Brit comic returns to the Golden Globes

Ricky Gervais admits that he was somewhat surprised when the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. asked him to headline January’s Golden Globe ceremony after he drew mixed reviews for his hosting duties on the last broadcast. But, he adds, “I was also surprised I said ‘yes.’ ”

The British comic and creator of “The Office” also confesses that the reason he accepted the follow-up gig was that “I wanted to see if I could do a better job this time. Last time, I thought I was a little too safe.”

Reviews for Gervais’ first outing were Goldilocks-like — some critics thought he was too mean to some of the assembled celebrities, while others thought — given the wicked edge of his past work — he wasn’t provocative enough. And others thought he was just right.

His best line at a 2010 awards show, ironically, came at the Emmys, when he took a pointed dig at Mel Gibson: “I’m not going to have a go at him; he’s been through a lot,” Gevais announced, referring to the beleaguered star’s recent scandals. Then, after a perfectly timed beat, he added, “(though) not as much as the Jews.” At the Globes he chided Gibson a bit more mildly.

Gervais insists his comedy isn’t intended to shock or offend, but concedes, “I do deal with taboo subjects. My real target is middle-class angst and its preconceptions. I want people to laugh at things they didn’t think they could but it turns out they can.”

His real enemy, he says, is “anodyne comedy,” which seeks not to offend. “No one has the right not to be offended,” he states.

Gervais says that he wasn’t daunted by the prospect of stepping onto a stage surrounded by Hollywood’s most beloved and powerful celebrities, once he realized, “It’s like spiders — they’re more scared of you than you are of them.”

Though Gervais took a number of shots at the HFPA — basically, his employers — at the Globes ceremony, he notes they transformed his life in ways he still can’t quite fathom when, in 2004, it awarded him the Globe for lead actor in a TV comedy for “The Office,” then a little-known British series.

“Everyone says this, but we really thought we had no chance,” Gervais recalls. “The next day, I filmed my first piece of acting that was not in ‘The Office,’ on ‘Alias,’ because J.J. Abrams was a fan. I’ve never seen it because I can’t bear to look at myself trying to be cool.

“Later that week, I had an audience with Matt Groening and Al Jean, who asked me, ‘Do you want to be in ‘The Simpsons?’ Also that week, I met with Ben Silverman and started work on the American remake of ‘The Office.’ ” (“The Office” has inspired seven different remakes worldwide.)

Gervais was also able to parlay his success and the goodwill he had garnered — or, as he says, “They’d say, ‘We love your work,’ and I was able to put their money where their mouth is.”

He found funding for the BBC/HBO series “Extras,” which won him an Emmy. “That was one week,” Gervais continues, still marveling at his luck. “It was like I had won a competition. There hasn’t been a week like it.”

Given how well his Gibson jokes went over at both the Globe and Emmy ceremonies, is Gervais hoping Mel makes headlines anew before the next Globes telecast?

“He doesn’t need to — he’s got enough in the bank,” Gervais jokes. “He can sit at home, and I won’t run out of stuff. He’s earning interest on the stuff he’s done.”

More articles from the Golden Globe Update:
Categorical denial
Growth and change within HFPA
HFPA launches digital dialogue
Diary of a junket junkie
Gervais redux
With a little help from their friends

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