Critic's Notebook: Ricky Gervais' Golden Globes Return Proudly Announces How Edgy He Is

For months now, NBC has been promoting Ricky Gervais' Golden Globes return around his alleged daringness, and the British comic returned to the Beverly Hilton stage on Sunday (Jan. 10) after a three-year absence and repeated over and over and over again how allegedly daring he was going to be.

But the things Gervais said were almost secondary to the Golden Globes' director attempting to find scandalized stars in the audience, which wasn't especially easy, because when you're a star in the audience of a Ricky Gervais monologue, you know to expect the camera's imminent arrival. Ghostbusters star Melissa McCarthy was poised and ready to transition from patient ambivalence to feigned amusement at a moment's notice. Also getting to laugh at the idea of Hollywood income disparity was Jennifer Lawrence, who got to hear about how women in other professions were protesting and wondering, "How the hell can a 25-year-old live on $52 million?!"

Gervais actually had a trinity of jokes about wage disparity, quipping: "I'd like to say now that I'm getting paid exactly the same as Tina and Amy did last year. I know there's two of them, but it's not my fault if they want to split the money."
One of the biggest questions of the night was how long it would take for Gervais to joke about Sean Penn and his El Chapo interview. The answer? Roughly 10 seconds, a punchline that also worked in his much-discussed edginess.
"I'm gonna do this monologue and go into hiding," he promised. "Not even Sean Penn will find me." Pause. "Snitch."
When Gervais wasn't talking about how dangerous he was, he was talking about how worthless the show he was hosting was.
"That award is, no offense, worthless," he said, noting he uses one of his Golden Globe trophies for purposes of anal gratification. "It's a bit of metal that some nice old confused journalists wanted to give you in person so that they could meet you and take a selfie." 
Gervais scoffed at the idea that an award this worthless wouldn't draw stars, observing, "As if film stars would stay away from the chance to win a Golden Globe, particularly if their film company has already paid for it."
Here we cut to Harvey Weinstein, who was very amused.
The most validating thing Gervais could say about the Globes was that you could trust host network NBC. 
"They're the only network that are truly fair and impartial," he said. "That's because they're the only network with zero nominations. Nothing in it for them."
Gervais found amusement in several of the nominated films with throwback jokes. 
Of Spotlight, he observed, "Roman Polanski called it the best date movie ever," which Maggie Gyllenhaal didn't find funny.
And of the comedy status of The Martian, he joked, "To be fair, The Martian was a lot funnier than Pixels, but then again so was Schindler's List." Nobody important from Pixels or Schindler's List was there for a reaction to those jokes, but Matt Damon roared appropriately when Gervais said, truthfully, that The Martian was mostly a comedy so that Damon would attend.
After getting the Penn/El Chapo joke out of the way immediately, Gervais went light on topicality. Donald Trump and Bill Cosby were among several obvious targets who breathed a sigh of relief early on (Trump was targeted later on in the show).
Caitlyn Jenner, not in attendance, wasn't so lucky
"She became a role-model for trans people everywhere," said Gervais. But he added, "She didn't do a lot for women drivers."

Cate Blanchett was scandalized, presumably because she doesn't watch South Park.
Gervais summed up the controversial nature of his hosting stint by closing with, "And they asked me to host four times!"
There were enough laughs and enough faked, telegenic outrage that you can expect a fifth.