Robert Cormack

1 year ago · 5 min. reading time · visibility 0 ·

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The Genius of Ricky Gervais.

Prepare to be uncomfortable.

The Genius of Ricky Gervais.

Proper stupidity is fascinating.” Ricky Gervais

If there wasn’t Ricky Gervais, we’d have to invent him. I know that sounds rather lofty, but we’ve said it enough times about God. It’s time to move on to other more earthly deities. Ricky Gervais isn’t exactly a deity, unless being short and pudgy is enough to be deified.

Buddha was short and pudgy and he said all sorts in interesting things, some or which are still profoundly important today. Gervais isn’t that sort of deity. He’s a comedian. He doesn’t say profoundly important things.

He sticks to profoundly unimportant things, some of which we’d rather not hear about. He makes us uncomfortable. That’s just tough, as far as Gervais is concerned. He doesn’t care. He said it enough times at the Golden Globes, and somehow that makes us uncomfortable.

Making people squirm is okay if that’s all you got, and it’s definitely all Trump’s got, but Gervais may be different.

The only person who cares less is President Trump. When he said “I could shoot somebody and I’d still get elected,” he should have been packing his bags. Not even Ricky Gervais gets away with that sort of blatant shit for long. Making people squirm is okay if that’s all you got, and it’s definitely all Trump’s got, but Gervais may be different.

Ever since he did “The Office,” Gervais figured he’d landed on something of great sociological value. We all fear humiliation and rejection — possibly more than car accidents. What both have in common is we’re perversely drawn to both.

Common sense says we should look away, but as cameras circled the room at the 77th Golden Globes, the universal squirming and wincing only proved we’re suckers. We like being told to fuck off. Somehow we feel it’s our just desserts.

“If ISIS started a streaming service,” he said that night, “you’d call your agent, wouldn’t you?” Well, it’s one thing to be “woke,” it’s another to go where the work is, right? Didn’t Clint Eastwood toddle off to Spain to do spaghetti westerns when Hollywood lost interest?

As someone on Twitter commented, “Gervais is the court jester, the only one allowed to make fun of kings,” the kings being what someone called “a sea of sycophantic servants.”

Clint doesn’t show up for many award shows now, preferring to sit at home and laugh at the television. As someone on Twitter commented, “Gervais is the court jester, the only one allowed to make fun of kings,” the kings being what someone called “a sea of sycophantic servants.”

The “politically opinionated luvvy squirming was delicious,” another tweeted, reflecting what Gervais knew going into the awards. The attack only had to be partially true since the real truth — what holds Hollywood together — is a facade thinner than the backdrops out at Warner Brothers.

If Gervais was to be vilified, as comedians like Lenny Bruce were when they told the truth, it wouldn’t be the Hollywood Foreign Press — or the actors and actresses — doing it. Hollywood takes care of bad behaviour behind closed doors, leaving the talent to enjoy evenings of mutual gratification. They sip champagne while the heavyweights work out what to do with Gervais, possibly killing him in some bizarre way.

It’s worked for others, but Gervais is a bounce-back kid, and when you get asked to host the Golden Globes for the fifth time, even a comedian knows you either leave gracefully or embarrass yourself.

“This show should just be me coming out, going, ‘Well done, Netflix,’” he said, before promoting his own new series “Afterlife.”

Other comedians, like Billy Crystal, left gracefully, but not Gervais. Why leave on a high note? “This show should just be me coming out, going, ‘Well done, Netflix,’” he said, before promoting his own new series “Afterlife.” If you don’t care, why not embarrass yourself? Does it really matter what you do at the Golden Globes anymore?

These shows are no more enlightening than Melania Trump realizing stainless steel flatware works as well as gold-plated. We’re dazzled by what should be utilitarian function. The added feature for her is a bulbous husband.

In some respects, Gervais is right when he says movies are just “fantasy-adventure nonsense.” Masks, capes and tight costumes have made actors like Robert Downing Jr. incredibly rich, probably without him having to do any real inside work (like he did with Chaplin).

Sequels and remakes fill the otherwise ridiculously small movie roster, and it hardly justifies the said profitability when you’re leaving nothing for future generations to admire. Is there anything today that compares to “Some Like It Hot” or “Meet John Doe” or “Sunset Boulevard”?

“Their job isn’t acting anymore, it’s going to the gym twice a day and taking steroids, really. Have we got an award for most ripped junky?”

There are no remakes of these classics because nobody would dare try. The Capras and the Wilders weren’t to be sequeled, nor parodied (if that’s even possible). As Gervais pointed out about actors these days, “Their job isn’t acting anymore, it’s going to the gym twice a day and taking steroids, really. Have we got an award for most ripped junky?”

Hollywood isn’t short on talent, but it’s limited to a scope of modern out-of-wack symmetry. The greats lived in a time of upheaval, some coming out of Vaudeville, learning their craft in dusty theatres and arcades.

Chaplin’s long held fear of waiters became comedy unmatched in today’s relatively innocuous slapstick. Character actors had more expressions than wardrobe changes, and it showed in their work. What actor today would even try to attempt Joe E. Brown’s end line in “Some Like It Hot” when Jack Lemmon (Geraldine) reveals he’s a guy. “Nobody’s perfect,” Brown replies. It’s screenwriting genius but also acting genius.

“In our film profession,” Frank Capra once said, “you may have Gable’s looks, Tracey’s art, Marlene’s legs or Liz’s violet eyes, but they don’t mean a thing without that swinging thing called courage.”

That’s too hard to do and too easy to flub, and when you’re more likely to flub, it’s best, in Hollywood’s estimation anyway, to stick to remakes like “Get Smart,” or fill the screen with super heroes.

“In our film profession,” Frank Capra once said, “you may have Gable’s looks, Tracey’s art, Marlene’s legs or Liz’s violet eyes, but they don’t mean a thing without that swinging thing called courage.”

Gervais may not be as courageous as Capra, or Wilder or Ford, but at least he knows it’s in short supply. Martin Scorsese still has it. He got passed by at the Golden Globes. Hopefully he’ll do better at the Oscars. He’s the last of the greats, a director and screenwriter still interested in the final truth, much like Lenny Bruce, and certainly like Chaplin.

Given the spotlight, he acts on cue, and the results — even ad libbed — are always better than the script.

What Gervais has, and uses brilliantly, is discomfort. To watch Tom Hanks wince at the Golden Globes was worth the three hours of otherwise agonized viewing. Hanks is a wonderful actor, and a great wincer. Given the spotlight, he acts on cue, and the results — even ad libbed — are always better than the script.

Gervais brought out the best in them. He gave them discomfort, possibly enough to make them wonder if they were all “ripped junkies,” or at least going in that direction if they didn’t see their discomfort as a warning sign. Certainly Gervais gave them enough to think about.

That’s his business, after all, and if you’re going to be a comedian these days, you either embarrass yourself or embarrass others.

Gervais, in typical fashion, manages to do both.

Robert Cormack is a satirist, novelist and blogger. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)”is available online and at most major bookstores. Check out Skyhorse Press or Simon and Schuster for more details.

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