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January 18th, 2011
08:13 AM ET

Did Ricky Gervais Really Cross the Line?

Another awards show. Another dissection of Hollywood’s dress sense – or lack thereof (naming no names, Helena). Each year after the Oscars forerunner, more column inches are inevitably geared towards gowns than globe winners.

On Monday’s News Stream, we examined the Twittersphere’s take on hits and misses in the style stakes. (No surprise that #globesfail was a trending hashtag throughout the ceremony.) But there was one fact we couldn’t ignore. The most talked-about individual was neither dressed to impress nor guilty of a frock shock.

Not even Tilda’s toga could upstage the man of the moment – awards host Ricky Gervais.

Getty Images

Few in attendance – or otherwise – avoided falling victim to the barbs of a man described variously on Twitter as “cheap”, “insightful”, “a mean-spirited bully” and “a legend”.

In the aftermath of the Golden Globes, viewers and news outlets alike have fallen over themselves to offer opinion on the Brit’s prickly performance.

Was he simply taking overdue potshots at a Hollywood elite many regard as self-absorbed and self-congratulatory?

Were his jibes just too callous for an evening of celebration?

Were the top brass at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (organizers of the whole shebang) even speaking to him by the end of it all?

On this last point, it seems highly unlikely the HFPA would take umbrage. Gervais is, after all, a man who rose to international prominence thanks to “The Office”, a TV show in which jokes about racism and disability came entirely as standard.

[CNN’s Marquee Blog offers more evidence as to why Gervais’s repartee should surprise absolutely no-one.]

NBC / Getty Images

Most commentators have sought to address the following question: Did he cross the line?

Needless to say, the views vary wildly.

The issue of crossing the line is a thorny one. The line in question shifts wildly according to location, context, audience and all sorts of other variables.

I have personal experience of straddling the line and risking falling onto the wrong side. In my previous job as a reporter, a few moments spring to mind:

  • Suggesting that the best thing about one town in our news patch was the road leading out of it;
  • Comparing Scotland’s First Minister to Scotland’s national dish (haggis) in both shape and substance;
  • Stopping just short of donning a transparent pink kilt after a last-minute decency warning from management

In each case, a decision was made based on the story I was telling – and the manner in which it was being told.

The report we aired on Monday’s News Stream contained two carefully-selected, equally acerbic offerings from Gervais. And viewers were left to decide which side of the line he was standing on.

Yet many news organizations have stepped across the editorial line in defense or disparagement of the host. Here’s just a selection:

  • The LA Times called Gervais’s efforts a “snarkfest” with a “corrosive tone”
  • The New York Daily News led with the headline: “Ricky Gervais digs himself into irreversible hole”, later noting “Gervais missed “fun” the same way he missed “funny””
  • The Washington Post’s review of the show even endorsed violence : “You kept hoping the crowd would rise up and pummel Gervais.”
  • Britain’s Daily Mail congratulated him for mocking the Beverly Hilton brigade, noting “You have to recall that these starlings of global glitter are dim birds”

The Hollywood Reporter didn’t disguise its approval either. But it did include one undeniably astute paragraph:

“Gervais's jokes were so incendiary that when he went missing during the second half of the show, the Twitterverse lit up with suggestions that he'd been fired backstage. Clearly, Gervais had done so much damage entertaining the viewers at home (or appalling them, depending on their belief in decorum), that he became the story of the night.”

People that unfailingly toe the line don’t command much press attention – and they don’t command much audience attention either.  When Piers Morgan (himself an adept attention-grabber) interviews Gervais on CNN this Thursday, you can bet the viewership – and subsequent column inches – will be pretty darn sizeable.

soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. julian wright

    funniest globes ever

    January 19, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Reply
  2. Denis

    Ricky Gervais hits homeruns everytimes is mouth opens...
    HE was the star of this show.

    January 19, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Reply
  3. Wayne

    If it were not for Ricky, we would have endured the same, dull awards ceremony we've been enduring for years. The stars are the whining about Ricky's jokes are the ones that seem to believe they are untouchable, upper class human beings and I'm glad he pegged them down. Gervais is a legend, and he hasn't changed one bit since he came onto the scene 10 years ago. For those who enjoyed his performance, I highly reccomend you listen to his podcasts with fellow Office co-writer Steve Merchant.

    January 19, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Reply
  4. oakmonster

    Gervais' the man! My husband who couldn't give 2 cents to celebrity culture was in stitches and this pop culture addict over here was in tears. I guess it was make better with how uncomfortable (and angry) the entire ballroom became.

    Best line of the night? "Here's Ashton Kutcher's dad. Bruce Willis."

    January 19, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Reply
  5. Jason

    it's my understanding that the Morgan/Gervais interview was recorded pre-GG

    January 19, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Reply
  6. elogar

    The man was very funny and I did not think he went overboard, and neither did most of the celebrities present. Get over yourselves and stop bashing ricky gervais, he did a good job and it was in fun.

