Wednesday 25 April 2018

Kevin Myers: There's a simple rule of civility and decency that a sneerer like Gervais will never understand

It was good of Ricky Gervais to illustrate some of the differences between English and US culture with his comments at the Golden Globe Awards, so perfectly timed to coincide with yesterday's column. His sneers were typical of a culture of envy that I was referring to.

Much English humour -- even when written by Irishmen -- is based on this, and is essentially about Saxons trying to be Normans. Is Jack Worthing not the Saxon, and Lady Bracknell the Norman? Likewise, Professor Higgins and Eliza Doolittle? What else is 'Abigail's Party', a vile exercise in dramaturgical snobbery, yet one of the best-loved plays in England of the past 30 years?

Ricky Gervais's 'The Office' was an unbroken sneer at the pretensions and the ambitions of its hero, played by Gervais himself. The sado-masochistic monotone was quite wearying and toxic -- which was why the American version, starring Steve Carell, was much more upbeat. Not merely was the writing much better, but the characterisation was subtler and more appealing to the American psyche. For Americans admire success: and unless one tries, one can never succeed. To sneer at the constant trier is to worship endlessly at the altar of failure.

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