Monday, January 17, 2011
In Re Gervais
It's been just over 24 hours since the end of the 68th Annual Golden Globes, and the number one topic remains its host Ricky Gervais.
Many on Twitter and in the blogosphere in general have praised Mr. Gervais' comedy monologue and intros during last night's show, broadcast live on NBC television.
The reaction has been far more mixed in the mainstream media and among those in attendance at The Beverly Hilton, site of last night's awards bestowed by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA).
Within hours, media stories raised the issue of whether Mr. Gervais would be invited back to host next year. Some expressed displeasure toward the British comedian, writer and actor for his comments about Robert Downey Jr. and about the age of the cast of "Sex And The City 2" and Hugh Hefner, among other opinions. Those were arguably the mildest references of the night. A lot of what Mr. Gervais said was funny. Much of it jabbed harder than the body blows sometimes launched at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner.
This was the second time Ricky Gervais hosted the Globes. He first hosted last year. The HFPA was happy to bring him back. Like ABC when it hired Rush Limbaugh several years ago, the HFPA knew what to expect. Last night Mr. Gervais often walked a tightrope on the order of the documentary "Man On Wire". Except he rocked and wobbled frequently, but didn't fall off.
The audience reaction last night at an event typically more relaxed than the Oscars however, was telling. Disapproving ohs were clearly audible, as were murmurs, particularly during Mr. Gervais' opening five-minute monologue, which is posted above.
Tom Hanks and Tim Allen mildly rebuked the host, as did Mr. Downey, following Mr. Gervais' references to the actor's drug rehab stints and jail time in the 1990s. When presenting, Mr. Downey received fairly substantial audience applause as he remarked about the "mean-spirited" atmosphere being created by the show's host, whom he diplomatically resisted mentioning by name. The "Iron Man" actor then made headlines himself (joking about sleeping with specific actresses), as did honoree Robert De Niro (joking about the deportation of the Beverly Hilton cooks and waitstaff, in what may have been seen by some as borderline racist comments.)
Nevertheless, in an otherwise blah show, the Globes and Gervais were perfectly imperfect together, making for spiky, queasy but entertaining television -- at least sometimes. The Globes were mostly predictable, but what increasing numbers of people watch the telecast for are its unpredictable winners' speeches.
At the Oscars you have an idea that the winners will gush with happiness or be overcome with shock. You have an idea that they will stay mostly -- with the exception of some notable incidents including last year's rude intervention while Roger Ross Williams gave his Oscar acceptance speech -- on script.
By contrast, with the Globes, and the abundance of food and drink in the room, there's no telling what the host, presenters or winners will do or say. Nor how far they will go in the process. An awards show that is still largely viewed either unfavorably or less seriously than other awards shows, the Globes were put on the map last night by its host. And Mr. Gervais still has us talking, so he (or someone) is doing something right.
Sure, Mr. Gervais was inartful and below the belt at times during the live broadcast. He said things more scathing than anything Chris Rock said at the Oscars when he hosted the more tony, serious awards show in 2008. Then, Mr. Rock took on Jude Law, chiding him for being not such a great actor and saying that he needed to fire his agent. Sean Penn pushed back. Mr. Rock was never to be seen again on the Oscar stage. Hugh Jackman took over in 2009. The rest, as they say, was history.
If you thought Mr. Gervais went too far last night, and there were times that he gingerly stepped over the line, then you ought to be witness to Friars Club roasts in New York City. I know people who have been. Anything Mr. Gervais said last night was kids' play compared to what has happened at Friars, where it can get downright vicious and patently offensive. Just ask Whoopi Goldberg and Ted Danson.
Had Mr. Gervais hosted the same way at the Oscars as he did last night at the Globes, he'd likely not be asked back. At this moment it is not known if he will be asked to host the Golden Globes again next year.
If Bill Maher had hosted the Globes last night and said what Mr. Gervais did, would the reaction be the same? Hard to say. Mr. Maher is respected for being brash, thought-provoking and direct. If Charles Barkley had hosted the show and opined instead of Mr. Gervais, would he have received a pass from the media? Mr. Barkley is typically respected for the same reasons as Mr. Maher, and like the comedian and social-political commentator is generally liked by a considerable margin.
What if Sarah Silverman had hosted last night? Kathy Griffin? Joan Rivers? Paul Mooney? Louis C.K.? Joaquin Phoenix? Jack Nicholson? Would it be better? Worse? Would they be invited back?