Ricky Gervais hosting the Golden globes and the (over)reaction

The Golden globes are usually just a quickly forgotten precursor to the Oscars, but this year thanks to the host Ricky Gervais’ refreshingly irreverent and spiky humour and the resulting controversy that the media have engineered, this year’s ceremony won’t be forgotten quickly by both the public and array of Hollywood A-list stars that Gervais playfully jibed at, including the illustrious likes of Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Robert Downey Jr, and also the less illustrious likes of Tim Allen.

Gervais even had the gaul to take swipes at the faceless hidden power men behind the Hollywood curtain, figures who rarely get mentioned let alone ridiculed. Gervais made a dig at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association  (HFPA) organizations’ president, Philip Berk -a man in charge of organising the event and a key figure pulling the strings of the Hollywood theatreGervais joked: “I had to help the HFPA president off the toilet and pop his teeth back in.

If you didn’t see the awards ceremony, given the reaction from the press, you would be forgiven for thinking that Gervais had attempted to set fire to Meryl Streep’s gown. Cries of outrage were ringing around the media the morning after the ceremony. Here is just a sample:

  • The Los Angeles Times said his jokes set “a corrosive tone” for the night, while TV critic Mary McNamara said: “The opposite of dull and deferential is not snotty and abusive.” “It would not have been surprising to see a hook emerge suddenly stage left or to learn that the host had taken ‘suddenly ill’,” she added.
  • The New York Times said the comic was “merciless from the start” while the Hollywood Reporter said it would “undoubtedly be his last hosting gig for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (and, who knows, maybe any Stateside awards)”.
  • However Entertainment Weekly’s Ken Tucker had nothing but praise for him: “Thanks once again to Ricky Gervais for bringing the sort of funny rudeness and effrontery… that make an awards show such as the Golden Globes engaging to watch.”

It seems Gervais might now  be hounded out of tinsel-town by an angry mob of press and disgruntled movie stars in a fashion dealt to Frankenstein by an irrational pitch-fork wielding hate mob of village idiots.

However, the reaction of audiences in America and across the world to Gervais no-holds-barred approach contrasts heavily with that of the media and of some of the stars who didn’t take Gervais humour well.

Whilst the A-list where shifting awkwardly in their seats with plastics grins plastered on their faces after being on the receiving end of one of Gervais’ pointed put downs, American audiences and audiences across the world were in hysterics at Gervais’ ballsy performance. The media have tried once again to shape audience opinion but as always, the internet reveals that public opinion is rather different to the stuff peddled by papers. Audience reaction to Gervais merciless mirth is almost unanimously positive. Google: ‘Ricky Gervais hosting the Golden globes’ and the overall viewer reaction is nearly completely favourable. People were generally amused and respect Gervais for his original approach.

If you are wondering what exactly Gervais said here are a few of his jokes on the night.

  • “It was a big year for 3D movies. Toy Story, Despicable Me, Tron. It seems like everything this year was three-dimensional, except the characters in The Tourist. I already feel bad about that joke. I’m jumping on the bandwagon, because I haven’t even seen The Tourist. Who has?”
  • “I’d like to quash the rumours that the only reason The Tourist was nominated was so that the Hollywood Foreign Press can hang out with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. That is rubbish, that is not the only reason – they also accepted bribes.”
  • “I Love You Phillip Morris stars Jim Carey and Ewan McGregor – two heterosexual actors pretending to be gay. So, the complete opposite of some famous scientologists. Probably. My lawyers helped me with the wording of that joke.”
  • “I was sure the Golden Globe for special effects would go to the team that airbrushed [the Sex and the City 2] poster. Girls, we know how old you are. I saw one of you in an episode of Bonanza.”
  • On Jennifer Lopez – “She’s just Jenny from the block. If the block in question is that one on Rodeo Drive between Cartier and Prada.”
  • On multi-billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg: “Heather Mills calls him the one that got away.”
  • While introducing Robert Downey Jr – “Many of you in this room probably know him best from such facilities as the Betty Ford Clinic and Los Angeles County Jail.”

During the ceremony, there was distinctly mixed reaction to Gervais tone from a crowd made up of Hollywood’s A-list and movie moguls. Often Gervais’ jokes were accompanied by nervous laughter but after the more barbed jokes, particularly the unbelievably daring remark about certain scientologists that Gervais was referring to, sharp boos were heard in the auditorium. Some stars visibly offended by Gervais acerbic style, took to the stage and fired back jibes at Gervais that were pointed but witless and actually created far more awkward moments than anything Gervais said:- Robert Downey Jr, who shamelessly boasted about how many famous actresses he slept with, certainly losses more respect than Gervais for his smug performance. This is what he said on-stage to fire back at Gervais:-

”Aside from the fact that it’s been hugely mean-spirited, with mildly sinister undertones, I’d say the vibe of the show is pretty good so far, wouldn’t you?” Later backstage, he added ‘I think it’s great to be funny, but it’s better if you can do it without hurting people.”

