Liz Smith: Ricky Gervais Bites the Hand That Fed Him. And Spit It Out!

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And more from our Gossip Girl: Liz reviews the 68th annual Golden Globes


That was Golden Globes host Ricky Gervais after one of his gasp-inducing jokes onstage at Hollywood’s Beverly Hilton Sunday night. Indeed he had warned the Hollywood Foreign Press Association of his low comedy intentions.

I wasn’t fond of Gervais’ brand of humor (or his glass of beer) at last year’s GG. And he was no more appealing this time. Some people — a lot of people! — love this kind of mean-spirited, potty-mouth comedy, especially when it is directed at the monster sacres of the movie world. (“Oh, they are paid so much … they are all egomaniacs … they deserve to be picked on, etc.”) But I feel this sort of thing can be done with more finesse. Bette Midler was a genius at pricking the pomposity of the rich and famous, which culminated in her ultimate flip-off: “Fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke!” And once upon a time Kathy Griffin was pretty hilarious. Then the industry got wise to the brilliant serpent they were clasping to their silicone bosoms, and Griffin was more or less expelled from the events that she skewered. She has re-invented herself, but has never regained her edge in La La Land.

But Ricky Gervais? He seems more like the rude, intoxicated guest who will not go home. Certainly the head of the Hollywood Foreign Press wasn’t amused. Though he, too, came off like a jerk. And Sly Stallone didn’t seem wildly impressed by the mocking intro he received from Ricky. However, after Robert Downey Jr. took the stage, following a verbal bitch-slap from Ricky, he showed how to do it right, reading off a list of female nominees. Robert was irreverent and naughty, but a kind of egotistical class act.

Does Ricky Gervais care? Not at all. His jokes, whether you like them or not, were the talk of the evening. He might not be back next year at the Globes, but he made his point. Which was? Biting the hand that feeds you is good publicity. (Others also tweaked the rather blatantly mysterious HFPA. Robert DeNiro was actually funny speaking of how the members mostly pose for photos with stars. (De Niro was wryly great and self-possessed accepting his Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award.)

It is also safe publicity, when you are already rich and more or less famous. (Gervais created the British version of “The Office,” which came to the U.S. and has had great success with Steve Carrell. Next up? A Chinese version of “The Office” Gervais says.)

* * *

AS FOR the GG’s themselves, it was the usual “good time had by all.” Nothing is as much fun as the reaction shots and the cameras roaming the aisles during the commercial breaks, so you can catch Angelina Jolie fixing Brad Pitt’s bow tie, and other candid gestures and expressions. (I always intend to brush up on my lip reading skills before the Globes telecast.) Angie and Brad were plenty “together” as she leaned back on into his shoulder during roving camera breaks. Does this give the lie to the tabloid tales of separation? Maybe. They are actors!

And it has to be on purpose that the biggest winners — all the winners, in fact — are placed so far back in the dining room. The better to get a good long look at them as they rush and or stumble to the podium, accepting congratulations and attempting not to trip over the train of their gowns or pop out the front, in an excess of emotion. (Had “Modern Family’s” lively and gorgeous Sofia Vergara won, lord knows what would have occurred; her blazing red gown was so tight, so low-cut, and she is so expressive and excitable … oh, well, there’s always next year.)

I was wrong in predicting “The King’s Speech” would conquer “The Social Network.” But at least the divine Colin Firth — whose ringlets were a bit more tamed than when I saw him last week — took best actor in a drama. (And he gave a lovely acceptance speech nod to a beaming Harvey Weinstein.) And I was thrilled for that very real person, Annette Bening and for the authentically shy Natalie Portman. They took best actress Globes for “The Kids Are Al Right” and “Black Swan” respectively.

I loved “Glee’s” Jane Lynch saying she was not burdened by false modesty, and her young “Glee” co-star, Chris Colfer, whose acceptance speech recognized all those out there who are told they can’t succeed because they are “different.” An emotional Colfer ended with a heartfelt, “Screw them!” to naysayers. But the “Glee” writer who added a plug for school teachers in general and their importance, made the “Glee” win most important!

