After hosting the Golden Globe Awards for three consecutive years (2010-2012), controversial comedian Ricky Gervais is excited to make his return this coming weekend, and says he has no plans to tone down his act. The British comedian is also mocking people of faith by referring to God as “a magical sky wizard.”
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter ahead of Sunday night’s show, the 54-year-old spoke in-depth about controversies created by his previous anti-Hollywood quips, his thoughts on religion, and whether or not Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump is fair game.
“It’s fun,” he said of the show. “It’s in 215 countries around the world, about 200 million people watch it, which is very irresistible to a comedian,” Gervais said of his enthusiasm for hosting the show for a fourth time. “It’s a challenge. I always write my own jokes, I can say what I want—and it’s live.”
Since first helming the Golden Globes in 2010, Gervais has pushed buttons with his hard-hitting remarks about Hollywood’s elite.
“Looking at all the wonderful faces here today reminds me of the great work that’s been done this year… by cosmetic surgeons,” he said during the 2010 broadcast.
In 2011, Gervais quipped (presumably about Scientologist actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta): “Also not nominated, I Love You Phillip Morris. Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor, two heterosexual actors pretending to be gay. So the complete opposite of some famous Scientologists.”
In 2012, Gervais made waves when he told a joke at the expense of lesbian actress Jodie Foster.
“Jodie Foster’s Beaver,” Gervais said in reference to Foster’s film The Beaver. “I haven’t seen it myself. I’ve spoken to a lot of guys here, they haven’t seen it either.”
The joke was interpreted by many as homophobic, and Hollywood Foreign Press Association head Phillip Berk would later say Gervais “crossed the line” with his comments.
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler co-hosted the show from 2013-2015.
Gervais tells THR he never understood any of the controversy surrounding his three-year stint.
“That stuff I did, I was shocked that people thought that was shocking,” he said. “Genuinely. I thought, what have I said wrong? I didn’t say anything outrageous or libelous. I didn’t say anything against broadcasting rules. It was on network television, late afternoon, it couldn’t have been that bad.”
On his Scientology joke, he told the outlet, “if you can’t make fun of religion, what can you make fun of?”
The atheist then took aim at all religions during his defense of the joke: “I don’t think what Scientology believes is any weirder than any other belief in a magical sky wizard or deity.”
He added, “So, I wasn’t even picking on them. I wasn’t trying to bring anyone down, I wasn’t trying to undermine the moral fabric of America. I was making jokes.”
…Do I pander to 200 fragile egos in the room or 200 million people watching at home? There’s nothing in it for the people watching at home. They’re not winning awards. It’s not a spectator sport watching other people win awards, so I tried to make it one.
He is willing to cut out jokes he says he cannot morally justify.
“Often there’s collateral damage,” he said. “I probably wouldn’t have a go at someone’s affair if their partner was still there — you know, it’s not their fault. That’s collateral damage for me.”
So, will this year’s audience hear any jokes about Donald Trump? Gervais said he is not ruling it out.
“Well, Trump might get a mention. He’s put his head in a basket. I think he’s volunteered for that, you know? You can joke about anyone’s willful behavior. I don’t really joke about things that people can’t help,” he said.
Gervais added: “I’d love the person it’s about to like it, too. Unless they’re some sort of murdering dictator.”
The 2016 Golden Globes will air live Sunday on NBC at 8 p.m. ET.