We're less than a week away from Ricky Gervais Part Three at the Golden Globes. Despite the behind-the-scenes rumblings from some members of the Hollywood Foreign Press that The Office star would not be welcomed back in 2012 (thanks, in large part, to one particularly scathing barb directed at HFPA President Philip Berk -- "Next up, Eva Longoria has the daunting task of introducing the President of the Hollywood Foreign Press. That's nothing, I just had to help him off the toilet and pop his teeth in.") His return was a foregone conclusion. He had to be invited back. His brilliant performances left the HFPA no choice.
In his two previous Golden Globes hosting stints, Gervais has taken the Beverly Hilton Hotel ballroom -- one of the most stuffy, ego-infested rooms America produces on an annual basis -- and completely cut it down to size. Bruce Willis ("Ashton Kutcher's Dad"), Sylvester Stallone ("In ten of the biggest blockbusters of all time he has shown his extraordinary acting versatility. He has played a boxer... and Rambo.") and the ladies of Sex And The City 2 ("I was sure the Golden Globe for special effects would go to the team that airbrushed that poster") just to name a few, found themselves in Gervais' crosshairs. No star was off-limits. And neither were the people I just mentioned. (Hi-Yo!)
But the problem with Gervais as Golden Globes host is that he's been too good. His jokes have been on-point and hysterical. He's roasted Globes attendees as skillfully as anyone this side of Jeffrey Ross ever could.
The thing is, making fun of the stars should be our job.
A huge part of the fun of awards season is trading jokes with our viewing companions. Whether we're at a viewing party, or watching quietly at home with a spouse or significant other, or conversing with friends on Twitter or Facebook, we're the ones in charge of the snark. When James Franco takes the stage at the Oscars, it's on us to comment that he looks like he just walked out of Matthew McConaughey's house. When 95-year-old Kirk Douglas makes an awkward pass at Anne Hathaway, we're the ones who are supposed to be making the blindingly obvious Hugh Hefner comparisons.
Ricky Gervais just does it better than we do. And it puts a lot of pressure on those of us trying to crack a halfway-decent one liner. Our jokes have got to clear a pretty high bar. The house comedian has been slaying all night. Our feeble observations don't stand a chance when held to the Gervais standard.
More importantly, we're not the only ones who feel the pressure. The stars do too. Save for Robert Downey Jr., who turned in a stellar three minutes prior to presenting Annette Bening with the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy, last year's presenters were on edge. The normally convivial atmosphere of the Globes was replaced by a full-scale tension convention. Everyone seemed to want to exit the stage as quickly as possible, in the hopes that they could avoid the wrath of Gervais.
At the Golden Globes, we want to see movie stars act like movie stars. We want to see them mask their insecurities. We don't want to see them exposed. We want everyone in that room to pretend that The Tourist was awesome (and that they even saw it in the first place).
Instead, Gervais has spent the past two years taking a hatchet to Hollywood's collective fragile ego. As a result, the stars have shown their vulnerability and have even, amazingly, become somewhat sympathetic. Poking fun at them during the Gervais Globes reign has seemed less like sport and more like piling on.
There's a reason Billy Crystal has hosted the Oscars seventy-bajillion times. In his many turns as Oscar host, he's hardly offended anyone. Crystal's so milquetoast he makes Ryan Seacrest look like Howard Stern. He comes out, performs a forgettable song-and-dance number, lobs a couple of soft jabs towards some of the evening's principals, and quickly heads backstage to take a nap in Bruce Vilanch's stomach.
By the time his monologue is over, Crystal has left Hollywood feeling pretty good about itself, and that's just how we want it. When Crystal leaves and, say, Scarlett Johansson and Jake Gyllenhaal confidently stride onstage to dole out the award for best makeup, they should be under the false impression that we're all waiting with bated breath. It makes taking shots at them that much more enjoyable.
So please, Ricky, do take it easy on Hollywood this time around. A room full of sensitive actors and a nation full of armchair comics will thank you for it.