Thursday, January 20, 2011

Did Ricky Gervais go to far? (Some perspectives)

Full disclosure: I haven't found Ricky Gervais's stand-up routine funny in a while. Although I think he's a fine comedic actor, and I love the podcast (which is now a show on HBO), his stand-up has gotten (to quote Robert Downy Jr.) a little too mean-spirited, and not in the "oh, he's British -- you just don't get it" way.  The last time I watched one of his comedy specials, I was incredibly disappointed. (Fat jokes? Seriously?) Reading through the posts on Jezebel and Shakesville, I don't know what to make if his Golden Globe's hosting gig.

Actually, I do know what I think: that I stopped watching after the Betty Ford joke probably says it best. I spend a lot of time in "safe spaces" -- places (usually online) free of homophobia, sexism, racism, transphobia, and ableism -- either covert or blatant. It's an incredibly hard line to walk when you're always transitioning from a safe place to well, the rest of the world. Although I know Jezebel doesn't bill itself as one, I was a little surprised to see the majority of its commentariat defending him.

Many a comedian's livelihood is based on making his or her audience uncomfortable. Good comedians push the boundaries of taste and propriety by confronting the prejudices that define our society and making us question why they exist in the first place. However, I don't think poking fun at someone's mental health or sexual orientation is funny under any circumstances.