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Was Ricky Gervais over the line? How about Sarah Palin? When public utterances are little cause for concern

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Posted: Saturday, January 22, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 6:58 am, Sat Jan 22, 2011.

As host of the Golden Globes, Ricky Gervais said some of the stars of "Sex and the City" are old enough to have been on "Bonanza." He introduced Bruce Willis as, "Ashton Kutcher's dad."

He said of Hugh Hefner: "There's been some great new TV dramas this year, like 'Boardwalk Empire' and 'The Walking Dead.' Talking of the walking dead, congratulations to Hugh Hefner, who is getting married at age 84 to 24-year-old beauty Crystal Harris."

The howls began. Gervais was vicious, salacious, raunchy, said the pundits.

Even the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which sponsors the awards show, seemed indignant.

HFPA president Phil Berk said that Gervais "definitely crossed the line. Some of the things were totally unacceptable."

Sniff, sniff.

As if the HPFA is much more than a glad-handing, self-promoting and Moet-splashing group of Hollywood hacks.

As if they didn't know that Gervais loves to dance on the razor's edge.

He is a comedian, for crying out loud. He is hosting a psuedo-awards ceremony in a room of half-sloshed celebrities for an audience that should know the program is definitely not "Sesame Street."

True, we may in fact be living, as the Eagles' Don Henley said, in "a graceless age."

We are enveloped in ceaseless and discourse, in newspapers, on Facebook, YouTube, on the radio and so and on and on.

No doubt the babble is part of our gracelessness.

Critics are quick to howl, so quick to react. And quick to slam indiscriminately.

Sarah Palin was pilloried for verbally instigating violence in Arizona. How absurd. Politicians have been ranting, raving and insulting since the Romans. How can Sarah Palin be responsible for a distant stranger's psychosis?

Stir things up is what politicians do, and sometimes with a personal bent.

The Brits (and let's not forget that Ricky Gervais is among them) are notorious for their put-downs. Consider this line uttered by British leader Benjamin Disraeli of his rival, William Gladstone:

"If Gladstone fell into the Thames, that would be a misfortune. If anybody pulled him out, that, I suppose, would be a calamity."

We Americans aren't so genteel, either.

"An empty suit that goes to funerals and plays golf," was how Ross Perot described Dan Quayle.

A new civility supposedly settled over Washington this week like a gossamer shroud. If it did, it won't last. Nor should it.

In America, as in England, we like our politicians full-throated and colorful. We like to criticize them with the same creative zeal.

And we have a tradition of applauding comedians of varied stripe, some rather tame, some rather not.

Gervais clearly belongs to the latter camp.

At an event so inflated with egos and faux-gravitas, we found much of Gervais' shtick at the Golden Globes wickedly entertaining.

He even threw a jab at the Hollywood foreign press group, his employer for the evening, coupling the insult with one aimed at the movie "The Tourist":

"But ('The Tourist') must be good because it's nominated, so shut up, OK? And I'd like to crush this ridiculous rumor that the only reason 'The Tourist' was nominated was so that the foreign press could hang out with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. That was not the only reason; they also accepted bribes."

At least Hugh Hefner has a sense of humor. After the show, he tweeted that it, "was a blast. They made fun of everyone, including Crystal & me. A great night."

Neither Gervais nor Palin incited anything. They weren't anonymous. They were not mean-spirited.

In America, comedians should be allowed to comedians. Politicians should be allowed to speak their minds without being blamed for the acts of the insane.

And if we disagree about that, isn't it splendid that we have that right?

— The Lodi News-Sentinel

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  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 6:03 am on Tue, Jan 25, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9405

    • Joanne Bobin posted at 6:44 pm… It amazes me that he(referring to Darrell) consistently defends politicians (who, by the way, do it "to make money" at the tax payer's expense), but faults entertainers who use the free enterprise system to make theirs.

