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Friday 19 September 2014

Forget the Globes; Gervais deserves Oscars

SHEA TOMKINS

Published 24/01/2012 | 12:43

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IT WOULDN'T come as a surprise if Ricky Gervais' ears were burning as he left The Beverly Hilton Hotel having presented the Golden Globes ceremony in Los Angeles last week.

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In fact, such is the level of critique, both scathing and complimentary, of his performance (reviews varied from tame to hilarious, you really had to judge for yourself ) I've completely forgotten who took home the greater honours.

This leads me to believe that the Reading-born comedian may well have stolen the show; it wouldn't have been for the first time.

He has since instructed his agent that he is never to be persuaded into hosting them again, that three (times) is the magic number.

Insanity and comedy go hand-inhand. Having someone pay you to make them laugh must induce unthinkable pressure, especially when you're daring enough to dismiss the safety net, and try it live.

Nobody is quite sure where the concept of the stand-up comedy evolved, but the Minstrel Shows of mid-ninteenth century USA are believed, by some, to have been a reference point of significance. Traditionally, during the second act of a Minstrel Show - widely viewed as a grotesque form of entertainment belittling an already subjugated race - the olio delivered a gag-riddled speech which poked fun at the contemporary issues of the day.

Fast forward 100 years and groundbreaking acts such as Bill Cosby, and later Richard Prior, took the standup role to a whole new level when they performed ' between sets' in clubs. No back-up chorus, no twirling canes, just them a microphone and the heckling mob.

Comedians put their dignity in the audience's hands every time they go on stage to try out new material.

Jason Byrne admits he still gets sick with nerves before a performance, but it's the risk-taking that spurs him and his contemporaries on. From Bill Hicks to Tommy Tiernan, there have always been those not afraid to break society's rules. For all the condemnation an illreceived joke draws, it only takes one experimental gag to go right to make an artist's day, or month, or year.

Brendan Grace tells of a do-or-die moment when he was given the gig of a lifetime entertaining Frank Sinatra, at a private party in Dublin in 1990. He had been warned by Sinatra's minders not to do any jokes about alcohol. At one point the terrified Grace, not sure how he was doing, decided to do his drunken Father-of-the-bride act. How did Sinatra react? Tears rolled down his cheeks and afterwards, he helped him break Las Vegas.

When jokes go wrong however, they stink. Gervais was embroiled in controversy last year for his use of the term 'mong'. He claimed it had nothing to do with insulting disabled or handicapped people - you can only take him at his word. Would a highly intelligent grown man really poke fun at society's most vulnerable? I don't think so.

When he reads the reviews of his Golden Globes performance it's not the panning he needs to take on board, but the positives.

A GG survey reveals that 84 per cent of viewers enjoyed him. Some said that last year he was too cutting, but this year he wasn't cutting enough. Brendan O'carroll, whose alter ego Mrs Brown continues to split public opinion, says he never writes for the critics, that there's always going to be people that will either love or hate him. So he is who he is, or is not.

I went to watch Ricky Gervais in The Invention of Lying in the cinema a few years back, and laughed out loud at the sight of him walking down a corridor in silence. He has that kind of head - effortlessly funny, and highly entertaining. He's vowed never to do the Golden Globes again. I suppose that's easy to say, when the Oscars is the gig that he probably really wants.

THOSE GOOD INTENTIONS

Ah yes, the end of January is almost in sight and I wonder how many of you have stuck with the 2012 resolutions. Mine went by the wayside halfway through the month, though I'm still doing a bit of running - it's therapeutic. The good woman's ab roller is still in use, by both of us. It now stands upright at the end of the bed and is the perfect place to hang clothes after another long and stressful day. 2013 is another year, after all.

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