“Just remember: they’re only jokes, and we’re all going to die soon,” Ricky Gervais said in his opening salvo to the 2020 Golden Globes. “There’s no sequel.”
Gervais, still best known to audiences for his BBC series The Office and Extras, returned to the Globes stage for the fifth time on Sunday night — and unleashed his patented, barbarous humor on the famous attendees. But while some expected the comedian to step over the line after a recent string of transphobic tweets and general apathy for progressive philosophy, his crosshairs were firmly on the stars and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organization behind the Globes.
“Many people of color were snubbed in many categories,” he began. “Unfortunately there’s nothing we can do about that — the people in the Hollywood Foreign Press are very, very racist.”
In the days leading up to the Globes, Gervais predicted the hardships of poking the Hollywood hive in a way that actually cuts deep but also serves the millions and millions of diverse people who tune into an awards show. In response to a question about Joker director Todd Phillips’ recent comments on “woke culture” hurting comedy, Gervais was blunt with The Hollywood Reporter:
People like the idea of freedom of speech until they hear something they don’t like. So there’s still a pressure, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to water it down or back down and not say what I want. It’s just another form of what we’ve been through many, many times — it used to be called P.C. I think those things start off with very good intention and then they’re mugged. It’s a good thing to not be racist and sexist and homophobic. But it’s not a good thing to not be allowed to make jokes about those things, because you can tell a joke about race without being racist. I’m happy to play by the rules. It’s just that the 200 million people watching have different rules. That’s the plight. When people say, “He crossed the line,” I say, “I didn’t draw a line, you did.” It’s relative. It’s subjective.
If Gervais crossed any line, it was the one about not embarrassing the talent, executives, and Hollywood bigwigs in the room. After acknowledging the legendary cast of The Irishman, including Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese, and Baby Yoda (“Oh, that’s Joe Pesci”), Gervais went on tear about Netflix’s domination of the industry and the theatrical business model’s reliance on giant superhero movies. He aligned himself with Scorsese, who last fall knocked the Marvel Cinematic Universe for being artless.
“All the best actors have jumped to Netflix and HBO, and the actors who just do movies do fantasy adventure nonsense. They wear masks and capes and really tight costumes. Their job isn’t acting anymore it’s going to the gym twice a week and taking steroids.” Turning to the curtain, Gervais asked, “Do we have an award for most ripped junkie?”
No one was left unburned by the time the awards were handed out. On one actor’s reputation for dating women half his age:
“Once Upon a TIme in ... Hollywood is three hours long! Leonardo DiCaprio attended the premiere, and by the end, his date was too old for him.”
On a recent musical phenomenon:
“The world got to see James Corden as a fat pussy. He was also in the movie Cats.”
On the advent of Apple TV Plus:
“Apple rolled into the TV game with The Morning Show, a superb drama about dignity and doing the right thing ... made by a company that runs sweatshops in China.”
On a wicked truth:
“If ISIS started a streaming service, you’d call your agent.”
The monologue was a true high-wire act: a relentless attack on Hollywood’s socially conscious sales pitch that may have passed muster with an audience prepared for ugly mudslinging. The message: Hollywood is hypocritical (just look at who NBC hired to host the Golden Globes). And if Gervais burnt bridges, it was with everyone in the room — or to put it his way, people who knew Jeffrey Epstein and are extremely afraid of Ronan Farrow.
“If you do win an award tonight,” he begged the A-listers, “don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech. You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thumberg. So if you win, come up, accept your little award, thank your agent, and your god, and fuck off.”
As he said over and over again in his 10-minute act “Fifth time. No one cares.”