Christian Bale was joyfully hyped up for his “Fighter” win (and he repeated what this column said in its review — Bale’s over-the-top performance never could have worked without Mark Wahlberg’s generous restraint). It was terrific to see longtime, much-admired character actor Steve Buscemi take a Globe as the leading man of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.”

And David Fincher’s tale of Facebook is a splendid movie. Maybe it’s just that I don’t understand Facebook. I’ve never needed the Internet to be “friended.”

* * *

I WON’T dish the fashions. I’ll leave that to the E! network. Okay, wait — Christina Aguilera is a beautiful girl. But she looked like a sofa at a bordello in that lace get-up. Heavily-banged Justin Bieber is only 16, so I forgive his sneakers with a nice tux … Zac Efron has cut his bangs and looked much better (more manly) for the clipping … Helen Mirren wafted onstage like a goddess, as usual … and I thought Olivia Wilde’s ball gown by Marchesa was the knockout of the night.

So, the first round in the battle for the ultimate award is over. The Oscar festivities — February 27th at the Kodak Theater — are never quite as festive as the GG’s. And I can’t imagine that Oscar hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco will go out of their way to bloody the hands that feed them, a la Ricky G.

24 Responses so far.

  1. avatar rick gould says:

    I can be snarky with the best of them, but all the cynical commentary about award shows has gotten REALLY old. And now the sniping takes place on the shows themselves.
    I’ve just stopped watching. And I try to stay out of the blogs because they make my blood boil. But, occasionally curiousity kills this cat…
    Negativity pervades the media in general, these days… And the public, as well…

  2. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    Okay, wait — Christina Aguilera is a beautiful girl. But she looked like a sofa at a bordello in that lace get-up.

    Oh, my.  Liz Smith is channeling Mr. Blackwell.  Christina of course was channeling Cher who looked like a sofa at a bordello at the London premiere.  A new fashion look. Really an old fashion look.  The world’s oldest profession. The world’s oldest “look.” 

    • avatar Kathleen Duffy says:

      When I saw Christina, I thought it was good that she finally has given up on tyring to look like Marilyn Monre, but unfortunately is now going for a Mae West look. 

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        Mae West never looked like a sofa in a bordello. A sofa at Harry Winston, maybe, but never a bordello.

  3. avatar Margy says:

    I like Ricky Gervais. I didn’t watch the Golden Globes so I caught snippets of it. RG was funny. Come on! Lighten up!

    • avatar Amaretasu says:

      I agree with you Margy. I like Ricky too. I thought he was funny and todays funny is making fun of people. These award shows in the past hafe always been so serious, with some people crying because they won and some people mad because they didn’t win. (Most of them say that they are NOT mad because they didn’t win and they are happy for the winner, but we all know that some pf them get mad when they don’t win)
      It takes the seriuosness away, and makes where everybody has a good time. I say if you can’t take the joking, then don’t attend! Just my opinion.

      • avatar HauntedLady says:

        Making fun of people isn’t always funny. Sometimes it’s cruel. And it is possible to be funny without it. Try listening to some of Jeanne Robertson’s speeches. She’s hysterically funny without the meanness.

  4. avatar Sue Fawcett says:

    I didn’t find Ricky Gervais a bit funny, and I hope he is replaced for next year’s GG ceremony. His incessant negativity and denigration of everyone wasn’t a bit comedic, by anyone’s definition. In regard to fashion, I hope Sandra Bullock abandons the unflattering low-banged hairstyle pronto, and that the one-shoulder asymmetrical look for gowns (ala Julianne Moore) goes the way of the Edsel.

  5. avatar Deirdre Cerasa says:

    As always, I thought many of the ladies looked wonderful and some looked not so wonderful.  I was thrilled for Glee, especially Chris Colfer, the divine Colin Firth, Annette Bening and Natalie Portman.  Steve Bucemi’s “Boardwalk Empire is amazing.  I think that Robert Downey, Jr has overcome a drug addiction, served time and done absolutely beautiful work.  He handles the constant harangue with grace, let it go, please!  It is enough.

