The Night Shift: Gervais Talks Globes, and We Wonder — Has the Fallout Said More About Celebs Than the Comedian?

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Ricky Gervais certainly pulled no punches Sunday night, as the host of the Golden Globes. He mocked the organizing awards body for nominating a film that was widely dismissed by film critics. He touched upon the bribery scandal that has left many wondering if Burlesque was nominated for a best picture award only because voters were flown out to Las Vegas, to see Cher – a Burlesque co-star – in concert. He jabbed Ben Stiller, Mel Gibson and even God Himself. Monday morning, the pundits chimed in with hushed speculation: Had he taken things too far? Would be banned from the awards? Did Globes organizers admonish him halfway through the ceremony, when he seemed to disappear for an hour?

Even Jennifer Lopez admitted that she rushed backstage and threatened him not to roast her.

Well Gervais will appear this evening on Piers Morgan Tonight, and in one early clip he explains his thoughts on the Globes scandal:”I don’t think I did anything wrong…I’m confronting the elephant in the room. Like I’m going to go out there and not talk about the issues in their industry. I’ve got to be an outsider there, I mustn’t come out there as everyone’s mate and schmooze — that’s nauseating. I’ve got to come out there and roast them.” The video – and David Letterman’s poignant take on the situation – after the jump.

Two nights before Gervais decided to address the situation on CNN, David Letterman brought his perspective to the issue, in a rather remarkable TV moment that CBS has still not released to the web.

Picking up a copy of the New York Post, Letterman recounted Gervais’ performance, going joke by joke and re-telling the zingers that so many had deemed offensive. With every punchline, Letterman’s audience laughed — heartily — and the host pointedly raised his eyebrow to the camera, suggesting that Gervais’ material had passed the crucial test: Uncomfortable or not, the jokes rung true. And funny. His larger point seemed obvious: What more can you ask from a comedian?

But near the end of Letterman’s segment – and I’m paraphrasing poorly here, since CBS makes very little Letterman footage available online (far less than any other late night program, I might add in frustration) — he summed it all up quite nicely with an argument that amounted to this: When did we get so precious, so sensitive? Oooooh, they’re entertainers. You mustn’t offend us!

UPDATE: Thanks to reader alynch3, here’s the Letterman clip! He starts talking Gervais about a minute in:

The only thing better than the sarcasm was Letterman’s climactic half-eye-roll, and silent deadpan stare. Who, he seemed to be asking, did these movie and TV stars — these high-paid creatures of the spotlight — think they were, that they couldn’t take a little joke? A quick jab at their expense?

I know that Jim has weighed in here, far more eloquently, but I must admit that I was a little less certain in the moment about the appropriateness of all this: Is it right for an awards host to openly mock the awards body that hired him?

But following Gervais’ tirade about The Tourist, Christian Bale took the stage to accept his trophy and mocked the group as well, as did Robert De Niro, who had just been handed a lifetime achievement award. Anyone upset with Gervais today should be equally upset with the clearly ungrateful De Niro.

But the more I thought about it Sunday night and Monday, the more I started siding with Bale, De Niro and those other movie stars who share their sentiments, who are forced to attend this ceremony even though merit has nothing to do with what’s going on (The Tourist was obviously nominated to get Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt into the audience). And with Gervais. He has every right to comment on what’s going on, to make topical jokes, and the gathered celebrities then have every right to respond as they deem appropriate.

This year, their reactions said a little more than they might have intended: That many celebs are too sensitive for self-deprecation, too self-involved to laugh at themselves. As we watched from our living rooms, many of us howling in laughter, two camps of entertainers emerged: Good sports and bad sports. The good-humored and the humorless. Regular people who can take a joke, and the white-gloved set who live in a bubble.

Three videos below – the Ricky Gervais clip from tonight’s Piers Morgan Tonight, comedian Aziz Ansari grading Gervais’ performance from a Globes after party, and a roundup of Gervais’ best moments from Sunday’s telecast:

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