Why comedians love to hate Ricky Gervais

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Ricky Gervais is getting cancelled again. Albeit, as usual, he’s cancelling himself. The third series of After Life – his Netflix comedy about a grieving husband taking out his frustration and fury on the world – launches this week and it will be the final one. He’s a firm believer in ending shows while they’re still good, not letting them drag on until their reputation fades, as Office fans still regretfully note.

He’s also playing the cancelled card in his pre-publicity, telling the neuroscientist Sam Harris on his Absolutely Mental podcast that he hopes “woke” people won’t be “woke” enough for future generations and that they’ll be cancelled by their kids for the things they’re targeting people on now.

Gervais likes to skirt close to the edge of offensiveness. At least, according to himself he does. He told the New York Times in 2019 that “I’m your typical liberal, lefty, socialist, snowflake. I agree with antiracists… and yet if I talk about freedom of speech, I’m suddenly alt-right… I don’t care.” 

He’s used the free speech defense when challenged on his Caitlyn Jenner jokes, his dead baby joke, his 2009 anti-religious routine, and his other Caitlyn Jenner joke. In 2011 he described his sitcom Derek, about a 38-year-old man with a non-specific mental condition with similarities to Down’s syndrome. as “brave”. He’s constantly telling the media that he doesn’t care what people think. He literally doesn’t care.

Take the beginning of his 2020 Golden Globes routine: “This is the last time I’m hosting these awards, so I don’t care anymore. I’m joking. I never did.” Then later “it was a big year for paedophile movies… shut up, I don’t care. I don’t care.” Then later “Just like Jeffrey Epstein. Shut up. I know he’s your friend but don’t care.”

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