  6. avatar Elaine S. says:

    I thought Jane Fonda looked lovely — beautifully dressed and composed.

  7. avatar HauntedLady says:

    It seemed to me that the whole evening was replete with uncomfortable words, actions, silences. It was awkward most of the time. It may be that my perception was due to being tired of meanness and snark and a lack of genuine wit but there it is.
    As for the actors, I was really glad for most of them. Annette Benning is a class act, Natalie Portman was sweet and Chris Colfer was touching. And I hope they all enjoy continued success.

  8. avatar Maggie W says:

    Of course, Ricky G. will be back next year.  Viewership was up, ( big surprise) so that’s a given. Like the Oscars, it’s a night when all the “stars”  want to gush and be gushed over and photographed from every angle.  I’m not a fan of Ricky the Pompous Jerk,  , but when the papazzari isn’t hovering and ET isn’t calling, these “stars” have warts and fallen arches and receding hairlines , too.   Apparently, much of the viewership sitting home in their recliners liked gadfly Ricky, who laid that out there and isn’t any worse than those he decided to skew.  Since when has Downey, Jr., become so self righteous?  And why, pray tell?

  9. avatar Deborah Key says:


    There seems to be a smear campaign against The King’s Speech so that King’s Speech won’t win any Oscars. 

    What can we do to counteract that?

  10. avatar pris says:

    Ricky Gervais was hilarious. Some of his jokes were on the edge, but Hollywood has to learn to laugh at themselves. If two of the stars mentioned came out, everyone knows they are Gay, no one would make fun of them. They are living lies. 

  11. avatar Chip Griswold says:

    I often listen to the “jokester” and pay close attention to what he/she jokes about: tv, work place, etc.  I find those whose humor is always at the expense of others, are curious and not all that funny, to me.  Comedians often make fun of others, but the great ones often did it in a complimentary manner:  Bob Hope, “America is a great country.  A guy like Elvis Presley couldn’t spell Mississippi – now he can buy it.”  Not an exact quote but something like that.  And the great ones always used more self-deprecating humor than personal, borderline vicious humor. 

    I also notice many of the “vicious at another’s expense types,” often dish it out much better than they take it.  Just an observation.  So if the best  you can do, as a comedian, is vicious personal humor, you ain’t much of a comedian.

  12. avatar Carrie A says:

    Ricky’s humor may not be perfect but at least he isn’t boring.  I’m kind of disappointed he won’t be hosting next year.  I stopped watching awards shows a while ago because they’ve become about as exciting as watching paint dry.  I might have tuned in next year if he hosted; at least he might have been entertaining.  While I’m pretty sure Anne Hathaway and James Franco are not going to bite the hand that feeds them I’m also pretty sure they won’t be nearly as fun to watch.

  13. avatar Jon Schweizer says:

    Personally I thought Ricky was funny.  Did he go too far?  Yeah, probably. But considering the self-congratulatory nature of these awards shows it’s kind of nice to see the stars take a little tweaking.  Plus they score bonus points with the public if they show they can laugh at themselves.  Case in point, Kathy Griffin has always had high praise for the celebs who don’t take her routines personally.

  14. avatar V B says:

    Its one think to snark in a nighclub act and its quite another to do it when the victims are on their way up to the stage to stand there and be publicly humiliated.   Gervais is a crass ass.  He did a bad job.  Kick him back across the pond and let him stay there and snark the Royals. 

  15. avatar wilowist says:

    This seemed more like a “roast” than an award show.

  16. avatar LINDA says:

    Believe me the people that hired Ricky are ACTING upset but are thrilled.  That is all anyone has talked about since the show aired.  You can’t BUY that much coverage and it is all free.  They loved what he did because he stirred up the masses and gave the show so much attention.  They pretended to be upset but I am sure they are very happy and would love to have him back.