Ricky Gervais Unleashes Barrage of Transphobic Jokes at Golden Globes


Golden Globes host Ricky Gervais signaled he wouldn’t be holding back when he tweeted an opening profanity on Sunday from his bed, along with a photograph of his tussled hair, unshaven face and hairy chest. The message, when you scroll down, is not one your boss or child will want to see if they’re looking over your shoulder.


And offend he did, despite teasing that the was a changed man, the returning 54-year-old host opened with, “Shut up, you disgusting, pill-popping, sexual deviant scum,” and followed what felt like a downhill run of praise for Caitlyn Jenner, which Gervais began by “deadnaming” her — a term used in the transgender community when  someone refers to a trans person by the name they were assigned at birth instead of their chosen name. 

“But as I say, I'm going to be nice tonight. I've changed. Not as much as Bruce Jenner, obviously. Now Caitlyn Jenner, of course. What a year she's had. She became a role model for trans people everywhere, showing great bravery in breaking down barriers and destroying stereotypes. She didn't do a lot for women drivers, but you can't have everything, can ya? Not at the same time.”

Gervais was of course referring to Jenner's involvement in a car crash on Malibu, Calif.’s Pacific Coast Highway in February 2015 that resulted in the death of another woman, but led to no charges for Jenner. There is, however, pending civil litigation. The joke, according to The Hollywood Reporter, led to a mix of gasps and laughs from the audience at the Beverly Hilton. 


A mere few seconds after the Jenner joke, Gervais found his next trans target, the cisgender (nontrans) actor who has won awards for playing a trans woman on Amazon’s Transparent, Jeffrey Tambor. 

“At least Jeffrey Tambor did it in a dress. Um, what a year he's had. Oh. What an actor, what a role. Every day, he has to put on all that women's clothes and the hair and makeup and let people film it. That takes balls. So, I don't know how he does it. I really don't. I've seen his balls. They are huge and long. I don't know he tucked them in the bra, that thing push them out the back and let them hang out, like a bulldog? No one knows. I love Jeffrey Tambor.”

As J. Bryan Lowder noted in Slate, Tambor, the ever-present gentleman, “responded with a grim look of disbelief rather than a smile.”




And no, Gervais wasn’t done, not yet. Toward the end of the night, Gervais made one more trans joke as he introduced Eddie Redmayne, calling him a British actress who was taking Hollywood by storm and the star of The Danish Girl, before interrupting himself and saying "It's a dude?" 

Redmayne, who plays trans woman Lili Elbe in the film, walked on stage, did not acknowledge being called “it,” nor the unfunny introduction, and endured Gervais staring at him from behind, within the camera’s view, leering, as if Redmayne were a thing to be observed instead of a person. 

It’s something trans men and women around the world know all too well. 

And Gervais took a moment during the telecast to acknowledge he wasn’t afraid to offend. 


“I know his thing is to make fun of everything, but I think if more people understood the violence trans people face every day, it would be harder to make jokes about it," said Transparent creator Jill Soloway to BuzzFeed.

Rolling Stone and plenty of social media users rushed to Gervais’s defense, calling the comic actor’s humor “hilarious” and telling trans folks to lighten up. But based on tweets from most folks, the trans jokes fell flat. 





Trans blogger Lexie Cannes wrote, “It was instant cringing for me.”

Why even go there? Lowder offered his theory, which he wrote could spell “the end of trans jokes on TV:”  

“The fact remains that the crux of the humor lies in something being "funny" about trans-ness or its fictional representations… Gervais clearly felt that "men in dresses" and genital conjecture was a strong place to start his little routine—but, thankfully, his feeling was clearly wrong. Of course, Gervais' trans jokes falling flat doesn't mean they didn't still add yet more anti-trans sentiment to the world tonight, but hopefully the dour response will dissuade anyone else from following in his smarmy footsteps on a national stage in the future.”

BuzzFeed noted a quote Gervais gave to The Hollywood Reporter in December: “I can justify every joke I’ve ever done and if the joke is about someone, I can do it in front of them and tell them after why it’s justified.” He also said, “I don’t really joke about things that people can’t help.”

Gervais is, of course, only human, and showed this hours after the Golden Globes ended. When news spread of the passing of David Bowie, a fellow Brit and friend to Gervais, he tweeted this:


You can watch Germais open the 2016 Golden Globes below.