    January 19, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Reply
    • Nenekkupahlawan

      I spent a large chunk of yesterday trnyig to persuade BB that I don't find RG funny. He doesn't believe me, because he lurvs him. Mind you, I can see why he makes other people laugh, but he just pushes too many of my personal buttons, especially if I see him in anything behind the scenes' being cruel to people. And his laugh! It's like chalk on a blackboard.

      July 31, 2012 at 7:49 pm | Reply
  7. JW

    I love that he does not kiss ass, it's about time!

    January 19, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Reply
  8. Dean

    There's an old adage in hollywood "any press is good press" If you're famous enough to be ripped by Gervais then you should be happy. If some felt abused by him they need to get a sense of humor and maybe stop doing the stupid, tasteless, idiotic things that give him so much ammunition.

    January 19, 2011 at 10:34 pm | Reply
    • Yuvraj

      that Colin Firth gives aspiring acrtos a master class in the eloquence of brevity.His 2011 ACADEMY AWARDS acceptance speech as best actor is a case in point, precise, though leavened by his humor, very English but never dry, generous accolades to director, producer especially eoHarvey Weinstein, and the other cast acrtos, so markedly sincere and humble.

      September 10, 2012 at 5:10 am | Reply
  9. enoughofthis

    It is absolutley insane to me that Hollywood is so unbelievably offended by Ricky Gervais. He is actually a man who rose to international prominence thanks to his ability to use self-deprication as the basis of his comedy. This form of comedy is prominent in England and can be lost in America. Especially Hollywood.

    If anyone has the right to point out the flaws of Hollywood, surely it would be someone that does it to themself on a regular basis. Frankly, all he did on Sunday night was point out, as the English say, the "bleedin' obvious". I think Mr. Gervais thinks of Hollywood, like so many of us do, as a community of over-indulgent, self-absorbed egomaniacs that, evidently, don't know how to enjoy a good roast.

    Well done Ricky Gervais.

    January 19, 2011 at 11:45 pm | Reply
  10. papito2you

    This man is a marketing genius. Every man who's ever been forced to watch these awards will follow him to the end of the world. And the faces in the crowd: priceless. You can tell this was the bully they all feared back at the school yard when they chose the school play over basketball.

    January 20, 2011 at 12:26 am | Reply
  11. Jonathon

    A breath of fresh air and excitement!

    If I know one thing about the American producers, they must still love all the ratings!

    Gervais, you stand out of the cattle. Well done.

    January 20, 2011 at 12:41 am | Reply
  12. Gem

    Millions of disadvantaged people laugh at themselves in situations that are often tragic , it's how many get through life . Maybe the famous with the curse of wealth and lack of humour should take a step back and realise that in grand scheme of things Ricky like them was doing his job as an entertainer , I've seen him live and his observations are witty little moments of heaven sent to make us giggle . Five minutes of Mr Ricky would brighten any day , his humour is what makes him a shining star in a sometimes dark world. please don't let the self absorbed over serious posers ruin our fun , after all we want to be entertained !

    January 20, 2011 at 3:41 am | Reply
  13. George

    The only reason I watched Golden Globes was Ricky Gervais. What else was there to watch? Bunch of actors giving trophies to each other. Where is fun in that? I think Ricky was extremely funny last year and this year he topped it. Anyone who says that he went over the line just does not get it.
    Well done Gervais.

    January 20, 2011 at 8:49 am | Reply
  14. deidre anne

    He was fine, maybe these 'stars' really do take themselves that seriously, but we who live in reality world don't.
    Ricky is a talent, I have watched him for years (thankfully I don't live in USA).
    Maybe our geographical distance gives us better perspective of the offensive foolishnesses and indulgences of these peoples lives and frankly if they don't like being mocked then they shouldn't have a public life.
    Get over yourselves; so many people, so many public relations reps yet so little real talent to sustain this beast.
    Ricky did what he does so well, poke holes in the fabric of insincerity, surely to goodness you knew that before you signed him up – caveat emptor.

    January 20, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Reply
  15. Anon

    Gervais is the only reason I tuned into the show.

    The HFPA are cowards for not backing up their choice for host for back to back years.

    Ricky has never hid his style of comedy feom anyone. He's everywhere and they seemed to expect him to be different.

    They wanted a kitten when all along the whole world knows him as a tiger. He never hid his intentions when he makes jokes. What did they think??

    And all the Celebs who got offended are idiots.

    I'd LOVE to see Bradgelinas faces when Ricky took a shot at the terror that was The Tourist. At least They showed Depp during that time and he smirked. If they showed Angie we might have turned to stone from her stone chilling glare she no doubt had during that joke.

    And Iron Man trying to be a smarty when he came up, please...Ricky was calling you out on your bs. Deal with it homie.

    January 25, 2011 at 9:16 am | Reply

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