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Will Ricky Gervais Become Joan Rivers or Bill Maher?

Ricky Gervais
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Ricky Gervais blew up real good at the Globes. Will he use scandal as a career catapult, like Bill Maher after his 9/11 quip destroyed his ABC show -- or flame out like that piece of work Joan Rivers?

Was Gervais' attack of onstage rude rage at the Globes Sunday actually a smart move? Two days after the second season premiere of his odd, podcast-based, Emmy-winning animated The Ricky Gervais Show on HBO, did he goose his Q score or ruin his future? See the new special Sundance issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine for the full story, but here's the savvy take of Gervais' fellow Brit David Thomson, influential author of The New Biographical Dictionary of Film:

THR: Was Gervais's savage mockathon a good thing or bad?

Thomson: The HFPA is a pretty scandalous operation, and he was saying that. If you feel that, why be there? I like him. I did not think he was at his best or particularly funny. There is a greater British sense of nastiness in humor and offensiveness. A lot of people in the audience who were on his side basically were stunned.

THR: No advertiser complained.

Thomson: They're wise people always. He's a very talented man. I don't think his movies have been very good. TV has been his medium. As a career move, I don't know. I wonder whether he's having difficulty knowing where to go or what to do. What does a comedian like that do next? I don't believe he's gonna get many invitations to go on American television to be as out of control as that.

THR: Isn’t it a good career move? A pole vault to greater fame? It’s all anybody’s talking about about the Globes.

Thomson: He was the show, no question. But I thought Tom Hanks was upset, I thought Robert Downey, Jr. was upset, and those are fairly cool guys. I think he stung a lot of people, and usually in Hollywood you have to pay for that. Do you think the Academy would give the show to him?

THR: No.

Thomson: Joan Rivers got to a point where she was really offending a lot of people and the world flinched and drew back.

THR: Though the new documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work won the Audience Choice Award at the Cinema Eye Honors on Tuesday.

Thomson: But a career move means he goes onto something else. I don’t know he’s got the ability to make movies that someone’s gonna pay for. He seems to me to be a standup esentially and he can do more standup, there’s no question about it. And yes, he probably enlarged his audience a good deal, although I don’t think he was anywhere near an unknown. I would love to know what his idea is of where he goes next.

THR: Bill Maher destroyed his ABC show by his comment about terrorists not being cowards. Major advertisers pulled out. Then he rebounded higher than ever on his more unmuzzled HBO show show --  helped by the controversy.

Thomson: That’s a very good comparison. It’s a good point. I can see a cable channel offering Ricky a show, and certainly to start off with it would get very good viewing figures. But then he’s under the pressure which says, well, just how outrageous is he going to be this time? And that’s a dangerous path to take. He would have to invent his new format, and I think he's got enough talent to do that. But I don't think it would be easy.

THR: Do you think HFPA knew what was up ahead of time?

Thomson: I did an interview with him on NPR, and they asked him have you shown them the script? And he said, I don’t have a script, that’s the condition of doing it, they don’t know what I’ll say.

THR: But they must’ve had a rehearsal. What did he say in rehearsal?

Thomson: I don’t know. I would love to know whether he actually said things nobody expected. But that he was the show is unquestionable.

THR: What's the lesson of this Gervais scandal?

Thomson: My conclusion would be, let's end the Golden Globes. It is a completely irrelevant, silly event.

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