Review: Ricky Gervais’ Opening Monologue at the 2016 Golden Globes

Ricky Gervais’ Monologue at the 2016
Courtesy of NBC

Ricky Gervais was up to his old tricks during his Golden Globes monologue Sunday night. As he has in the past, the Golden Globes deployed a few zingers that hit their chosen targets, and by far his most successful jokes revolved around the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which he takes great delight in mocking.

But Gervais also took some cheap shots with jokes that felt tiresome before he even finished them. “I’m going to be nice tonight,” he said, and of course no one believed him. “I’ve changed,” he pleaded. “Of course, not as much as Bruce Jenner.”

The reception among the audience to that comment was muted; it just seemed wrong and not particularly kind to refer to Caitlyn Jenner by a name she no longer uses. Gervais quickly mentioned that Jenner now goes by Caitlyn, and talked about how she has courageously broken down barriers and did wonderful things last year.

But then Gervais made perhaps the hackiest joke of his monologue: “She didn’t do much for women drivers,” a reference to the car accident Jenner was in last year.

Gervais couldn’t resist making even more “jokes” about Jeffrey Tambor, who plays Maura Pfefferman on “Transparent,” whom he said reminds him of his “Nan.” The fact that Gervais made such a big deal of the fact that Tambor has to put on women’s clothing in order to play the role of Maura was unsettling, to say the least. Trans awareness has made a lot of progress in the world in the last few years, but the fact that Gervais couldn’t let this topic go shows how little progress has been made among least-common-denominator comedians. The trans mockery section took up a large chunk of his monologue time, but all his digs were tin-eared and predictable.

But then again, that’s a large part of Gervais’ hosting brand at this point: Taking cheap shots at very obvious targets. “Shut up, I don’t care,” he said when there was a rumbling response to one joke. It’s hard not to take him at his word.

There were the usual array of digs at famous people, perhaps most notably Gervais’ characterization of “Spotlight,” a film about a journalists who reported on the coverup of priests molesting children, as Roman Polanski’s favorite date film. He also delved into the subject of female-driven film remakes and equal pay for women in Hollywood.

“There were marches with nurses and factory workers” after Jennifer Lawrence wrote about the pay gap in Hollywood. “How could a 25-year-old live on $52 million?”

And female-driven remakes are smart, he added. It allows the studios to rake in money and “they don’t have to spend too much money on the cast.”

One of most notable elements of Gervais’ Globe routines, and Sunday was no exception, is sense of smug satisfaction that emanates from the host. There’s nothing wrong with confidence and certainly the skewering of Hollywood egos is almost always to be welcomed. If only Gervais’ jokes were sharp enough to be on the same lofty plane as his very evident self-regard.

As it was, his most successful target was the HFPA and the awards they give out as being “worthless.”

“It’s a bit of mental that some nice old confused journalists so they could meet you and have a selfie with you.”

“And they asked me to host these four times!” Gervais chuckled. And who knows, despite his frequently threadbare jokes, they might ask him four more.