The only thing more painful than hearing someone explain a joke is listening to the teller defend said joke.
The newest Entertainment Weekly lets frequent Golden Globes host Ricky Gervais do just, and it was as awkward and self-serving as you might fear.
Gervais, the star of “The Office” and a loud and proud athiest, used a guest column in EW [link not available] to defend himself against charges he’s a cruel, vindictive joke slinger. You’d think an edgy comic would revel in such a reputation, especially since all those mean jokes didn’t prevent him from securing yet another Globes hosting gig this Sunday.
No, Gervais wants to show us he’s a kinder, gentler comic, and in doing so he pens a self-serving rant that’s neither funny nor illuminating.
Gervais says he “tends to explore contentious and taboo subjects,” one reason why so many people are offended by his act. “I like to take the audience to places they haven’t been before,” he boasts. But will his Sunday shtick really be so cutting edge? Will he dare poke fun at the current occupant in the White House? Will he mock those who wish to strike words out of the English language?
It’s far more likely he’ll taunt people of faith – but not Muslims – and other soft targets.
Gervais’s 2011 show joke about the photo-shopped “Sex and the City 2” posters was meant to critique how we idealize youth, not wisdom. Tweaking the validity of Hugh Hefner’s upcoming marriage during that same ceremony was his way of letting people know the coupling had little to do with old fashioned love. Hef and his squeeze du jour never made it down the aisle, alas.
“I think history has dealt with this question,” he smugly writes, as if he were Kreskin pulling a shock prediction out of his hat.
And when he ribbed Robert Downey Jr. for his drug-riddled past, Gervais was merely showing how society can’t deal honestly with addiction.
“The joke isn’t laughing at the fact that he used to drink and do drugs; the joke is the elephant in the room,” he says.
Why would Gervais even bother to pen such a column? Is he responding to a culture in which saying the “wrong” joke can send a comic to humor purgatory or a GLAAD re-education camp? Or is it a preemptive strike against a real doozy of a monologue coming our way this weekend?
Either way, Gervais is much funnier when he’s letting his jokes fly and not taking himself, or his shtick, so seriously.