‘F*ck my legacy’, says Ricky Gervais during his newest stand-up special, Armageddon, which premiered on Netflix on Christmas Day. If the last few years of his comedy are anything to go by, Gervais is certainly succeeding at that.
Armageddon is the epitome of everything wrong with Gervais’ new brand of comedy. The former comedic genius behind gems such as the UK and US iterations of The Office and the introspective Netflix dramedy After Life has recently become consumed by an obsession to produce the most offensive lines imaginable and market it as ‘stand-up comedy’. Gervais presents himself, both online and on social media, as a bastion of “anti-wokeness”, consistently telling audiences that everyone gets too offended by jokes nowadays, echoing the sentiments of right-wing pundits.
Gervais seems to focus more on the shock value of his jokes than actually making the audience laugh
His latest special includes ‘jokes’ on a host of topics to test the stomachs of these easily offended audiences, from routines on illegal immigration to cancer patients, paedophilia, and disabled children. I use quotation marks around the word jokes because very little of the special can actually be considered comedy. Of course, offensive humour is a necessary part of comedy and can produce some side-splitting gags, but Gervais seems to focus more on the shock value of his jokes than actually making the audience laugh.
The foundation of the new special (and indeed, Gervais’ entire image for the last two years or so) has been attacking humanity for becoming “scared of words”, stemming from a belief that because everyone in the world is going to die someday, we should say what we want without fear of offending anyone. With this, Armageddon could have had the potential for providing sharp political commentary in the form of thought-provoking jokes. Instead, Gervais provides the audience with crude comments akin to those you would hear from a half-drunk man complaining about the football, with the so-called ‘punchlines’ failing to leave any lasting impression other than, “Oh dear, what a fall from grace for the creator of The Office!”
The man is nothing but a pizza cutter – all edge but no point
It takes Gervais a mere 96 seconds to joke about how “You can’t say anything anymore. Well, actually, you can”, which could have elicited a laugh from me, if he hadn’t been banging the same anti-woke drum for years. The mere mention of the word ‘woke’ in his set is almost a cue for the audience to break into a hysteric frenzy of laughter as they lean forward, eager to see how the once-great Ricky Gervais can possibly get better than this.
Punching down at illegal immigrants, spreading misinformation about critical race theory, and, as always, a quick dig at the transgender community for good measure, and there you have it – a new one-hour comedy special brought to you by Ricky Gervais. There are only so many times you can say that “God isn’t real, and I don’t care what you believe” before people start to get bored by it. Gervais’ comedy seems to be driven by a relentless desire to promote atheism and stir up a manufactured culture war, both of which lend themselves to the belief that the man is nothing but a pizza cutter – all edge but no point.
To be constantly force-fed cynicism truly defeats the point of doing stand-up
It’s not only the unfunny anti-wokeness that continues to make Gervais’ humour less and less attractive, but it is also when he couples it with a depressing pessimism about the state of the world that one really starts to question why they are watching this in the first place. We’ve already established that Gervais doesn’t care about what happens after he dies, but he goes on to vehemently state his hatred for humanity and his nihilistic approach to the end of the world. Now, the magical thing about comedy is that it allows one to escape from the stresses and negativity of modern life, to have a laugh, and to forget about the state of the world. But with Gervais, it is bad enough that we cannot laugh at his ridiculously unfunny jokes, but then to be constantly force-fed cynicism truly defeats the point of doing stand-up.
A potential silver lining in this otherwise awful special would be that Gervais is very generously donating all proceeds (over £2 million so far) to animal welfare charities. Gervais has a well-renowned passion for protecting the animal kingdom, so it is my view that despite the years of laughter he has provided us in the ever-distant past, it is time for the comedian to hang up his microphone and devote the rest of his life to animal activism, an area within which he would be able to do some real good. Because, as things stand, Gervais’ comedy is not helping anyone.