Ricky Gervais and the strange death of humour

I recently read a sentence in one of the mass of things I read every day that pointed out how a lot of the edgy comics aren’t really complaining about freeze peach, but in fact being held up because they are demanding that we like their jokes and will laugh at them. So it’s about power and privilege not speech.

I’ve personally always found Gervais’ humour makes me smile a bit, sometimes, but I’ve never laughed so hard I fell of the seat watching it. I find Greg Davies’ brand of self-deprecating humanity far warmer and funnier.

Gervais recently tweeted:

I’m an old fashioned liberal lefty, champagne socialist type of guy. A pro-equality, opportunity-for-all, welfare state snowflake. But, if I ever defend freedom of speech on here, I’m suddenly an alt right nazi. How did that happen?

I think it’s because he isn’t defending freedom of speech. People perhaps can’t see what he is defending, but when he doubles down making cheap, lazy shots about Caitlyn Jenner (and by inference the whole vulnerable group she’s a part of), it makes them really uncomfortable. Freeze peach doesn’t protect you from being called out for acting like an arsehole, Ricky, sorry. Indeed, why should it?

Similarly his defense of the Count Dickula buffoon didn’t make him a lot of friends either. If Dickula had apologised and said he was sorry for making such a poor taste joke, it would have ended there. Instead he’s also doubled down and has now had his income streams from Google and Patreon cut off, and complains he can’t get a job. Well, maybe you shouldn’t have been a racist dick in public and then pretended everyone had to listen to your feeble attempts at humour? The same goes for the overbearing chud Carlgon of Arsechad. Again, it’s about using platforms to abuse, you can say what you like in your own home or between what few friends you have, but others are neither obliged nor willing to give you a platform if you’re gonna be a racist dick. Seems fair to me.

Gervais himself seems to be laughing while making increasingly dystopian shows that look like good stuff to slit your wrists to. I read the description of his latest offering on Netflix:

My wife’s dead. I can’t wait to join her. My dad has dementia. His nurse hates me. I work for a local, free newspaper, and deal with morons all day. I’m going to get drunk and take out my anger on every shitty person I meet before I kill myself. #AfterLife on Netflix.

Seriously, why the fuck would you watch this unless you wanted to mock someone in extreme pain and despair? This isn’t funny, again it’s lazily taking something to an extreme and milking it. He started his career portraying a narcicist fool who blunders through life hurting everybody and leaving himself with nothing. Now he writes about people who have a smidgin of empathy but life has beaten it out of them and they want to get drunk and lash out.

I can’t for the life of me see where it goes after this. But it’s also of a piece with the death of liberal capitalism and the systems we all need to survive breaking around us. We can all see this, and most of us feel powerless. So maybe Gervais’ humour has become a way of laughing with the despair.

Personally, I’d rather not. I’d rather try and do whatever I can to make things better and hold others to account. One of the Youtube commentators, who goes by the handle Thought Slime, recently said that even if you can’t believe it’s possible to get a better future now because it’s been left so late do it for spite. Spite those deluded apologists for a system that kills people for fun and profit and make what change you can happen. Otherwise, as I’d advise the character in Afterlife, just jump and stop making everybody else so fucking miserable.