Ricky Gervais’ new Netflix special has stirred up a swift backlash over his use of shock humor at the expense of trans women.
Only minutes into his latest special for the streaming giant, Gervais jokes: “I love the new women. The new ones we’ve been seeing lately. The ones with beards and cocks. They’re as good as gold, I love ’em. No, it’s the old-fashioned ones, they go, ‘Oh, they want to use our toilets.’ ‘Why shouldn’t they use your toilets?’ ‘For ladies!’ ‘They are ladies — look at their pronouns! What about this person isn’t a lady?’ ‘Well, his penis.’ ‘Her penis, you fucking bigot!’ ‘What if he rapes me?’ ‘What if she rapes you, you fucking TERF whore!’”
TERF is an acronym for “trans-exclusionary radical feminist,” an ideology that excludes trans women as women.
In his stand-up special Ricky Gervais: SuperNature, which debuted on Tuesday, Gervais cited today’s “woke, progressive times” as he discussed fellow comics and what is considered funny. He argued people should not declare a joke offensive, but that “you gotta say you found it offensive,” because he contended feelings are personal.
Gervais also referred to the new phenomenon of “woke comedy,” where comics do not seek to offend anyone as they create instead a “safe space” for the audience. “I tried to watch a bit of it, and I decided I’d rather watch Louis CK masturbate,” he said with a gesture toward his groin. Adding, “Can’t mention him anymore. He’s cancelled.”
He also cited Kevin Hart losing his 2018 Oscars hosting gig after past homophobic tweets surfaced. The British funnyman argued comedy was threatened if comics couldn’t predict what might be considered offensive in the future. “You don’t know who the dominant mob will be. You know, like, the worst thing you can say today — that get you canceled on Twitter, death threats — the worst thing you can say today is, ‘Women don’t have penises,’ right? Now, no one saw that coming. There are no 10-year-old tweets saying ‘Women don’t have penises.’ You know why? We didn’t think we fucking had to!”
cited Gervais’ riff on woke culture and being canceled then Liam Neeson facing fallout from the Irish actor’s confession that he once considered a racist “revenge” attack. “When that broke, I was like, ‘Oh, will I ever be able to find Schindler’s List funny again?’ …I do still find it funny, obviously,” he said.
Shedding his shock humor for a moment, he admitted, “In real life, of course, I support trans rights. I support all human rights, and trans rights are human rights. You know, live your best life. Use your preferred pronouns. Be the gender that you feel you are. But meet me halfway, ladies. Lose the cock. That’s all I’m saying.”
Gervais’ fans and detractors were quick to react on social media after the special dropped on Netflix.
“Ricky Gervais is like a dick, he shows up on your phone unwanted, acts big and hard talking about trans people but is way smaller in real life and can’t handle getting bent by people calling him out on social media,” Alejandra Caraballo , an instructor at Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic, said on Twitter.
“Ricky Gervais and his promotional team get what they wanted – to trend on Twitter. Meanwhile in real life trans people are on the least funded end of the healthcare spectrum and facing a barrage of negativity from an increasingly trans hostile media. This isn’t a joke,” British artist Miss Freda Wallace added.
Theater composer, lyricist and LGBTQ+ activist Charlie Caine also took aim at the SuperNature special on Twitter: “Ricky Gervais is just an incredibly lazy comedian who hasn’t worked out that just because you’re offensive it doesn’t mean you’re funny. His fans now seem to consist of right wing twats who think cruelty is funny simply by virtue of it being cruel and ‘triggering the libs’.”
The response to SuperNature follows ongoing backlash against Netflix comic Dave Chappelle over transphobic material in his most recent comedy special, The Closer, which sparked a walkout at the streamer from its trans staffers and allies. Chappelle has since gone on to headline the recent Netflix Is a Joke comedy special, where he was attacked onstage by a fan while working out new material.
Last week Ricky Gervais was a guest on SiriusXM’s Jim Norton & Sam Roberts Show, where he telegraphed possible negative reactions to SuperNature for being transphobic. He was responding to a question from co-host Sam Roberts on Netflix employees becoming upset by his performance.
“Well, I don’t know what to say really. To me, there’s nothing controversial in that because it’s just jokes. I even explain what ‘irony’ is at the beginning of the show, and everyone there, I don’t know how many people I played to – half a million people – no complaints. They laughed at all the things, right? But everyone’s gonna complain about everything in it. Every single line, someone is going to complain, either because they hate it, they don’t get it, it’s coming after… Here’s the thing about comedy. I can list 20 taboo subjects. Everyone in the world laughs at 19 of them, and hates the one that affects them.”
The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to Netflix for comment. Earlier this month, the streaming giant revised its Netflix culture policy to include support for artistic expression.
“Entertaining the world is an amazing opportunity and also a challenge because viewers have very different tastes and points of view. So we offer a wide variety of TV shows and movies, some of which can be provocative. To help members make informed choices about what to watch, we offer ratings, content warnings and easy to use parental controls.”
Netflix added it chooses not to censor artists but instead offers a variety of voices. “Not everyone will like — or agree with — everything on our service. While every title is different, we approach them based on the same set of principles: we support the artistic expression of the creators we choose to work with; we program for a diversity of audiences and tastes; and we let viewers decide what’s appropriate for them, versus having Netflix censor specific artists or voices.”