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At the start of the 69th Annual Golden Globes, the biggest question of the night was this: How would Ricky Gervais approach his hosting duties this year? After his controversial jokes at last year's ceremony caused a stir among offended celebrities and members of the Hollywood Foreign Press (who'd hired him), would he tone down his provocative comedy at this year’s ceremony? Gervais answered that question with his opening four words: "So, where was I?"
From that moment on, Gervais was at his caustic, irreverent, hilarious best. There would be no elephant in the room with this guy; he met the controversy head-on. He even seemed to savor the idea of making people feel uncomfortable. (He is the creator of the original British version of The Office, after all.)
"Now the Hollywood Foreign Press have warned me that if I insult any of you or any of them or offend any viewers or if I cause any controversy whatsoever, they’ll definitely invite me back next year as well," he said, all but literally thumbing his nose at his critics. "They actually gave me a list of rules. I’m going to ignore them."
But not before using the "list" to rip apart some more celebrities. "I mustn't mention Mel Gibson this year and his recent films, and especially not Jodi Foster's Beaver," he mock-read. "I haven't seen it myself. I've spoken to a lot of guys here. They haven't seen it either. But that doesn't mean it's not any good." Foster, who is openly gay, strenuously tried to show how well she could play along, hoisting two thumbs up and being a good sport.
Granted, Gervais continued his habit of grabbing the low-hanging fruit. He poked fun at Kim Kardashian, an easy target if ever there was one, several times. He even incorporated a Kardashian snipe into a gag about the Golden Globes' status among awards shows: "The Golden Globes are to the Oscars what Kim Kardashian is to Kate Middleton, basically," he said. "A bit louder, a bit trashier, a bit drunker and more easily bought. Allegedly. Nothing's been proved."
A few minutes later, he took a swipe at the length of Kardashian's marriage to a guy whose name escaped him. "A marriage that lasted 72 days?" he said. "I've sat through longer James Cameron acceptance speeches."
Gervais also handed one of his targets from last year's ceremony an opportunity to show that he could take a joke. "This time last year our first presenter (Johnny Depp) was the biggest movie star on the planet, but I insulted his film The Tourist, causing his career to plummet so far that he was forced to work with me on my new show, Life Is Short, which premieres on HBO on February 19." Then he put Depp on the spot, asking him 1) if he was on "recreational drugs" and 2) if he'd seen The Tourist yet. (A flustered Depp replied that he had not seen the film.)
But in a certain respect, at least, the event's organizers did manage to reign Gervais in. After his initial introductory monologue, viewers saw him only a handful of times. "It's going well, isn't it?" he said, while popping in halfway through the show. "You're so much better than last year's audience. They had a right stick up their ass."
After Gervais rolled his eyes about Madonna being "like a virgin," the Material Girl called him out. "If I'm still just like a virgin, Ricky, then why don't you come over and do something about it?" she said. "I haven’t kissed a girl in a few years... on TV" (Gervais is then seen running through the background, clearly milking the gag for all its worth.)
All in all, Gervais offered up just enough snark to hang on to his job for one more year. If he wants it, that is. Honestly, he sure sounds like he'd rather be hosting the Oscars.