    Ms Bobin… please think… politicians, teachers, government employees and a host of other people make a living funded by tax payer dollars. That is not my concern.
    I do not consider any of those people greedy because they make a living where taxes are used to pay them. I was talking about comedians or any occupation that intentionally humiliate people for the purpose of financial gain. I would rather volunteer my time helping needy people than earn one penny humiliating anyone.

    As far as defending anyone… politicians are people just like anyone else… they have, family, friends and coworkers. When anyone is unfairlyand viciously attacked, I think everyone should defend… even politicians

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 5:46 am on Tue, Jan 25, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9405

    Joanne Bobin posted at 6:44 pm...

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 4:48 am on Tue, Jan 25, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9405

    I do not remember him... do not think I ever intentionally watched him. However, if he made a living making fun of people in a derogatory manner what it publically humiliated people, then my answer would be the same... not funny.. and yes, I always think it is greedy to get rich intentionally by hurting people...Ill leave the vicious humor to you and Ms Bobin who enjoy that kind of thing....

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 6:44 pm on Mon, Jan 24, 2011.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488

    Mr. Baumbach must be the most sensitive person on the planet (or was bullied as a child by someone who made derogatory remarks about him).

    It amazes me that he consistently defends politicians (who, by the way, do it "to make money" at the tax payer's expense), but faults entertainers who use the free enterprise system to make theirs.

  • Manuel Martinez posted at 11:27 pm on Sun, Jan 23, 2011.

    Manuel Martinez Posts: 641

    Do you consider the late George Carlin to be greedy and selfish because of his comedic style?

    Darrell Baumbach posted at 11:10 pm: "there are many reasonable people who would think that Manuel is the instigator and inciter, not the politician he refers to."

    Yes Darrell, I use terms comparable to "rearm", "reload" and "second amendment remedies" to get my point across when pointing to statistical analysis and critical thinking aren't enough(for you...). /sarcasm

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 11:10 pm on Sun, Jan 23, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9405

    • Manuel stated…One is a jester, the other is an inciter.

    Ricky Gervais does what he does to make money. His way of making money is to make fun of people in a derogatory way. Some people think it is funny, like Manuel, who thinks of him as a jester… and some people like me, simply think he is greedy and selfish for getting rich over attacking people in a vicious but humorous way. He is not alone; Letterman and Leno are also of the same ilk but not to the same degree. If I watch such a show on TV, which would never be more than 5 minutes, what really nauseates me is not a person like Ricky, but seeing the audience laugh instead of booing him off the stage. I do not know if people similar to him are inciters or not, but if people are willing to pay money to hear what he has to say, then it is a sad commentary on our society.

    • As far as another comment that Manuel posted “the often serious babble coming from a politician that has the habit of making us laugh(without that being the intent of the orator) and facepalm at the same time.”, there are many reasonable people who would think that Manuel is the instigator and inciter, not the politician he refers to.

  • Manuel Martinez posted at 9:46 pm on Sat, Jan 22, 2011.

    Manuel Martinez Posts: 641

    I think it fallacious to fail to make a more prominent distinction between someone who obviously is kidding for the purpose of making another laugh, and the often serious babble coming from a politician that has the habit of making us laugh(without that being the intent of the orator) and facepalm at the same time.

    One is a jester, the other is an inciter.

    Best Ricky Gervais quote at the ceremony: "I'd like to thank god, for making me an atheist"

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 1:20 pm on Sat, Jan 22, 2011.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488

    British humor is a very interesting brand, so it is not unexpected that Ricky Gervais said out loud what many think, but would never dream to express in words. Also, it is never very pleasant to look in the mirror and have reality, which many in Hollywood avoid, slap you in the face.

    I think his remarks were spot-on, especially the "Sex and the City" comment. People in general are so taken up with what they are led to believe is "popular" or "sexy" or "acceptable," but somehow never realize that they are only being fed a large quantity of garbage for the profit of others.


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