- The Washington Times - Friday, January 3, 2020

British comedian Ricky Gervais stressed the importance of free speech in a new interview Thursday, saying that while he strives to make his jokes “bulletproof,” he also believes that offending people is “collateral damage” in comedy.

Mr. Gervais, who is hosting the Golden Globe Awards for the fifth time on Sunday, told The Hollywood Reporter that he has no plans of watering down his material for the politically correct masses.

“People like the idea of freedom of speech until they hear something they don’t like,” he said. “So there’s still a pressure, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to water it down or back down and not say what I want. It’s just another form of what we’ve been through many, many times — it used to be called P.C. I think those things start off with very good intention and then they’re mugged.

“It’s a good thing to not be racist and sexist and homophobic, but it’s not a good thing to not be allowed to make jokes about those things, because you can tell a joke about race without being racist,” he continued. “I’m happy to play by the rules. It’s just that the 200 million people watching have different rules. That’s the plight. When people say, ‘He crossed the line,’ I say, ‘I didn’t draw a line, you did.’ It’s relative. It’s subjective.”

Mr. Gervais came under fire for his 2016 performance at the Globes after he cracked a joke using Caitlyn Jenner’s former name, Bruce, and mocked Jenner’s driving in reference to a fatal crash in which the former Olympian was involved. Mr. Gervais said Thursday that he is not transphobic and that his joke was “misunderstood.”

“I can justify the jokes, but I get it,” he said. “Some people, when you deal with contentious issues or taboo subjects, the very mention of them is the sacrilege. That’s why they stay taboo. People straight away, particularly with a comedian, if you’re joking about a subject, they think you’re anti it as opposed to pro it. I’ve tried to explain this in [the Netflix special] ‘Humanity.’ It’s an occupational hazard of being outspoken.

“I think offense is the collateral damage of free speech, and it’s no reason not to have free speech,” he added. “That’s what I’d say — it’s the lesser of two evils. Having free speech and some people getting upset by it is the lesser of two evils because not having free speech is horrendous.”

Mr. Gervais said he’s trying to write “bulletproof” material for this year’s Globes so that it can stand the test of time 10 years from now.

“Kevin Hart [lost] his job [as Oscars host] for 10-year-old tweets that he said he was sorry about and deleted at the time,” he noted. “So there’s more pressure on making [the jokes bulletproof]. It’s the world [watching]. This isn’t me in a comedy club.”

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