Golden Globes: The Highs and Lows of Ricky Gervais’ Past Hosting Duties (and What’s Coming on Sunday)
this Sunday’s Golden Globes for the fourth time, following his three-year stint from 2010 to 2012 that left no earth un-scorched and no celebrity un-mocked. Gervais turned what was traditionally a night of unexamined self-congratulation into a no-holds-barred roast, taking aim at some of Hollywood’s sorest spots. (Substance abuse! Narcissism! Mel Gibson!) His unapologetically acidic style generated big laughs and big grimaces; here, a look back at Gervais’s past Golden Globes outings and what to expect from his comeback.
2010 / The 67th Golden Globe Awards
2010 marked both Gervais’s first emceeing turn and the first time since 1995 that the traditionally host-less Globes employed a master of ceremonies. It was a rocky and uneven show that landed fewer jokes than it missed, but for better or worse, Gervais never pulled his punches.
Highlight: Gervais’s commitment. Apparently convinced from the start that this would be his first and last time hosting the Globes, the host went ham from the start, openly swigging beer at the podium and indiscriminately lobbing Molotov insult cocktails.
Lowlight: Gervais, who created and starred in the original British incarnation of The Office, opened with an extended riff on its American counterpart. His seething resentment at Steve Carell’s subsequent success felt a little too real and went on for a little too long. Even with a game assist from a hilariously stone-faced Carell, it garnered only a few nervous titters from the audience.
Biggest targets: Kiefer Sutherland, Paul McCartney, Mel Gibson.
LOL of the night: “I like a drink as much as the next man. Unless the next man is Mel Gibson. Ladies and gentlemen, Mel Gibson.”
Best celebrity reaction face: Steve Carell
The critics said: “Disappointingly toothless” (The Hollywood Reporter) / “Cheeky, silly, and funny as heck” (The AP) / “Go away, Ricky Gervais. My dad’s dad jokes are funnier than you” (@ladyhoot, Twitter)
2011 / The 68th Golden Globe Awards
Gervais seemed to take his return engagement as an invitation to double down on the previous year’s shtick. The jokes came fast and harsh–so much so that presenter (and target) Robert Downey, Jr. felt compelled to comment. “Aside from the fact that it’s been hugely mean-spirited with mildly sinister undertones, I’d say the vibe of the show’s been pretty good so far, wouldn’t you?” Yikes.
Highlight/Lowlight: Gervais got right down to business with an early potshot at the powerful and famously humorless Church of Scientology. Nothing is sacred with this guy – not even Xenu. Unfortunately, the joke itself (“I Love You, Philip Morris [stars…] two heterosexual actors pretending to be gay… so the complete opposite of some famous Scientologists, then.”) was lazy and mean, and rightfully drew boos from even the non-believers in the crowd.
Lowlight: They were funny enough in the moment, but references to the Lost finale and the modern family that was the Bruce Willis/Demi Moore/Ashton Kutcher clan are proof positive that some jokes have the shelf life of unpasteurized milk.
LOL of the night: A Hugh Hefner bit that was nothing special – he’s old, he has sex with much younger women, etc., etc. – until Gervais added some hauntingly graphic hand gestures. It’s four years later and we still see it when we close our eyes.
Biggest targets: Cher, The Tourist, the cast of Sex and the City, Mel Gibson.
Best celebrity reaction face: Steve Buscemi
The critics said: “Master of ceremonies, not civility” (The New York Times) / “Lazy and perfunctorily smarmy” (The Washington Post) / “Asking Ricky Gervais to host the Golden Globes is like asking a drunk person to be your sober ride. #goldenglobes” (@bricesander, Twitter)
2012 / The 69th Golden Globe Awards
“So. Where was I?” Gervais opened his third Globes, grinning like a Cheshire cat. But he never did quite pick up where he left off, abandoning his shock-and-awe campaign for a pretty tame parade of easy jokes at easy targets.
Highlight: Gervais’s leadoff dig at the Globes’ inferiority complex started the night off on a perfectly irreverent foot (“The Golden Globes are to the Oscars what Kim Kardashian is to Kate Middleton. Bit louder, bit trashier, bit drunker, bit more easily bought.”) before steering into more neutral territory.
Lowlight: When Madonna tried to get in on the jokes action with a seemingly scripted yet confusingly worded sexual overture to Gervais. Something about being “Like a Virgin”? And also something about Ricky Gervais really being a girl? We don’t know. We just don’t know.
Biggest targets: Justin Bieber, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Mel Gibson.
LOL of the night: Like the Hefner joke the year before, a bit about Jodie Foster’s nether regions played surprisingly well. Stars, they’re just like us: they love genital humor.
Best celebrity reaction face: Elton John
The critics said: “Anti-climactic and underwhelming” (The Huffington Post) / “Missed some open goals spectacularly” (The Telegraph) / “I know 2 Globes that didn’t show up: Ricky Gervais’ BALLS! Not rude enough!” (@kristenschaaled, Twitter)
2016 / The 73rd Golden Globe Awards
Expect a return to (bad) form for Gervais, who told Ellen DeGeneres this week that Globes producers wooed him back with the promise that he could “say what I want again” – suggesting his watered-down last outing in 2012 was the product of a rather tight leash. He also promises to be at least a little bit drunk. Take cover, Hollywood: he’s ba-aack.