Christmas Comedy

Posted on January 1, 2024

On Christmas Day, millions of people across the globe put Netflix on the TV to watch Ricky Gervais’s new stand up routine. Gervais is making millions and millions from these shows, allowing him a string of “I don’t care, I’m loaded” jokes that Billy Connolly perfected decades ago. It’s a clever way of getting the audience onside. Micky Flanagan does it as well but in a far funnier way than Gervais, in my opinion.

From The Office to Armageddon

Gervais’s fan base has made quite a switch over the years. Those who indulged in TV blockbusters, The Office, Extras and Derek, have drifted away. Meanwhile, people who hated these productions are his new fan base. His critics are widely of the view that Gervais has become lazy since splitting from talented partner, Stephen Merchant. People who worked close to the pair are of the belief that Merchant kept Gervais humble and inventive. It’s a good point and one that apparently privately annoys Gervais.

Whether you like Gervais’s stand up or not, it’s worth observing it. I watched about five minutes of Armageddon and had to check it was new. The opening gags were so similar to his previous ones, I genuinely didn’t know what I was watching. So, I waited a day and watched some more. Jokingly calling the audience cunts, his love of dogs and cats, transgender rights, religion/atheism, digs at Elton John and James Corden, were all in there. It was a bit like a comedy Groundhog Day.

Cashing In

I know Ricky Gervais (“I don’t care I’m loaded”) isn’t bothered about anyone’s opinions but here’s mine anyway. I think Gervais knows he has a cult following and that allows him to be lazy. When people are so emotionally invested in something, they will love it regardless of its quality. His social media pages were full of people who hadn’t even watched it but were in a state of ecstasy because it “upset the wokes”. So, if you find Gervais’s work a bit dull, repetitive or lazy, you are now a woke, leftie snowflake. Gervais would probably call you a whingeing cunt and get a right old laugh out of the “he says it as it is” brigade.

To me, Gervais’s stand up is like the final album a band produces to satisfy a record contract. Bored of each other’s company, out of ideas but with a loyal and cultish fan base, the album still does well. When I was 15, I can remember buying an album called The Gift, by The Jam. I told my mates it was a brilliant album before I’d even heard it. I had spent my paper round money on it, so it had to be good. That’s what Gervais’s work feels like. You can’t blame him. It’s a load of money for a string of populist and repetitive gags safe in the knowledge the cultists will be right behind it, regardless of quality.

Trevor Noah

As an antidote to the turgid Ricky Gervais, I watched a Trevor Noah stand up (also on Netflix). Noah is over 20 years younger than Gervais, and it would appear, more enthusiastic about honing the technical side of comedy. He talks about similar subjects to Gervais but analyses them in greater detail, pulling apart the silliness of everyone getting in a froth about nothing.

Noah identifies things such as transgender rights, picks the bones out of them and shows his audience what they are. A distraction. These things are created to get people confused and angry whilst those ruling them are up to no good. Noah asks his audience when was the last time they ever had a problem with a transgender person in a public toilet. Never. What’s clever is he makes it funny. His descriptions of men looking at nothing except the tiles in front of their face whilst in the urinal, is as funny as it is true.

Each to Their Own

Like art or music, comedy is in the eye or ear of the beholder. Personally, I prefer it when it is clever and you can feel the depth of the technical ability. That’s why liked Gervais’s earlier work. It had never been done before and David Brent was a character that was easy to identify with. I can’t find myself warming to his stand up. He’d argue that he’s not punching down but he’s definitely not punching up.

More than anything though, it is the tired, same old guff as his previous two sets. Fair play to him, it makes him stacks of money that he can give to the animal charities he doesn’t like to talk about. His charity donations show that he is a great guy and all the stuff he does that upsets people is “just jokes, get over it’”. Personally speaking, he doesn’t upset me, I just don’t think he is very funny anymore. More Jim Davidson than David Brent.

It’s like he’s self identifying as a stand up comedian.

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