Apparently, Hollywood is still aflutter over Ricky Gervais's roasty hostdom of the Golden Globes, during which he did his best to insult every celebrity in the room, several who weren't in the room, and the not-famous-until-he-was-ruthlessly-mocked head of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. (Gervais's opening monologue is here.)
My word, the stars seemed to gasp as one. Aren't we're supposed to be super-nice to each other these days? But satire has little to do with niceness, and what Gervais pulled off was both brilliant and cathartic: a mockery of award shows themselves, and the celebrity culture that surrounds them. Awardfests have always been both irresistible and insufferable, and they've only gotten worse in recent years; it's not enough to just watch overpaid people celebrate themselves, but now we also have to obsess over their clothes and know what's in their gift baskets. And the Golden Globes are Exhibit A of Hollywood sycophancy: small, obscure organization kowtows to the stars, and in return, the stars kowtow back while overpraising each other and drinking champagne. Gervais fearlessly spoke the truth, in what may have been the best awards show gag since Nichols and May at the 1959 Emmys.
It's worth noting that Gervais is no stranger to self-mockery; it's basically his art form, as anyone who watched HBO's "Extras" knows. This is a guy who commissioned David Bowie to sing a song about his TV alter-ego called "Chubby Little Loser." In a recent turn on "Sesame Street," he tried to convince Elmo that he was an actual celebrity. He knows how to take a jibe, and he also knows how funny it is to watch somebody react in uncomfortable stride. In that sense, Gervais provided another piece of entertainment for the viewing masses: trying to figure out who was laughing inside and who was going to have a hissy fit during the commercial break while talking to his agent on a cellphone. Robert Downey Jr. seemed to take things well. Johnny Depp looked more perturbed. And the jury is out on Bruce Willis, whom Gervais, in one of his funniest moments, referred to as "Ashton Kutcher's dad." But Bruce is a big boy, and seasoned with age, so I have hope.