Ricky Gervais and the Golden Globes: why the controversy?

The HFPA is reportedly furious with Ricky Gervais over his handling of this year’s Golden Globes. But what did everyone expect, wonders Simon?

Ricky Gervais and the Golden Globes

Twelve months ago, when we asked Ricky Gervais what the reaction had been to his hosting of the Golden Globes, he told us that “Well, I don’t know what people around the world thought of it. But in the room it was great, and afterwards everyone seemed to like it. And I went over to New York last week, and I’ve never had a reaction like it. People on the street coming up and saying they loved it. It was like I was a returning war hero! It was heart-warming.”

You can read that interview here.

In his 2010 stint as host, Gervais made jokes about Mel Gibson’s drinking, about Angelina Jolie adopting children, and one about if you want to buy a Golden Globe, go and talk to Philip Berk (whom we’re coming to in the next paragraph). The difference between Gervais doing these jokes and any other stand-up is that he’s doing material to a room full of egos, superstars, and some of the people he’s making blistering remarks about.

This week, when he hosted the Globes again, for some reason it doesn’t seem to have gone down quite as well. In fact, we have the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), Philip Berk, saying of Gervais that “some of the things he said were totally unacceptable”. (For me, the HFPA crossed the line when it put forward films such as Burlesque and The Tourist in a Best Motion Picture category.) That’s one of the kinder things that appears to have been said.

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Can I just say it, then: what did people expect? What did the people who sat through Gervais’ performance in 2010, that was in pretty much the same style, think they were going to get when they booked him again to host the Golden Globes?

If they wanted another drab-a-thon host, who wouldn’t even think of causing a squeak of trouble, then get one. If you want someone who’s going to cut through the veneer of bullshit that pervades the Golden Globes, then Gervais is your man.

Whether you thought his performance hosting the Globes was funny or not, you have to admit there’s a lot of truth in what he was saying. The Sex And The City 2 poster? It was airbrushed to death. The Tourist was terrible. How did it get nominated? And then there’s his comment on Jennifer Lopez: “She’s just Jenny from the block. If the block in question is that one on Rodeo Drive between Cartier and Prada.”

I’m not saying every joke was a winner and every one hit the mark, but I’m puzzled by the controversy. Rumours are abounding that the HFPA is furious with Gervais, although it’s released a statement to the contrary. Gervais himself has released a statement too, after speculation that he left the stage for the best part of an hour, to be admonished by HFPA flunkies. The statement read:

“I did every single introduction I was meant to. There just happened to be a long gap. This is because I was allowed to choose who I would introduce in advance. I obviously chose presenters who I had the best jokes for. (And who I knew had a good sense of humour.) Everyone took it well and the atmosphere backstage and at the after show was great.”

It’s unlikely that Ricky Gervais will be invited to host the Golden Globes for a third year running, and I’d suggest that if that’s the case, then in twelve months’ time, following a much tamer show, we’ll instead be left focusing on an organisation that nominates such a high proportion of shitty films for high honour.

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As it is, Gervais’ performance has neatly taken the focus away from that, and for that at least, the HFPA should be grateful.

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