is enough. [Kempton: Both “The Office” and “Extras” ended after two short seasons and a special.]” [HT Guardian]

* Hollywood Reporter, “Ricky Gervais: 5 Golden Globe Secrets Now Revealed

* UK Daily Mail, “‘I’ll pull the same s*** again or even worse’: Ricky Gervais has no plans to back down IF he presents third Golden Globes

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