Walk onstage with a beer in your hand at a televised industry gala. Joke with Kate Winslet in front of a room full of 2009 Golden Globe attendees about choosing a Holocaust drama as a road to certain awards show kudos.
Get the gig to host the Golden Globes the following year? In the case of Ricky Gervais, absolutely.
“He has a way of saying things that are shocking — even naughty — without really offending people,” says Barry Adelman, Golden Globes executive producer. “He’s very witty and has a deft touch so people find it funny that he’s getting away with saying the things he says.”
In the past some awards shows have shied away from irreverent commentary to avoid offending anyone. But Adelman and others involved in planning the 2010 Golden Globes thought Gervais’ unconventional humor was a great fit for the night often called “the party of the year.” So, the Globes, which has not had a host since 1995, asked Gervais to join the telecast.
“He’s the only person I could think of hosting the Golden Globes,” says Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. prexy Philip Berk. “His wit is without peer and he’s an internationally accessible comedian.”
It wasn’t just Gervais’ subtle touch with an unexpected line that interested Berk and Adelman. Despite delivering comments that seemed to come spontaneously at the 2009 Golden Globes, Gervais was keenly interested in doing the prep before his performance.
“There were a number of moments that impressed me last year at the Golden Globes,” says Adelman. “The first thing is that he came in to rehearse and that tells you that even though he’s hilarious he’s taking the whole thing seriously. He wanted to know all the mechanical stuff — where he was going to stand, how the show would go — and once he was onstage he completely delivered.”
While the comedian was happy to be asked to join next year’s show, he again had questions before taking the job, according to Adelman. Gervais — after asking a producer who approached him if he was sure he dialed the right phone number — made sure everyone knew who they were hiring and what they might get themselves into in the process.
“He wanted to know if he was going to be free enough to say the kinds of things people have come to expect of him and, of course, in the context of television you’re never 100% free, but there’s enough freedom here for him to be himself and at the same time honor the people getting awards that night.”
Organizers hope Gervais’ urbane, cheeky humor will make the night memorable whether you’re in the room or not.
“There’s wonderful camaraderie on Golden Globes night,” says Berk. “Somehow you have all these people from all over the world, from film and television, in one place and they commingle for a night. Having a host like Ricky helps everyone there and watching at home feel like they’re part of that night.”