The comedy of dick-i-ness.

Posted on January 17, 2011

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Ricky Gervais. God bless him; extraordinarily funny most of the time, something of a dick in those other moments. I only caught part of the Golden Globes last night, but I watched his opening monologue with my roommate this morning.

“Why would you hire somebody and get pissed off when they do their job?” he asked. The crowd just groaned at Gervais’s joke about, “How it seemed every film this year was three-dimensional. Except the characters in The Tourist.”

My roommate has a point. Gervais is a comedian there to make jokes, and he also comes from England–a country with a culture that I sometimes think was built entirely around the concept of “the roast.” They’re thicker skinned there.  Heckling any given situation might even be encouraged. Watch any video of a parliament session to see my point:

When you hire Gervais, you get what you pay for.

At the same time, I understand the criticism towards him.  Apparently he wasn’t as edgy last year (I wouldn’t really know. Again, I had something better to do), so I think he caught people a bit off guard this time around. And I get why emotions run high at these awards shows. The creators who put their hearts and energy into the films he mocked were in attendance and hoping to be recognized for their efforts.  Everyone wants to feel validated for their creativity–it doesn’t matter if you’re a Hollywood A-lister at the Globes, or a part-time student reading your poem out loud in a community college classroom. We all want our work to be celebrated. But some of us definitely need to lighten up about it.

And one more note in defense of Gervais–he was aware when he made a joke that may have “crossed the line.” “My lawyers carefully worded that one one,” he said after creating near gasps for suggesting that Tom Cruise is probably gay. “They aren’t here,” he added.  I detected a note of self-deprecation in that one.

But I’m only really interested in blogging about all this today because I’m still hung up on this notion of where being risky, provocative, and edgy fits into our art and society. It’s no surprise Gervais is causing so much discussion. I just hope it doesn’t send him back to England permanently. He makes me laugh anyway.

And speaking of being risky and provocative, today is Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. I know it’s easy to treat it as just another day, and easier still to just quietly acknowledge how he did important things for race relations. But what isn’t mentioned enough is how he encouraged all of us, regardless of race, to be better people. To “be the change” in the world instead of just talking about how we’d like everything to be.  That’s a powerful line of thinking. It’s something I need to remind myself as a writer. It’s very easy to stand on my soapbox and shout from a distance. It’s another to walk, talk, and engage with the world around me. I’m getting better at it.

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Posted in: Television