Renowned comedian Ricky Gervais is at the center of a fresh controversy preceding the release of his latest Netflix special, "Armageddon". A preview clip showcasing Gervais' distinct humor, involving a joke about terminally ill children, has sparked a significant online backlash.
Over 12,000 individuals have signed a petition on Change.org, urging Netflix to excise the contentious joke from the special, set to debut on December 25. In the teaser, Gervais refers to terminally ill children using derogatory terms, a move that has been met with widespread criticism.
Addressing the audience in the clip, he emphasizes that his remarks are purely comedic, stating, "These are all jokes, all right? I don't even use that word in real life, the R-word. … I'm playing a role."
Gervais Dismisses Critics
During a conversation on BBC Radio 5 Live's "Headliners" podcast with Nihal Arthanayake, Gervais responded to the uproar, labeling the outrage as "faux" and likening the petitioners to "hecklers".
He expressed his view on the matter, saying, "I can play to a million people, I won't get a complaint. As soon as it goes on Netflix or as soon as someone writes up a joke that says this is offensive, people go, ‘Oh, that's offensive.'
They haven't even heard the joke. They weren't there. Ignore them. They don't count. They have no effect on me. They're hecklers." Anna Villa, who organized the petition against Gervais and Netflix, is a parent of a child who battled cancer.
She expressed her dismay in the petition's description, highlighting the insensitivity of Gervais' jokes towards children enduring serious illnesses and their families. Villa asserted, "Our children are not a punchline, their lives aren't a joke." In an interview with the BBC, Gervais acknowledged that offending people is an "occupational hazard" for a comedian.
He shared his stance on social media critics, likening their comments to "shouting out of a window" and revealing his preference for ignoring such reactions. Gervais also clarified his approach to comedy, noting that he adopts different personas on stage to suit his jokes, regardless of their political leaning.
He emphasized, "Some people think that a joke is a window to the comedian's true soul. It's just not true. It's a joke." Furthermore, Gervais addressed his critics directly, stating, "They're allowed to hate it. They're allowed to not come to the show, but it's not going to stop me doing what I love, and I'm not going to stop it at the expense of all the other people who love it.
No one has to watch this." On Twitter, Gervais issued a warning about his new special, listing a range of controversial topics he discusses, including sex, death, religion, and more. He advised those sensitive to such topics to avoid watching the special to prevent discomfort.
This isn't the first time Gervais' work with Netflix has courted controversy. His previous special, "SuperNature", was criticized by LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD for jokes perceived as anti-trans. Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos has previously defended Gervais and other comedians like Dave Chappelle, acknowledging that while they may occasionally "cross the line," such is the nature of comedy.