Critic's Notebook: Ricky Gervais Serves Hot (and Reheated) Punchlines in "Final" Golden Globes Monologue

Welcome to Ricky Gervais' fifth and allegedly final time hosting the Golden Globes!

I believe Sunday marks the fifth time that this has been Gervais' final time hosting the Golden Globes, a partnership that marks the perfect intersection between a comedian who loves to boast that he doesn't care whose toes he steps on, and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, an organization that appears not to have any toes.

How would this latest intersection of few-holds-barred comedy and limited dignity celebrity worship turn out?

Well, Gervais started, as you'd expect, by repeating exactly what I just wrote.

"You'll be pleased to know this is the last time I'm hosting these awards, so I don't care anymore," he said.

Gervais continued by emphasizing that not only does he not care, but clearly the HFPA and NBC don't care, which we already knew, didn't we?

As he succinctly put it, "Kevin Hart was fired from the Oscars because of some offensive tweets. Hello."

Why yes! Gervais spent several days last month picking fights with people on Twitter about transphobic tweets and nobody cared, while ABC actually cared about things that Hart espoused publicly, so is this an "Advantage ABC!" situation?

But none of it matters, right, Ricky?

"Remember, they're just jokes. We're all gonna die soon and there's no sequel."

Fair enough.

The great thing about Gervais' actual monologue, which felt almost ridiculously brief, is that it will probably give fodder to both his biggest fans and biggest detractors.

Let's get the detractor-fuel out of the way first.

My gracious, some of Gervais' jokes were stale. Not even stale — calcified. Not even calcified — turned to freaking petrified wood.

A joke about William H. Macy being in Wild Hogs? Tackling those sacred cows! (This was preceded by an OK Felicity Huffman/license plate joke. Not a great Felicity Huffman/license plate joke, but if such a thing exists, I'm waiting to hear it.)

A joke about Meryl Streep doing a Sophie's Choice sequel? Huh?

A joke about Joe Pesci's resemblance to Baby Yoda? Yes, that was vaguely amusing as a Twitter meme back in November.

A joke about Martin Scorsese being too short to ride rides at amusement parks? Oy. Come on.

Are we going to pretend that "Leonardo DiCaprio dates hot young models" jokes are really going to cause Gervais future difficulties in Hollywood?

Let's not forget that a solid minute of Gervais' monologue was spent plugging his Netflix comedy-type-thing After Life.

Edgy stuff!

Yet roughly half of my Twitter feed seemed convinced that Gervais burned down the freaking Beverly Hills International Ballroom.

He did not.

But let's at least acknowledge that there was some edge to certain things he said, like following up a reference to his After Life character considering suicide with, "In the end, he obviously didn't kill himself. Just like Jeffrey Epstein."

Loosely funny. Some discomfort in the room. Tom Hanks wasn't always amused. Sienna Miller seemed to be guffawing through the whole thing.

"Shut up, I know he's your friend."

Ouch. That might have hurt a bit, not that the camera knew exactly where to turn to find an executive who had shared time at a party with Epstein. Or maybe the director knew exactly where to turn and turned away. That seems much more likely. At the Golden Globes, it's OK for the jokes to hurt a little, but not too much. Note that even when Gervais slipped a Prince Andrew joke into the familiar patter about DiCaprio's love of young models, he still pulled back short of anything actually scathing.

It's like how when you make jokes about the heads of various networks being afraid of Ronan Farrow, that's not bad, but it's not nearly as sharp as it might be to say the word "Les Moonves" or to call out NBC's handling of the Matt Lauer situation. What Gervais did was what you do if you want Twitter to think you're being tough, but you want to at least leave open the possibility of a sixth hosting stint. And I don't know how to tell y'all this: Ricky Gervais is going to host the Golden Globes again someday. Maybe not next year. Maybe not the year after next year. But I believe.

Much more toothy, and running very little risk of offending the HFPA, was Gervais' joke about the semi-hypocrisy of The Morning Show and its principled stand against toxic work environments airing on Apple TV+, part of a company benefited to no small degree by sweatshop labor. The comedian accurately and pointedly observed the number of other companies in the room, like Amazon, for example, that have similar disparities between the freedom of the art they produce and the way they treat their most vulnerable employees.

"If ISIS started a streaming service, you'd call your agent," he said.

Continued Gervais, "You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg."

The brief monologue, which also spent a minute or so making fun of Cats, closed with Gervais telling the winners, “Thank your agent and your God and fuck off."

Thus ended the Gervais monologue. Some good lines. Some punches pulled. Many promises that he's never returning to host the Golden Globes.

Business as usual!

Dick Clark Productions, which produces the Golden Globes, shares a parent company with The Hollywood Reporter.