This HBO stand-up special isn’t Ricky’s best effort, I’m sorry to admit. The program had its funny moments, to be sure, but it wasn’t an overall grand achievement. I always get nervous when comedians pump out the stand-up sets too quickly; Kathy Griffin seems to be the only one who can get away with it, and even hers aren’t that great. She draws from current events and she uses her voice as a humorous crutch anyway. But I digress.
Ricky’s funniest bits in this special were his rants about a childhood religion book, Noah, and his physical comedy. His body is so short and round, even if he is leaner now, so whenever he does an impression of anything (be it a crab or a gorilla) it’s always completely inaccurate and wildly hilarious. I also think Ricky flourishes when he’s riffing off of other people, and I don’t mean an audience. He’s best when he’s with Stephen Merchant, his partner in Office and Extras and every other writing crime. And Karl Pilkington adds something so special that it’s impossible to describe. (Side note: watch The Ricky Gervais Show if you haven’t already. It’s a guaranteed scream.) Anyway, so, when this man is up on the stage alone, he hasn’t got the same presence as he does when he’s with other people. He’s not as enjoyable. He’s alone in his extreme offensiveness, and it’s just not as appealing. I’m not saying I didn’t laugh, though.
I will say this, with regards to the offensiveness: Gervais did have one extremely poignant, fascinating bit about comedy’s position in the world and whether or not comedians should be apologetic about their jokes offending anyone. Gervais, as you might imagine, argued that comedians should not apologize, and that it’s up to the audience to decide if the comedy is coming from a good or bad place. And I’m really glad he said that. Because if the laughs are coming from a good-natured, well-intentioned source, why shouldn’t we enjoy them? His job, as he said, is to get people out of their comfort zones, to get them to laugh at things they ordinarily wouldn’t. And one of the most noticeable traits about Gervais is that he wants his audience to have as great a time as he is. If that’s all well and true, then Gervais is a dime a dozen.