Ricky Gervais Interview: ‘Humanity’

“I always considered stand-up a third job that I did, but doing ‘Humanity’ changed all that,” admits Ricky Gervais about his latest comedy special on Netflix. In our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video above), he adds, “When you are writing a TV show or a movie you do your best guess and put it out there and that’s it. Whereas with stand-up you can evolve it every night. It becomes evolution by natural selection. The audience makes it better every night; so soon you’ve got the perfect hour that works everywhere, because people are the same. It’s less like an art form and more like a science: if they laugh it works. I can’t wait to do the next one.”

“Humanity” is Gervais’ fourth stand-up special and first in seven years. He says it is “about freedom of speech and offense culture. I’m dealing with very contentious issues. You want people to know clearly what the target of the joke is from the subject. But you don’t want to make it so anodyne and safe that everyone gets it. Because you lose the bite, you lose the satire, you lose the irony. I go for the most emotive and contentious issues in the world at the moment. Because I don’t want comedy to be safe and cozy. When we go to the gym we feel good about ourselves. I want the audience to have a workout and their conscience to go through a little bit to trauma. That’s the tricky bit for me. But luckily as a comedian you can make a show about anything. So I made a show about the difficulty of being a comedian and joking about the things I wanted to joke about.”

For Gervais this highlights the issue of political correctness in comedy. “Political correctness started off as a good thing. You don’t want to alienate people for things they can’t help. It kicked out the old guard, the outspoken racists and sexist comics. But let’s not forget, political correctness is not the same as actual correctness. People muddy the waters because they try to close down an argument. Personally, a big taboo growing up was that you should never make jokes about religion. But I think yeah you should. It’s an idea, it’s not a person. You can ridicule ideas. But people give ideas human rights to close you down. That’s the bad side of political correctness, people think you can’t joke about things, but you can. It depends what the joke is. I imagine half may audience were religious. But they know that I wasn’t laughing at them, I was laughing at a particular person’s attitude.”

While dealing with contentious and timely issues, Gervais has decided not to focus on the Donald Trump administration because “I try to keep politics out of comedy. Not because I think I’ll lose half the audience, that’s never worried me. If you’re relying on the audience giving you a round of applause because they agree with you, that loses something comedically. That’s just rallying and I don’t like it from either side. I get round to politics implicitly but I don’t do Trump bashing and stuff like that. In my private life I was never interested in politics, but everyone is now. I can’t wait for him to get up and tweet on a personal level. Any one of his tweets 10 years ago would make the front pages and be the maddest thing. But he’s done a thousand, tweeting about shows that annoyed him or having a go at a citizen. See you’ve made me get political! But I’m actually not getting political because I don’t think he’s political. I think he’s just a crazy, man-baby, narcissist, troll who somehow found himself in the White House. It’s like two billionaires made a bet in a country club that they could make the  biggest buffoon in the world the President. It’s like the worst 80’s movie.”

Gervais is already a two-time Emmy winner from 23 career nominations. He’s won for producing the U.S. version of “The Office” (Best Comedy Series, 2006) and for Best Comedy Actor on “Extras” (2007). He has also been nominated for producing, directing, and writing in the comedy, variety, TV movie, special class, and animated genres. He says, “Most of the awards I’ve won have been for show or acting. I’ve never won an award for stand-up special. So I would have loved to have won for that. It’s nice to be nominated. Particularly at the Emmys because it’s by your peers. But it’s crazy to take it too seriously. In fact, I pretend to take it seriously when I win to annoy people.”

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UPLOADED Jun 11, 2018 2:16 pm