Golden Globes: Hollywood prepares for a pummeling as Ricky Gervais polishes up award-show punch lines

After three years of exile, has Ricky Gervais learned his lesson? For the sake of the 73rd Golden Globe Awards, let's hope not.

"Because I can see the future, I'd like to apologise now for the things I said at next week's Golden Globes," the man who's insulted most of Hollywood tweeted on New Year's Day.

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The 54-year-old British comic's most outrageous jokes from previous outings are famous (or infamous depending on your taste). "He's going to push the boundaries of all shades of wrong," actress Emily Blunt presciently said in 2010 ahead of Gervais' first hosting stint, which at that point was only the second in Globes history and the first in 15 years to have a designated host.

His material that night included the joke heard 'round the world: "I like a drink as much as the next man. Unless the next man is Mel Gibson," he said as he introduced the actor notorious for his earlier drunken driving arrest. Nursing an ever-present beer, the host additionally implied that a Golden Globe win could be bought, said Paul McCartney was flying coach to save money after that huge divorce settlement and said more than once that he wouldn't be invited back as host.

"On a serious note," he told the assembled A-listers, "just looking at all the faces here reminds me of some of the great work that's been done this year — by cosmetic surgeons."

Of course, he was invited back for 2011 and proceeded to deliver a performance that Times TV critic Mary McNamara at the time called "snotty and abusive." Despite what appeared to be more prep on his part, she wrote, "it quickly became clear that his material wasn't just falling flat, it was making many audience members and presenters uncomfortable and even angry."

Gervais slammed a pre-meltdown Charlie Sheen, characterized Gibson as an anti-Semite, introduced Bruce Willis as "Ashton Kutcher's dad" and brought Robert Downey Jr. to the stage as an actor probably known best "from such facilities as the Betty Ford Clinic and Los Angeles County jail." The "Iron Man" star fired back, riffing that "aside from the fact that it's been unusually mean-spirited with mildly sinister undertones, I'd say the vibe of the show is pretty good."

Later in the show, Tom Hanks said on stage, "We recall when Ricky Gervais was a slightly chubby and kindly comedian," with co-presenter and "Toy Story" costar Tim Allen adding, "Neither of which he is now."

Gervais again lashed out, more harshly this time, at the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., which hosts the awards.

"I'd like to quash this ridiculous rumor going around that the only reason 'The Tourist' was nominated was so the Hollywood Foreign Press could hang out with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. That is rubbish. That is not the only reason," he said. "They also accepted bribes."

Afterward, the HFPA's then-president, Philip Berk, said Gervais had "crossed the line" and added, "Some of the things were totally unacceptable."

Which brings us to 2012, the year of the Jodie Foster joke that made crude allusions to her film "Beaver," which ironically enough starred Mel Gibson. (Foster didn't reference her sexuality publicly until the Globes the next year, when Downey Jr. presented her with the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement, Gibson was her tablemate and Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were the new hosts of the show.

Since then, we've seen three kinder, gentler broadcasts under the guidance of Fey and Poehler, who played it somewhat safer and generally got bigger laughs from those in the room than Gervais ever did.

But here's the thing: "I'm doing these jokes not for the people in the room," he said in an interview that aired Friday on "Today," which is on NBC, the network that airs the Globes and has been a target every time Gervais has hosted. "I'm doing it for the 200 million people watching around the world. So, I'm trying to make it a spectator sport."

Hollywood, for its part, has as usual given Gervais plenty of tasteless-joke fodder to serve up to the masses. And Mel Gibson will be handing out an award.

"Thank you Jesus," the atheist host tweeted upon learning that news.


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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on January 09, 2016, in the Entertainment section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "COUNTDOWN TO THE GOLDEN GLOBES - Will it be punchlines or pummeling? - Ricky Gervais gets a chance to play nice (yeah, right) as he returns as host." — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe