Ricky's tricky humour
January 21st 2012 00:02
I don't understand the whole Golden Globes and Ricky Gervais thing.
In 2010 an English comedian is invited to anchor an American show business awards night, but his jokes are perceived as outrageous insults and the US psychotherapy industry experiences a six-month boom as the slighted celebrities seek solace.
Just as things were returning to normal, with Mel Gibson again able to recite the serenity prayer without a voice quaver, it was announced that the Golden Globe organisers had invited Gervais back to host the 2011 event.
Hollywood shuddered. It registered on the Richter Scale. You could smell the fear. It registered on the sphincter scale.
And Ricky Dene Gervais, born June 25, 1961, himself winner of seven BAFTAs, five British Comedy Awards, two Emmys, three Golden Globes and the 2006 Rose d'Or, delivered.
It was so brutal that America went into shock. They simply had no response to someone who stood before an audience of Hollywood elite and, beaming live into the homes of every good citizen who believed in truth, justice and the celebrity way, crucified them.
Not only did he make fun of Charlie Sheen, Bruce Willis and Robert Downey Jr, he even insulted Hugh Hefner!
They hadn't felt like this since Pearl Harbour.
The response, as you would expect from a nation which gave us Superman and The Incredible Hulk, was swift, strong and to the point. After they had woken the next day and downed some stuff to treat the hangover, and some more stuff to treat the fact that they had woken up at all, Hollywood fought back.
Ricky Gervais, they said, would never shove humble pie, or whatever it was he was peddling, down our throats in our town again. Ever.
It took several months for the outrage to abate, and for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which runs the Golden Globe Awards, to invite Mr Gervais back to host the 2012 awards.
Huh? Am I the only one confused here?
George Bernard Shaw once said, "England and America are two countries separated by a common language." It means that there are some fundamental differences in the way they use English.
Take, for example, the concept of irony. In the UK, there is a fine line between irony and sarcasm, and yet British history is rich with comedians who have danced on that line and royally entertained us as they did so.
In the US, however, the line is a thick one and tends more to divide slapstick and sarcasm, and the line itself is a no-go zone. Subtlety, paradox and (worst of all) irony are not the currency of Hollywood. Motto: In Charlie Chaplin, Abbott and Costello and The Three Stooges We Trust.
What do you expect of the inventors of canned laughter?
Gervais's infra dig humour at the 2010 and 2011 Golden Globe Awards crossed a cultural divide which was already entrenched 100 years ago in Bernard Shaw's day. No wonder they were baying for his blood, and that of the misled morons who run the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
Why on earth would they invite him back a second time, let alone a third?
Showbiz awards ceremonies, including the Oscars, have been falling from grace for some years. Not enough reality perhaps, but whatever the reason, the Golden Globes was experiencing an annual decline of interest along with the rest of them, an industry-wide trend which appeared cyclical and irresistible.
Until Ricky Gervais lobbed in 2010 and made tabloid headlines throughout the known universe. Yes, that's why they invited him back in 2011 for a repeat dose. Ratings.
And that's why they invited him back for the 2012 event last weekend. Except, this time, all his insults had the power of a powder puff. All titter, no terror. Just when he was bringing to Hollywood a sea change, a new understanding, a sweeping vision of comedic nuance as perfected and performed by Brits since the time of Chaucer, Gervais went lame and became a Hollywood local.
I don't know why. I just don't understand the whole Golden Globes and Ricky Gervais thing.
Ricky Gervais picture: Finlay MacKay, Time Magazine. An abbreviated version of this article first appeared in mX newspaper in Australia.
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