Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes

I said I'd try each week to do a little pop culture riff.  Last week I let Jon Stewart do it for me -- and if you're not watching Jon Stewart's Daily Show, boy do I recommend it.  He's doing some great stuff on the political scene right now. Really transcending some of the us vs. them of our political landscape.

But this week I thought I'd maybe say a few words about the Golden Globes.  To be honest, I did not see them live.  Award shows have a great allure for me, like I guess most people.  I want to be surprised, want to hear the touching speech of Hollywood's versions of a princess. Probably want to have my vision of life affirmed.

 But at the same time, it all does seem a little ridiculous. These are artists, for God's sake, artistic projects. At their best, they all deserve awards, and our thanks.  And it doesn't have to involve anything as noble as The King's Speech, either.   I've wept or laughed through a lot of crap, quite frankly, and I bet so have you. And some of that is embarrassing, but some of it has also made us feel better.

I don't care what anyone says, I loved this film.

So the idea that it makes sense to take this panoply of artistic projects and pronounce one "the winner" -- it'd be like lining up children and deciding that this one is better than that one, just as a human being. "Right, you're better in school, but you're a little bit of a snot, aren't you? I think we'll go with the pug nosed athlete." Ridiculous.

So, I didn't see the Globes when they aired.  But of course, like I suspect most of you, I heard about them, and particularly about Ricky Gervais' many, many jibes at the Hollywood establishment, and at their jibes back.  Not only that, it seems like since then I've had quite a few spontaneous conversations on the topic, many of them with ordinary people quite furious at Gervais.

When I first saw some of the footage, I think I sympathized more with the megawatt stars like Robert Downey, Jr. or Tom Hanks who criticized him. (How could you not? It's Tom freaking Hanks! Somewhere along the line he's become a father figure/moral compass for the nation.)

I miss this Tom Hanks.

And I must say, I found the reference to Downey, Jr.'s substance addiction problems both incredibly out of date and just plain mean.  The man's made a fresh go of it, he's done amazingly well -- give him a little credit, why don't you?

But then I watched that opening monologue again. (Here it is, along with his other gags during the show.)  It's incredibly raunchy -- if you haven't seen it, beware. It's really raunchy.

But I have to say, a lot of it is very funny, too. Really funny. And also, such a high wire act.  He's playing the classic jester character, trying to send up this whole silly event and the ways we deify our stars, smacking them with a custard pie.

Comedians do this every night of the week.  But to do it in such a public venue, and to the faces of these, our kings and queens -- so much harder.  So hard.

Now you or I might not like it, might not have found it funny. That's fair enough. It was certainly sprinkled with a more than its fair share of mean.

But still, take a step back and consider not just what he's saying but what he's trying to do, what his angle is, and I think you find a guy who's also unafraid to demand that everyone in Hollywood admit that they put on their pants one leg at a time and have their fair share of failures, just like everybody else.  In the culture of celebrif-ication (new word, terrible word) in which we live, that's pretty brave.

Two favorite Gervais bits: Gervais meets Elmo

And at the Emmys with Steve Carell.

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