Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Who nobbled Ricky Gervais?

Well, nobody. That’s who. I am not much at home to conspiracy theories and — whatever else you might think about Gervais — you wouldn’t say that he gives in to pressure. Having received more than a few outraged reviews …

Mon, Jan 16, 2012, 20:03

   
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Well, nobody. That’s who. I am not much at home to conspiracy theories and — whatever else you might think about Gervais — you wouldn’t say that he gives in to pressure. Having received more than a few outraged reviews for his first stint hosting the stupid Golden Globes, he redoubled his efforts and was properly rude the the following year. But his performance last night was extraordinarily insipid. We were back in Billy Crystal territory: I am pretending to be rude to you as a way of clarifying what great mates we are. A few media sources have tried to get upset at the fact that he seemed to suggest that Jodie Foster was a lesbian. Get real. It would be different if Ms Foster was in any sense gay, but, as she’s plainly straighter than a Roman road, nobody is likely to take such gags remotely seriously. I mean, really. (Will this do, m’lud?)

The whole Gervais at the Globes story is most peculiar. Last year, the organisers made some huffing and puffing noises after he seemed to upset Robert Downey Jr. But, given that Gervais was the only thing that got the Globes mainstream publicity — well, that and their habit of nominating terrible films — it was always likely that they’d find a way for him to return. Do they really want a neutered Gervais? Probably. He does give the awards a distinctive identity. Apart from anything else, next year’s papers will, in the event of his return, be buzzing with stories about whether he can regain his mojo.

I am reluctant to ponder any apparent crisis in Gervaisland. Quite understandably, he tends to snort noisily when unfunny pundits decide that he’s suffering from Viz Syndrome. (The creators of that comic argue that, as long ago as the mid-1980s, Mark E Smith was claiming it “wasn’t as funny as it used to be”.) But he is going through a rough patch. An Idiot Abroad, in which his pal Karl Pilkington travels the world, feels very much like an exercise in treading water. His last film, Cemetery Junction, was worryingly perfunctory. And Life’s Too Short? Oh dear. It wasn’t terrible. As mentioned here a few months ago, the cameo with Liam Neeson was genuinely hilarious and Warwick Davis confirmed that he is a very fine comic actor. But the series was far too reliant on beats devised for The Office and Extras. Davis’s character was, in fact, little more than a smaller version of David Brent. Woody Allen waited 30 years before hiring actors such as John Cusack, Kenneth Branagh and Owen Wilson to play variations on his stock character. Most worrying of all — and to my great surprise — the series featured one too many jokes that appeared to be laughing at Warwick’s shortness (the catflap gag, the ascent up the bookcase) rather than satirising foolish attitudes to his condition.

I regret saying this. I met Gervais a few years back and found him an absolute charmer. I feel fairly confident that he’ll return soon with something worth laughing at. We need him.

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