Ricky Gervais calls out celebrity cancel cultureAugust 7, 2020
It’s fair to say you won’t catch Ricky Gervais recording Imagine during lockdown.
He started the year in savage form with his takedown of woke Hollywood at the Golden Globes, and is on familiar biting mood when it comes to Covid and celebs.
Even the threat of cancel culture, which has seen Twitter ‘outrage mobs’ ignore the context, nuance and irony of a comedian’s work in an attempt to get them axed, won’t rein him in.
‘Everyone’s got a different definition of cancel culture,’ explained Gervais, 59.
‘If it is choosing not to watch a comedian because you don’t like them, that’s everyone’s right. But when people are trying to get someone fired because they don’t like their opinion about something that’s nothing to do with their job, that’s what I call cancel culture and that’s not cool.
‘You turning off your own TV isn’t censorship. You trying to get other people to turn off their TV, because you don’t like something they’re watching, that’s different.
‘Everyone’s allowed to call you an a******e, everyone’s allowed to stop watching your stuff, everyone’s allowed to burn your DVDs, but you shouldn’t have to go to court for saying a joke that someone didn’t like. And that’s what we get dangerously close to. If you don’t agree to someone’s right to say something you don’t agree with, you don’t agree with freedom of speech.
‘I did a tweet a month ago about freedom of speech, quoting Winston Churchill. Someone came back with, “You know he was a white supremacist?” And I wrote back, “Not in that tweet he isn’t”. It’s like if someone did something once that’s wrong, everything they did was wrong.
‘You are allowed to have things in common with bad people as long it’s not the bad things. I’m a vegetarian and I love dogs, like Hitler. But the only thing I have in common with Hitler are the good bits!’
Gervais has been spending lockdown at his home in Hampstead, north London.
‘I’ve got a garden. I go for a walk every day. The weather’s been good.’ Just don’t remind him of Gal Gadot’s crass video, featuring 25 of her famous mates murdering John Lennon’s classic. ‘I want the world to go back to normal, I liked it the way it was – but there are people in much worse positions than me,’ he said.
‘That’s why I didn’t like it when I saw celebrities complaining they weren’t on telly tonight, they’re [puts on mocking voice], just walking around their grounds and having a swim in their pool.
‘I didn’t want to be on that side of history – “I’m going to end this by singing you Imagine!” You’re not gonna hear me complaining when there are nurses doing 14-hour shifts.’
Gervais, who is busy writing the third series of his Netflix hit After Life and rewriting his show SuperNature, which he should have been touring now, says although he likes to keep his work timeless, it will be impossible not to mention Covid. ‘It’ll be the elephant in the room,’ he admitted.
‘But I always try and find a bigger subject and find an angle. That’s probably one of the reasons why I go to the dark side – it’s why I deal with famine, cancer, the Holocaust, Aids – because people always “get” them.
‘That sounds weird to pick out those things for comedy, but you do want people to know what you’re talking about in ten years’ time.’
Speaking in support of the Edinburgh Fringe, on the day the festival was due to begin, he said lockdown has made him appreciate the live audience more than he did: ‘All the money, the awards, the accolades – they don’t mean anything if people aren’t watching your show.’
He also recalled his first paid booking, at Just The Tonic in Edinburgh.
‘It wouldn’t have been a lot, tens of pounds, and I did a very mediocre 15 minutes.’ As for a return to the live stage, Gervais is raring to go.
‘I can’t wait to do the gigs,’ he added.
‘A room full of laughter is the ultimate, isn’t it? It’s clinically good for you!’
For SuperNature tickets, visit livenation.co.uk.
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