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Gervais back to roast Hollywood in ‘final’ Globes role

In this file photo taken on Jan 10, 2016, host Ricky Gervais attends the 73rd Annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, California. – AFP

“Shut up, you disgusting, pill-popping deviant scum!” Those were the words Ricky Gervais used to open the star-studded Golden Globes in 2016 – the last time he hosted Hollywood’s most free-wheeling award show. So A-listers in the audience will be on their guard today, when the provocative British comic returns to oversee the boozy prize-giving gala for “the very last time.”

Gervais’ no-holds-barred humor has drawn praise and criticism in previous years, with everyone from Caitlyn Jenner to Roman Polanski considered fair targets for his sharp barbs. “She didn’t do a lot for women drivers, but you can’t have everything, can you?” he once joked of Jenner. Jenner was in a car crash that killed a 69-year-old woman months before the former Olympic champion came out as a transgender woman.

“Roman Polanski called it the best date movie ever,” he said of “Spotlight”, which tackled sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests. The French-Polish film director has been a fugitive from US justice since 1978 when he admitted to statutory rape of a 13 year-old. Billboards carrying Gervais’ image along with the slogan “Frankly, Hollywood…” have sprung up across Los Angeles, while broadcaster NBC’s commercials claim “as usual, we have no idea what he’s going to do”.

‘Expect the unexpected’

Lorenzo Soria, president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, has warned stars in attendance to once again “expect the unexpected”. That was certainly the case in 2004 when Gervais was catapulted to global fame with shock Globe wins for British mockumentary “The Office”, then airing on the little-seen BBC America cable channel. “I’m from a little place called England. We used to run the world before you,” a clearly off-guard Gervais blurted out as he collected gongs for best comedy, and best actor.

But Gervais quickly made himself at home in the Beverly Hills hotel which hosts the Globes each year, taking to the podium with his trademark lager in hand for three consecutive years as host from 2010-12. Jokes about Scientology, Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic rant, Bill Cosby’s sex abuse allegations and Charlie Sheen’s heavy drinking antics drew A-lister fury – but generated headlines and boosted TV ratings.

Gervais, 58, has been given free rein to send up even the show and its organizers, dubbing the Globes “just like the Oscars, but without all that esteem”. “The Golden Globes are to the Oscars what Kim Kardashian is to Kate Middleton,” he said in 2012. “Bit louder, bit trashier, bit drunker, and more easily bought.”

Born in Reading, England in 1961, Gervais was a latecomer to the top echelons of the entertainment industry. After a failed bid to become a pop singer, Gervais joined London radio station XFM in the late 1990s, where he met future “The Office” and “Extras” collaborator Stephen Merchant. Thanks to “The Office,” released in 2001 and earning a lucrative US remake from 2005, Gervais is now one of the world’s wealthiest and most successful comedians. He continues to court accusations of transphobia, last month wading into a Twitter row about a woman who lost her job after saying people cannot change their biological sex. – AFP

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