Comedians like John Cleese, Adam Carolla, Tim Allen, Bill Burr, Dave Chappelle, and Ricky Gervais have led the charge against the woke mob.
Gervais may have just lapped his peers.
The star of Netflix’s “After Life” gave a blistering interview to The Daily Beast’s podcast, “The Last Laugh,” earlier this week.
The site may be relentlessly left-of-center, but podcast host Matt Wilstein let Gervais give a full-throated defense of speech at a tricky time in Western culture.
This week alone, a celebrated NFL quarterback groveled before the nation for saying he respected the American flag. Sacramento Kings broadcaster Grant Napear lost his job for tweeting, “All Lives Matter.” And, for a short spell, Amazon blocked an e-booklet from its cyber shelves by a respected journalist, Alex Berenson, because it questioned quarantine dogma.
It’s a brutal week for free expression, which made Gervais’ comments all the more important. The comedian started by sharing how shocked he is that we’re even having a conversation on the subject.
“Freedom of Speech shouldn’t even be a political issue. Everyone on any side should agree with that … it’s odd that it’s become politicized,” the U.K. “Office” alum said.
It has all the same, with conservatives rallying behind the First Amendment in great numbers, with only modest support from liberals like Van Jones and journalist Matt Taibbi.
Heck, when far-left filmmaker Michael Moore’s new film got yanked from YouTube for suspect reasons, conservatives rallied to his side.
Political correctness, the comic notes, began with noble intentions but got “mugged like anything good, and used.” Comedians today must “bullet proof” their material so it won’t get them canceled in a decade.
It wasn’t too long ago, Gervais notes, that middle-aged Christians would police what was said in the culture. That’s no longer the case.
“If I do a tweet about freedom of speech, people go, ‘Oh, he’s Alt-Right now.’ And I think, ‘When did that happen?’” he asks.
Gervais says he’s been a target for the speech police for some time, and he’s learned a thing or two about the “enemy” during his time in the trenches.
“Basically, people love the idea of free speech until they hear something they don’t like. That’s it. It’s become just selfish,” he says. “Then, they try to justify it. ‘I’m all for freedom of speech, but that’s the one thing you shouldn’t joke about.’”
“Oh, you mean the one thing you care about? I’ve seen it at my gigs,” he says.
It’s not stopping him from finding humor in the darkest places, from enduring cancer to the Holocaust. His new series, “After Life,” has him playing a bitter man floundering after the death of his wife.
“I do jokes about every awful atrocity in the world, and people laugh at 19 of them but don’t laugh at the 20th because it happened to them,” he explains. “It’s a very common trait in society. Everyone thinks their thing is more important and worse than yours.”
Gervais hasn’t gulped down any Red Pills. Nor is he likely to don a red MAGA hat for his next comedy special. Still, he’s noticing how the Left and Right process his material, especially his recent Golden Globes hosting gig.
“The Left on social media, once again said, ‘Oh, he’s Alt Right now.’ Even on Fox News they said, ‘Ricky’s left wing. We know he’s left wing. He hates us, he hates Trump.’ Even the right was saying it, they know I’m Left,” he says, laughing.
He’s also skeptical of critics who recoil from his tougher material with a fresh line of attack.
“The new one is, ‘I’m not offended, I’m just bored. Its lazy,’” he says. “You liked it when I made the joke about the thing you don’t like. Just admit it. Don’t pretend you weighed it up and you’re being the fair one.”
The podcast played a small portion of a recent Gervais monologue involving Caitlyn Jenner. That routine riled up the woke Left more than anything Gervais has ever said. It’s possible the podcast host thought Gervais might attempt an apology or a deflection from the material.
He did neither.
“The most offense comes from people who mistake the subject of the joke with the actual target, and they’re not necessarily the same,” he says. “‘He’s making fun of a trans person, therefore he’s transphobic’ … that would suggest you can never make fun of a trans person for any reason, even if it had nothing to do with their trans-ness.”
True equality, he says, means everyone can take a little ribbing … if not more.
“People saying, ‘We want to be treated the same as everyone else, but not your jokes.’ That’s asking for privilege, that’s not asking for equality,” he says, something he attaches to Identity Politics 101.
It’s part of a broader tactic Gervais finds antithetical to western culture.
“They wanna shut you down. They put ‘phobic’ at the end of a word. What that means is, ‘shut up, shut up.’ That’s all that means,” he says, laughing. “Just because someone accuses you of something doesn’t mean that it’s true. I see it all the time, just lazy things, racist, ‘well, no, it’s not’ … ‘sexist,’ ‘no, it’s not sexist.’ They think that it means something. What it means is, they want you to shut up.”
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