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(Credit: Ray Burmiston / Netflix Press)

Film

Ricky Gervais defends his ‘taboo’ jokes following criticism

Ricky Gervais has defended his recent jokes that cover “taboo subjects” after his new Netflix stand-up special, SuperNature, drew criticism from the trans community.

In SuperNature, comedy icon Gervais makes jokes that touch on the ‘taboo’ topics of LGBTQ+ themes, feminism and Aids. The Office mastermind has defended the jokes describing them as ironic and satirical.

The LGBTQ+ rights group Glaad dismissed the show as “dangerous”, “anti-gay”, and “anti-trans” following its release on Tuesday.

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Gervais, feeling that the intent of his jokes had been somewhat misunderstood, argued against the accusations during his appearance on BBC One’s The One Show. He explained that comedy is there for “getting us over taboo subjects”.

He elaborated: “I think that’s what comedy is for, really – to get us through stuff, and I deal in taboo subjects because I want to take the audience to a place it hasn’t been before, even for a split second.”

The comedian added: “Most offence comes from when people mistake the subject of a joke with the actual target.”

Gervais then admitted that stand-up comedy is a risky business. His audience is subject to a mixture of emotions when hearing some of his more risque jokes. Describing the audience’s reaction, Gervais said: “It starts, and they go, what’s he going to say? I tell the joke. Phew, they laugh.”

“It’s like a parachute jump – it’s scary, but then you land and it’s all OK. I think that’s what comedy is for – getting us over taboo subjects, so they’re not scary anymore. So I deal with everything. And I think we second guess the audience too much.”

However, Glaad took issue with the comedian’s latest comedy special, with officials posting on the group’s Twitter page: “It’s full of graphic, dangerous, anti-trans rants masquerading as jokes. He also spouts anti-gay rhetoric and spreads inaccurate information about HIV.”

They also condemned Netflix, who “refuse” to enforce its own policy that content “designed to incite hate or violence” is banned from its platform.

In SuperNature, Gervais explained that for each joke, he temporarily takes whatever stance would make it funnier – “without prejudice” – and that the gags do not represent his real views. “In real life, of course I support trans rights,” he said. “I support all human rights and trans rights are human rights.

Concluding, Gervais said: “Live your best life, use your preferred pronouns, be the gender that you feel that you are,” he said before adding a punchline about trans women. “It’s mad to think that joking about something means you’re anti-it”.

On The One Show, Gervais referred to his successful dark comedy series After Life, saying some had questioned whether the audience can “take this”. “Of course they can,” he countered. “Real life is much worse. These are just jokes. They don’t mean anything. They’re just for you to laugh for an hour or so. So that’s why I deal in taboo subjects.”

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