Comedian Ricky Gervais offered a strong defense of free speech as he readies to return as the host of the Golden Globe Awards on Sunday.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter (THR), Gervais spoke to the “occupational hazard of being outspoken,” saying the “lesser of two evils” is having free speech.
“I think offense is the collateral damage of free speech, and it’s no reason not to have free speech,” Gervais told the outlet. “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.”
Gervais was also asked if he agreed with “Joker” director Todd Phillip’s claim that “woke culture” is ruining comedy.
“People like the idea of freedom of speech until they hear something they don’t like,” he told THR. “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.”
“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 added. “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.”
The “Office” creator was then confronted about past jokes that critics had labeled “transphobic,” including ones aimed at Caitlyn Jenner, and was asked how he responds to people who call him transphobic as a result.
“I just say I’m not. And there’s nothing else you can say, you know? Yeah, I’m not,” Gervais said. “I can justify the jokes, but I get it. 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.”
Gervais also offered a little taste of what to expect at Sunday’s ceremony, which will mark the fifth time he has hosted as the event’s emcee.
He doesn’t think he’ll target any “individuals” but rather “the general community,” later adding that he may take aim at an A-lister for his or her “bad behavior.”
“I’d go after cinema and I’d go after television and I’d go after actors and I’ll go after pretension and hypocrisy,” he said. “You know what I mean? I’d go after those big, nebulous things where they can all feel I’m not picking on any one person.”