Ricky Gervais: Out of England

Ricky Gervais: Out of EnglandSynopsis: Taped live before a sold-out audience at the WaMu Theater at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, Ricky Gervais: Out of England The Stand-Up Special is a high-spirited hour of offbeat observations and understated humor from the actor/comedian/writer/director. The show includes Gervais unique takes on such disparate (and often politically incorrect)issues as fund-raising, autism, fame, nursery rhymes, Nazis, moronic friends, obesity … and his penis size.

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Ricky Gervais: Out of England 7.5

eyelights: its politically-incorrect humour.
eyesores: its politically-incorrect humour.

“Just stop eating!”

Where do we draw the line on political correctness?

Seriously, I’m asking.

Personally, I’ve been on the fence for years. I believe in political correctness, in the same way that I believe that politeness and courteousness are the only way to function in society. The principle of a society is that we all have a role to play so that not everyone is burdened with wearing every hat at once.

But it requires that we give each other room to express ourselves in the many ways that self-expression exists (i.e. not just verbally). It means having enough personal space to be, it requires having enough time to flourish, to having access to the tools required to develop into the best that we can possibly be.

It’s a tall order, I know, but that’s the reason why we band together – beyond basic survival, I mean.

But this means respecting each other boundaries and sensitivities; we can’t possibly forge together if we’re constantly angering or offending each other. That means making concessions about the way we express ourselves at times, putting limits to the way we express ourselves for the greater good.

It’s also a simple case of empathy: How would we feel if someone used language that belittled or mocked us? We would likely be furious or hurt. And so we choose to be careful of not doing the same to others, simply because we know how it feels to us and wouldn’t willingly want to inflict that on others.

You know, out of respect.

Having said this, if we take it to an extreme, we become frozen due to an inability to express ourselves at all. I mean, if we feel forced to tip-toe across every surface, all of them considered too fragile to tread on, we are more likely to stay in place. That can lead not just to stagnation but also severe frustration.

From that perspective, I understand where defenders of the right to “Free Speech” stand; they’re sick and tired of always being told they’re wrong and that they have to be more careful and/or mindful. It’s a pain in the @$$. Dammit, you just want to be able to !@#$-ing be and express yourself at will, right?

This is compounded by a constant shifting in the language: if we could just agree on the words we should be using that would be fine – but it’s constantly “evolving”, which means that we never really know if we’re up to speed or not. What was okay one generation ago isn’t anymore; it’s a never-ending minefield.

And these mines are really easy to set off, as the political-correctness police are extremely sensitive.

What the !@#$ is one supposed to do?

This leads me to Ricky Gervais.

In ‘The Office’, he played a character so self-absorbed and out-of-touch that he continuously made faux pas and offended people. As satire, this was hilarious because he was a caricature of a type of person. He was to be made fun of; you would wince at the inappropriateness of his words and laugh to blow it off.

In ‘Out of England’, his first HBO stand-up comedy special, he takes that shtick on the road. While his delivery is quite good, he plays the same kind of personage as his David Brent, sort of ignorant and self-absorbed, making fun of autistics, the obese, his penis size, AIDS, and gay sex – amongst other things.

Is it irreverent… or offensive?

I’m not sure. All I know is that, while I was chuckling along, one friend I saw it with took offense to the fat-shaming (even though Gervais himself was overweight at the time, so you’d think it would give him license) and another (at another occasion) felt that too much of his set rested on his wiggly diggly.

I was dumfounded: the thing is, I’ve seen way more offensive than this. I mean, Ricky Gervais is on the straight-and-narrow compared to some of the comedians and talking heads out there – especially in this era of political-correctness backlash, when even some female comedians claim that rape humour is okay.

Eek.

I just don’t know what to think.

I brought this up with a hyper-political cousin the other day, who basically told me that any humour that pokes fun of others is not okay in her book. All I could counter is that it pretty much leaves us with pratfalling and slapstick, as almost anything can be considered demeaning from a certain perspective.

She gave me an example of what works (and I’m paraphrasing here):

A goat is sitting in a junkyard munching on a VHS tape. Another goat moseys on over and asks the first goat, “How’s the movie?”. The first goat responds, “Not bad, but the book was better”.

I laughed my head off and freely had to admit that it was a great example of an amusing -yet inoffensive- joke.

The problem is, if goats found out about this, they might take offense at the fact that they’re portrayed as trash eaters in this little number – so the only reason this joke stands is because no one has taken offense to it. Yet. And you know that it’s just a matter of time before The Goat Lovers League brings it up…

So where does that leave us?

Where is the line drawn…?

Date of viewing: September 29, 2016

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