Thursday, 20 January 2011

Weight expectations

Fat people are funny. Some of them intentionally, some of them unwittingly, but face it they're funny. They either say funny things and we laugh at them, or they're a bit overweight and we consider them to be jolly larger than life characters. Some of them even do both, like John Candy or Dawn French. As his former portly self, Ricky Gervais was part of the exclusive ‘large’ group who ticked both of these boxes, becoming in the process the de facto king of British (and now American) comedy. But although still funny Ricky Gervais is sadly, no longer fat.

Good for him? Well maybe, but you can't help but feel that his new slim line look, Hollywood tan and let's be honest stupid looking sun glasses, have had a somewhat detrimental affect on his comedy. Whilst his jokes may not have suffered per se, the way in which they are received noticeably has. In previous stand up shows when Gervais poked fun at Rick Waller it seemed fair game: a marginally fat man made fun of a massively fat man and nobody felt sorry for either of them: because one was a likeable, but rich, comedian and the other was clearly a twat. Gervais's whole routine on Waller was premised on the fact that he wouldn't let himself get that fat; so no matter how cruel he got, there was a self-deprecating subtext to the whole thing. “Fat people in glass houses” was the idea that Gervais toyed with.

At the now infamous 68th annual Golden Globes ceremony however, these same cutting one liners, were delivered with no mitigating circumstances. Gervais wasn’t fat, moreover, he wasn’t an aspiring comic looking in through the window of Hollywood lampooning what he saw, he was and is, part of that privileged group of glamorous millionaire film stars and could just as easy be on the receiving end of similar jokes had he not been hosting himself. As Tim Allen and Tom Hanks put it: “We recall when Ricky Gervais was a slightly chubby but very kind comedian. Neither of which he is now.”

This aside, this routine really wasn't as close to the bone or as shocking as many commentators would have us believe. When Gervais took a break from presenting awards part way through the ceremony, Twitter buzzed with rumours that he had been instantly sacked and would play no further part. Hardly.  Anyone who thinks the organisers of the Golden Globes were engaged in anything other than self-congratulation for  having secured Gervais's services as
compère is kidding themselves. Ricky guaranteed they won't be inviting him back. Well I'm not too sure I believe that, I just hope that if they do he doesn't accept.

My concern here isn't for the feelings of the great and the good of Hollywood. To be clear, I don't feel in the in the slightest bit sorry for any of the butts of Gervais's jokes, this wasn’t exactly Bernard Manning talking about his new neighbours or Frankie Boyle quipping at Jordon’s blind son. As far as I'm concerned ridiculing multi-millionaire celebrities that take themselves far too seriously is something of a public service and I only hope that Ricky replaces that exception to the fat equals funny rule, James Cordon, at next year's sports personality of the year awards.

No, my main problem with Ricky Gervais is that he is fast joining the ranks of the Hollywood A-listers he mocks (and then drinks with afterwards). Is a Hollywood award ceremony really the forum for a risqué British stand up comedian supposedly at the business end of alternative comedy? This isn't a case of mere jealousy, more a gripe that one of our best and most innovative comedians is fast being absorbed into the ranks of the super celebrity which he used to deride. It's hard for a comedian, and an alternative comedian at that, to remain alternative when they so wilfully embrace the luxuries of mainstream success.

Becoming a victim of one’s own success is of course a familiar story and a success that I certainly wouldn’t begrudge Ricky Gervais. However, maybe we have we just seen too much Ricky Gervais recently? Ricky Gervais could be the next Jimmy Carr waiting to happen if he carries on in this vain? He was exciting and new once wasn’t he? A little bit chubby too I recall. Ricky might do well to lay off the media saturation and get back on the saturated fats for a while.

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