Did Ricky Gervais' Golden Globes jokes go too far?
Published 17/01/2011 | 15:09
Ricky Gervais is unlikely to be invited back as Golden Globes host after he mocked the organisers and insulted Hollywood celebrities.
The British comedian's jokes were so near-the-knuckle that when he mysteriously disappeared from the ceremony for an hour, the internet was abuzz with speculation that he had been sacked midway through the broadcast.
He eventually returned, but in subdued form.
His critics included Robert Downey Jr, who told the audience: "Aside from the fact that it's been hugely mean-spirited with mildly sinister undertones, I'd say the show's going pretty good so far, wouldn't you?"
The most controversial gag of the night was about the Church of Scientology. Referring to the film I Love You Phillip Morris, Gervais said it was about "two heterosexual actors pretending to be gay - so the complete opposite of some famous Scientologists, then."
"My lawyers helped me with the wording of that joke," he added as the audience gasped.
He also poked fun at The Tourist, the flop film starring Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp - both of whom were in the audience and smiled gamely. Explaining that it had been a big year for 3D movies, Gervais quipped: "It seems like everything this year was three-dimensional... except the characters in The Tourist."
There were jokes about Charlie Sheen ("It's gonna be a night of partying and heavy drinking. Or as Charlie calls it: breakfast") and Hugh Hefner's sex life. He introduced Bruce Willis as "Ashton Kutcher's dad".
But Gervais perhaps took a risk too far when he mocked the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the 90-strong group of international film critics who choose the Golden Globe winners.
"I'd like to quash this ridiculous rumour going around that the only reason The Tourist was nominated was so the Hollywood Foreign Press could hang out with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp. That is rubbish. That is not the only reason. They also accepted bribes," he said.
The HFPA is currently being sued for $2m by a publicist who claims its members accept lavish gifts in exchange for supporting particular films. The HFPA denies the allegations.
Gervais also made a dig at the organisation's president, Philip Berk, saying: "I had to help the HFPA president off the toilet and pop his teeth back in."
Backstage, Berk was asked if he planned to invite Gervais back next year. "No comment," he replied.
Robert Downey Jr seemed similarly unimpressed. The actor presented an award and was introduced by Gervais with the words: "Many of you in this room probably know him best from such facilities as the Betty Ford Clinic and Los Angeles County Jail..."
After the ceremony, he elaborated on his earlier comments. "I think it's great to be funny, but it's just better if you can do it without hurting people," he said.
Gervais also managed to alienate Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, who presented an award together and were there to celebrate the success of Toy Story 3, for which they provide voices.
When Gervais introduced them, he announced: "What can I say about our next two presenters? The first is an actor, producer, writer and director whose movies have grossed over $3.5bn at the box office. He's won two Academy Awards and three Golden Globes for his powerful and varied performances starring in such films as Philadelphia, Forrest Gump, Castaway, Apollo 13 and Saving Private Ryan. The other is Tim Allen."
Hanks retorted: "You know, like many of you we recall back when Ricky Gervais was a slightly chubby but very kind comedian."
"Neither of which he is now," said a stony-faced Allen.
US television critics were divided over Gervais's performance, with some applauding him for shaking up the awards show and providing laughs.
However, the Los Angeles Times noted that "a visible contingent in the glitzy crowd was palpably discomfited by the British comic's full-frontal joke assault, which set a corrosive tone for this year's ceremony".
The Washington Post asked: "Are we at war with England? If not, then why have we been subjected to two years of Ricky Gervais hosting the Golden Globe Awards?"