Tom Hanks, and more notably Tim Allen, also looked like they couldn’t take a joke when they took to the stage and said this later. We recall when Ricky Gervais was a slightly chubby but very kind comedian,” to which his Toy Story 3 co-star Tim Allen quickly added: “Neither of which he is now.” Given the amount of hideous films Tim Allen has put on his resume, you’d think he would be prepared for a little bit of a grilling, but as he made his comment he looked like he was going to cry he was hurt so badly.

Even a director who specialized in humour objected to Gervais’ tone. This is what Knocked up and Funny people director Judd Apatow had to say about Gervais.

“I didn’t like him. I thought he was mean,” Apatow said during his opening speech. “Did he lose weight just to make fat jokes?”

Not everyone seems so offended. To their credit both Alec Baldwin and Robert De Niro were seen visibly enjoying Gervais bold pop-shots at their Hollywood peers.

Given the fact that audiences enjoyed Gervais performance, it’s the Hollywood A-list members who took issue with Gervais who come out of this losing credit and not the host. These awards ceremonies are often ruined by shameless back-slapping celebrities and self-congratulatory speeches and general emotional gushing. Gervais livened it up and the controversy in the media only proves that he provided some much needed talking points to an otherwise inane occasion. Gervais should get a lot of credit for being an outsider facing up to the Hollywood glitterati and having the balls to jibe at them and stay true to his nature.

It would have been hideous to watch if he had gone in there, changed his character and started gushing in admiration at how happy he is to be one of them. He might have endeared himself to the Hollywood elite but audiences across the world would have lost respect for him, and really, despite what the press and celebrities think, it’s audience opinion that counts the most, after all, it’s audiences who watch the films and box office speaks volumes. Louder than disgruntled celebrities for sure.

What is really strange is the fact they hired Gervais in the first place. They should have known what to expect. During the promo on NBC for the event itself, this was his wry remark which – I think you’ll agree – hinted quite strongly at what he intended to do:-

“The Golden globes are Hollywood’s favourite awards show, and do you know why? Because they are allowed to drink throughout the entire ceremony. Because without that… it would be fucking insufferable.”

NBC released many promos with lines like oooohh, what will Ricky say?, showing that he had been given some freedom to add some edge to his comedy. Well you can’t goad someone into say something edgy, then chastise them when they do. Hollywood, you only have yourself to blame if you didn’t like Gervais’ tone.

Clearly, Gervais has been misunderstood. He was clearly trying to reinvigorate that good old fashioned Hollywood roast – loved by Old school Hollywood hosts like Bob Hope. Ok, so he might have gone a bit too far with a few of the cracks but certain industry personal who reacted badly now look like they don’t have a sense of humour and are taking themselves way too seriously. Half way through the evening Gervais disappeared off stage for an hour, prompting rumours that he was reprimanded for his approach. When he returned he looked shaken and he’d toned down his act. It doesn’t take much to work out that he had been warned. I think this is what Gervais should have said when he returned:-

Lighten the fuck up you precious, egos the size of planets, vein, preening, pampered, pre-madonnas. You are not royalty or Gods and given the fact that everyone of you in this room is not adverse to a pay check movie, you should all be prepared for a few jovial criticisms now and again. So sit back, laugh, take the depreciating humour in good spirits and you might endear yourself to the people watching at home.

Cast your mind back to the days of the Rat pack – you tube it if you haven’t seen their spiky rapport – Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jnr and Dean Martin used to rip on each other about personal things all the time. Frank used to joke about Dean’s drinking problem, Dean used to joke about Frank’s alleged affiliation with the mob and both used to playfully make light of the fact Sammy Davis Jnr was black. Ok, so it was a different time but if one of them had reacted badly and taken offense they would have looked pretty silly. They didn’t, showing they were stars who could laugh at themselves. Besides, ridicule was and still is – part of show business.

This years Golden Globes proves certain members of modern Hollywood don’t have that ability to make light of themselves. Good on you Ricky for supplying a much need edge to these hideously choreographed occasions. You’ve shown you are a really ballsy and witty comedian – it is one thing making fun of someone behind their back, it’s entirely another to make fun of some of the most revered people on the planet to their faces. The joker just became king, if only in the eyes of the public – but that’s all that really counts anyway.

Did you see the 2011 Golden Globes? What did you think of Ricky’s performance and the reaction? Have you say below or tweet me @filmfelladarren
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About Filmfella Darren
Film critic, writer and long-time cinema appreciator. I write about cinema matters, because cinema matters. Like your clothes and your laptops, my articles were made in Taiwan.

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