Ricky Gervais said he wouldn’t be invited back as Golden Globes host, and he is probably right. He stunk. Say what you will about British humor, it just doesn’t go over well with a U.S. audience. And when an audience includes egos the size of his, he’s automatically on dangerous ground.
Gervais is known for his acerbic wit, so the Hollywood Foreign Press Association got what it paid for. He insulted a number of audience members, although he stuck to the obvious targets: Charlie Sheen, Robert Downey Jr., Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie and Robert DeNiro.
But in an age of constant, unending celebrity coverage on the Internet, much of it mean spirited and caustic, Gervais amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.
Celebrities are already dogged year-round by tabloids that leave no stone unturned to report the flimsiest rumors and innuendo. Why bring that into the room?
In Gervais’ defense, and he deserves one, hosting a Hollywood awards show is the worst possible job. The shows are deadly dull to begin with.
There hasn’t been a good host since Johnny Carson, and its been the undoing of more than one comedian, from Steve Martin to David Letterman.
But really, Sheen? His foibles have been so lampooned by now, what was the point? Is this a celebrity roast or an awards show?
Of course, Gervais has to keep a television audience amused. But few in the audience seemed to find his brand of humor funny, making his moments at the podium at best uncomfortable, at worst, bad television.
Sure “The Tourist” bombed, but does Johnny Depp and Jolie need Gervais to tell them that? “I haven’t even seen ‘The Tourist,'” Gervais joked. “Who has?”
The joke wasn’t that the movie was bad, (everyone knew that) it was that a bad movie was nominated. But Gervais seemed to miss the point.
In the bite-the-hand-that-feeds-him category, Gervais finally took on the foreign press association’s curious nomination of “Burlesque,” amid allegations that members accepted bribes to bestow the honor. Fair game, for sure, but why take it out on Cher, who surely had nothing to do with it.
The bribe, he said, were tickets to a Cher concert, which he found surprising because no one has wanted to go to a Cher concert since 1975. Oddly, Cher wasn’t there because she was doing a show before a packed house in Las Vegas.
Leave it to the equally acerbic Downey to fire back. After Gervais noted that Downey might be best known for his turns at the Betty Ford Clinic and Los Angeles County Jail, Downey had a great comeback.
“Aside from the fact that it’s been hugely mean-spirited with mildly sinister undertones, I’d say the vibe of the show has been pretty good so far, wouldn’t you?” he said.
Tim Allen, who came up in rough-and-tumble New York comedy clubs, probably said it best. Allen said he would always remember Gervais as a “slightly chubby but kind comedian, neither of which he is right now.”
It’s hard to feel too sorry for this privileged and coddled crowd, rife as it is with a strong sense of entitlement and overweening egos.
And, publicity — any publicity as long as the name is spell right — is always better than nothing at all. But that wasn’t the problem.
Gervais’ shtick was a comedian’s worst nightmare, it didn’t play to the room.