So Ricky Gervais, best known to the modern media consumer as a the millionaire Golden Globes host who spends his free time being a dick to randos on Twitter, put out his first stand-up special in seven years, titled Humanity.
While the show has a marketing campaign designed to make it appear to be the comedic version of 300 with none of the homoeroticism and washboard abs -- but all the toxic masculinity -- he spends it complaining about people being shitty to him on Twitter and mocking transgender people. Of course there's already been a whole J-school class assignment's worth of hot takes on how offensive the material is to trans people, but for me there's a whole different aspect of not only Ricky's material but that of every comedian doing specials on Netflix, HBO, or wherever that offends me. You see, I'm a transgender stand-up comic, and not one of these jokes is funny. Oh, not because they're offensive to my delicate she-male sensibilities, but because they're hack garbage.
Jokes about big feet and hands, Adam's apples, deep voices, and "the surgery." Ooh, cutting-edge material there, guys. I am continually struck by the genius it takes to write a joke about "man hands" that was an already an entire episode of Seinfeld from 1996. This is why you make tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars for 15 minutes of material you can get at any crappy Tuesday night open mike in the country? I heard jokes about gender-reassignment surgery from the comedic genius of ... Rush Limbaugh. Yeah, he called them "lopitofamies" and "addadicktomies." Hilarious, right?
This is the kind of humor we can expect from our finest Oxy-addicted, Viagra-smuggling, conservative talk radio minds. Dude, you know how many times I've been to an open mike, and some paunchy and prematurely balding guy in a Harley-Davidson T-shirt stammered and slurred their way through three minutes of "don't eat your Wheaties, look what they did to Bruce Jenner" jokes? I do comedy in a college town, and if I had a dime for each bro in an SAE ballcap and khaki cargos who tried to crack a joke about "it's not gay if your balls don't touch" between the material he lifted from Anthony Jeselnik, I could afford to get my balls cut off and bronzed. And a nice set of tits.
It's almost always some dude making these kinds of jokes. I tell jokes about the surgery, my big hands, and my often-deep voice; it's just that I took the unheard-of step of making them funny and original. Like the surgery? I joke about how it's so expensive and not covered by insurance that I plan to put it all on credit cards and declare bankruptcy because they can't repossess a vagina. Yeah, I got big hands, just means I'm well-hung for a lesbian. I joke about how hard dating is but how easy sex is for a trans woman; sex is just five minutes on Craigslist and no self-respect. Bathroom jokes? I make it out like I'm window-shopping for remodeling projects. Being pre-op trans and still sleeping with women just means it's a strap-on I don't need to stop and adjust every two minutes, and with enough Adderall it becomes a vibrator. I even tell jokes about The Silence of the Lambs and do the voice!
I'm not offended by the same jokes I've heard told over and over since I was a teenager. Most of these are just some variation of a joke you can find in Truly Tasteless Jokes Volume III (now available on Kindle!) or the most Incel corners of 4Chan. Hell, even the "new jokes" are old. Mr. Gervais, I hate to tell you this, but just because you changed it to "I've always felt like a chimp" (just like trans people always felt like a different gender than their birth certificate may say, hardy har har!) doesn't mean we forgot South Park did that joke using dolphins back in 2005.
What I am offended by is that some studio schmuck in a sports coat actually paid these comedy A-listers (who haven't done stand-up in a decade or more) the equivalent of an entire public school district's salaries to basically tell hack material you could get from the kids in a public school's detention hall. You hear that, Netflix? You paid Ricky Gervais $20 million for 15 minutes of memes you can get for free on theCHIVE and they'll be just as original. You paid $22,000 a minute for jokes you can get from a crusty copy of Hustler. You listening, Gervais? I'm not shocked and offended by you comparing me to a chimp, because that 19-year-old with the Deadpool avatar on Twitter came at me with the same joke a year and a half ago.
I get that a lot of people want to see comedians working out their mid-life crisis and fears of growing irrelevancy by telling jokes that they thought were edgy in 2004. There is no shame in spending obscene amounts of money for comedians who have coasted on name recognition and appearances on panel shows for years but haven't written a worthwhile bit since the Bush administration (the second one, at least). But what you gotta do is make sure you're getting your money's worth, and these guys who do these cliched transphobic jokes are doing the comedian version of visiting their old high school and creeping out the kids. Netflix, if you insist on giving shows to comedians who are gonna tell jokes about transgender people and complain about Twitter, at least hire them a transgender comedian to punch up the material before you book the theater. Or maybe, crazy idea, book a transgender comedian who can tell original jokes about trans people without the only positive review of the show coming from Breitbart. (Netflix, contact me for sample videos and availability. Yes, I will work for scale.)
Oh, and those of you who are going to say to me that I'm a nobody comedian and who am I to judge what good stand-up comedy is, I got one simple answer for you: I know what a good joke is when I'm supposed to be the punch line.
AMANDA KERRI is an Oklahoma City-based comedian and regular contributor to The Advocate. Follow her on Twitter @amanda_kerri.