The fact that Ricky Gervais’s slashing MC performance at last night’s live telecast of the Golden Globes Award is actively competing with the US-Iran confrontation for media attention once again shows our society’s charming (and sometimes healthy) preference for trivia over substance.
I didn’t watch the show live because I couldn’t care less what the Hollywood Foreign Press Association thinks about anything, and because the Hollywood community culture makes me retch. I did follow the thing online, as several sites were gleefully streaming blow-by-blow descriptions of Gervais’s routine.
I can’t conclusively rate the ethical nature of his pretty much non-stop attacks on the attendees without knowing what his job was: to entertain them, to entertain the TV audience, or both. If it was both, then the comic would have been restricted to the kind of generic humor we have been accustomed to at the Oscars and Tonys. Yet why would anyone hire Gervais to do that? (Remember the outrage over Seth McFarland’s Oscar hosting gig when he delivered exactly what one would expect the politically incorrect creator of “The Family Guy” to bring to the party?) In the end, we have to assume that since this was the fifth time Gervais got the assignment, both the Golden Globes producers and the glitterati who were paying attention consented to what they got.
A lot of the “humor” in Gervais’s remarks arose from an “I can’t believe he said that!” reaction, meaning that in many cases, he was more shocking than genuinely funny. His jokes often straddled the boundary between lecture and humor, though it is certainly satisfying to hear someone tell actors and celebrities to their faces things like…
“But tonight isn’t just about the people in front of the camera. In this room are some of the important TV and film executives in the world, people from every background. But they all have one thing in common. They’re all terrified of Ronan Farrow. He’s coming for you.”
“Maybe talented people of color were snubbed in all major categories. Unfortunately there’s nothing we can do about that. The Hollywood Foreign Press are all very, very racist.”
“Apple roared into the TV game with The Morning Show, a super drama about the importance of dignity and doing the right thing, made by a company that runs sweatshops in China. You say you’re woke, but the companies you work for, it’s unbelievable—Apple, Amazon, Disney. If ISIS started a streaming service, you’d call your agent.”
“So if you do win an award tonight, don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech. You’re in no position to lecture the public, about anything. You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg. So, if you win, come up, accept your little award, thank your agent and your god, and fuck off.”
This last was especially welcome and undeniably true, but it is far from a joke. In fact, it’s a horrible truth. The assembled obviously paid no attention to it, however, since we still got political blather like Patricia Arquett’s...
“I know we’re not gonna look back on this night in the history books,” she said. “We will see a country on the brink of war – a president tweeting out a threat of 52 bombs… people risking their lives travelling across the world – people not knowing if bombs are gonna drop on their kids’ heads – and a continent of Australia on fire. So, while I love my kids so much, I beg of us all to give them a better world for their kids – and we have to beg and plea for everyone we know to vote in 2020.”
Well THAT was certainly hysterical, ignorant, disjointed and inappropriate virtue signaling…and it proved Gervais’s point nicely.
Gervais’s best moment by far was near the end. Introducing Sandra Bullock to announce the Best Movie Drama award, Gervais said,
“Our next presenter starred in Netflix’s ‘Bird Box,’ a movie where people survive by acting like they don’t see a thing. Sort of like working for Harvey Weinstein.”
The crowd then booed (they should have lowered their heads in shame), and Ricky responded: “You did it! I didn’t, you did it!”
Well, bravo. If there were any members of the TV audience under the misconception that most of the people in the room were not complicit passive partners in Weinstein’s criminal abuse of actresses and that exchange enlightened them, Ricky justified his performance in that moment alone.
Aside: I’m curious about what was generally rated Gervais’s meanest joke: “The world got to see James Corden as a fat pussy. He was also in the movie ‘Cats’“ This a formula joke as old as the Pyramids, and I wonder if Gervais tipped off Corden, who is also British and perhaps a friend, that it was coming. I hope so.
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