Behold: Ricky Gervais. Hosting the Golden Globes on Sunday night for the fifth and (he repeatedly insisted) last time. Sneering through yet another monologue. Winding up for a joke about how The Irishman was too long. Here we go. Let’s do this. Poison us, Daddy. (That meme is, like, 58 years old, but so is he.) “The Irishman was amazing,” Gervais began. “It was amazing. Long, but amazing.” Oh, man, this is gonna be brutal, I can’t wait for the punch li—oh, wait, that was the whole joke.
Yeesh, his monologue was terrible. “It wasn’t the only epic movie,” Gervais continued, to his very particular and visceral brand of not-laughter. “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood, nearly three hours long. Leonardo DiCaprio attended the premiere, and by the end, his date was too old for him.”
Oh, wow, his monologue was kind of spectacular. I’m sorry, but that’s hilarious. He was definitely not sorry. Next: a Prince Andrew reference. Next: “The world got to see James Corden as a fat pussy. He was also in the movie Cats, but no one saw that.” Next: a joke about Dame Judi Dench licking herself that was so tasteless Gervais first pretended he couldn’t tell it, and then told it with such vile relish that he triggered a rap-music-at-the-Grammys-length bleep-out. It almost lasted longer than The Irishman!
Previously: jokes about Felicity Huffman making license plates, Joe Pesci looking like Baby Yoda, The Two Popes being a movie about pedophiles, and Jeffrey Epstein not committing suicide. (“Shut up!” Gervais barked at the room. “I know he’s your friend, but I don’t care.”) Climactically: a stray shot at Apple TV+ for backing both The Morning Show’s stuffy moralizing and myriad Chinese sweatshops. Call it a thesis; call it a moral. “You say you’re woke, but the companies you work for, unbelievable,” he sneered to the beautiful people he first sneered at from this particular stage back in 2010. “If ISIS started a streaming service, you’d call your agent, wouldn’t you?” Furthermore:
So if you do win an award, don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech, right? You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg. So if you win, right? Come up, accept your little award, thank your agent and your god, and fuck off. OK?
You want that unbleeped? Here you go.
Anyway the Golden Globes are aired uncensored in other countries, apparently: pic.twitter.com/JbDWObKY1s— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) January 6, 2020
He’s still got it, Ricky Gervais. Whatever it means to you in this context. However much it thrills or disgusts you. Choose your own adventure. He sucked; he ruled. As a person who revisits the relentlessly delightful Tina Fey–Amy Poehler era of the Golden Globes several times a year (“None of us have plans to do porn”), I am not here to tell you Gervais was a better host (not even close) or even particularly tolerable (not really). But nobody’s better at being intolerable on purpose, and nobody better embodied the chaotic-evil energy of a somehow already intolerable 2020 in general and the world-historically wacky Golden Globes in particular. You go to war with the award-show host you have, especially when the world itself is on the brink of it.
Gervais’s attempt to preemptively undercut any pious speechifying didn’t work, of course. Multiple Golden Globe victors Sunday mentioned the terrifyingly present-tense climate catastrophe in Australia, starting with an absent Russell Crowe, a winner for The Loudest Voice, whose brief statement urging us all to embrace climate science and “respect our planet for the unique and amazing place it is” was delivered by The Morning Show’s Jennifer Aniston. “So women, 18 to 118, when it is time to vote, please do so in your own self-interest,” declared Michelle Williams, a winner for Fosse/Verdon. “It’s what men have been doing for years.” Patricia Arquette (victorious for The Act) pleaded with us to give her kids a better world; even Mr. Joker himself, Joaquin Phoenix, kicked off his reliably ill-at-ease speech by shouting out the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for making all the Globes’ meal options vegan. Then he got played off.
Gervais, meanwhile, would pop up just often enough amid all this giving a fuck—including genuinely moving and be-kind-to-each-other coronations for both Ellen DeGeneres and Tom Hanks—to remind us that he well and truly did not give a fuck. I don’t care, he announced, several times, verbatim. Gervais told another joke about The Irishman that was at least a joke this time. (“In a little while we’re gonna see a short clip from The Irishman. It’s 88 minutes long.”) He, too, noted the whole vegan thing. (“As you know, the meal tonight was all vegetables. As are the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press.”) Another mean joke about Cats; an awkward reference to the lack of female nominees for Best Director that was like a leering man trying to insult you while falling down several flights of stairs. “Kill me, we’re nearly done,” he announced, as the show dragged past its appointed three-hour mark. And when we were finally done: “That’s it. Good night. Thank you. Please donate to Australia. Have a great time. Get drunk. Take your drugs. Fuck off.”
In the end, everybody got what they wanted. (Except J.Lo.) Our host wanted to scandalize everyone. The Golden Globes wanted various GIFs of beloved superstars looking scandalized. (Tom Hanks dutifully led the charge.) Gervais’s biggest fans wanted to feel like he stuck it to the pompous liberal elite; his biggest detractors wanted to feel like he was an insufferable disaster. The vast majority of the night’s victors wanted to speak to our fraught international climate in at least some small, dignified way. (Brad Pitt urging us all to find someone to be kind to tomorrow had a certain sneak-attack poignance.) The whiplash swerves from slightly awkward idealism to sniveling nihilism were rough, sure. But Gervais’s very particular and visceral brand of not-laughter has its place, even if that place is hell on earth. Though in the end, the best and meanest joke of the evening didn’t involve him at all.
You’d all just better hope that doesn’t spur Ricky to come back next year.