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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What did they expect?

There was a minor brouhaha recently over whether comedian Ricky Gervais, while hosting the Golden Globe Awards the other night, went too far by making jokes at the expense of the nominated stars.

I caught about ten minutes of the show, long enough to hear Gervais say about Robert Downey Jr., "Many of you in this room probably know him best from the Betty Ford Clinic and the Los Angeles County Jail."

After pointing out that it was a big year for 3D films, Gervais also said, "It seems like everything this year was three dimensional -- except the characters in The Tourist."

Many in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which selects the winners, were evidently offended by Gervais' jokes. (At one point he suggested that they took bribes.)

But if you hire a comedian, you hire him to poke fun. And the funniest jokes are always a little pointed, whether they're directed at yourself or someone else. (Show me a comedian who isn't daring and I'll show you a comedian who isn't funny.) So what did they expect?

Chris Rock had the exact same problem at the Oscars in 2005. He made jokes at the expense of the stars, then wasn't invited back because he wasn't respectful enough. This makes one wonder, had the people who selected him in the first place never listened to one of Rock's HBO specials? You don't hire Chris Rock to be Bob Hope -- you hire him to be Chris Rock. To expect otherwise is lunacy.

Kathy Griffin was hired recently to host a New Year's Eve show on CNN. Later on some at CNN complained that she had crossed the line with her risque jokes. Crossed the line? That's all Griffin ever does -- that's what makes her Kathy Griffin. Why hire her just to put a muzzle on her? Her mistake was to think that they had hired her to be herself, rather than Barbara Walters.

If you want balanced commentary, don't hire Keith Olbermann. If you want a subtle, nuanced performance, don't cast Jack Nicholson.

And if you want your awards show to be hosted the way the Miss America pageant is, don't hire an iconoclastic comedian.


Anonymous said...

John, maybe they were suffering from that quaint delusion that Brits are nicer than the average Joe? Let's see how well America gets on with Piers Morgan.
(Ironically I think RG is a nice guy - certainly by Hollywood standards - but fortunately is blessed with a wicked sense of humor. No comment on PM.)

John Craig said...

G --
I have no idea as to Gervais's character, but wasn't that impressed by the quality of his jokes (I would have preferred them a little less obvious and actually even a little meaner).

Being a big Howard Stern fan, I caught his interview on Piers Morgan last night, thought it was pretty good. Morgan is obviously very bright and very quick; no idea about his character either, though. I take it your "no comment" is an indictment.

Anonymous said...

My guess is that PM would feel at home in Hollywood, DC or Wall St.

John Craig said...

G --
I guess you don't get to his position -- having your own talk show -- by being a nice guy.