Make ’em laugh

(Originally published in The California Aggie)

I feel sorry for a lot of people in the world – for instance, flood victims and the homeless.

Movie stars who get their feelings hurt, however, are not on this list.

I say this because apparently there are a sizeable number of people for whom celebrities’ egos represent a worthwhile concern. This is based on the reactions of some viewers to comedian Ricky Gervais’ hosting of the 68th annual Golden Globe Awards on Sunday. The British comedian and creator of “The Office” is well-known for his particular brand of did-he-really-just-say-that humor, so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone when he made the following jabs:

On Robert Downey, Jr.: “Many of you probably know him from such facilities as the Betty Ford Clinic and Los Angeles County Jail.”

“It seems like everything this year was three-dimensional, except the characters in The Tourist.”

And after mentioning Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor are straight men playing gay characters in I Love You Philip Morris: “So, the complete opposite of some famous Scientologist, then.”

Harsh? Yes. But crossing the line? No way.

Remember, if you will, the situation he’s in. Actors, envied the world over and paid exorbitant amounts of money for “work” that doesn’t serve a necessary purpose in society yet enables them to live lives most of us will only dream of, have gathered to congratulate each other for being awesome in a three-hour (or five, if you watch the red carpet special beforehand) televised extravaganza. The whole affair is ridiculous at best and mildly offensive to really hardworking Americans who get no such recognition at worst.

That’s why it’s so refreshing when someone like Gervais comes along and says exactly what everyone’s thinking but no one dares to say to a celebrity’s face. Hollywood actors may be rich, and they may be powerful, but they are not above criticism or laughter. For all the perks they get on a daily basis (million-dollar paychecks and people telling them how great they are come to mind), it’s only fair that once in a while someone gently remind them that they have flaws, too, and it’s OK to laugh at them.

Yes, Angelina Jolie, you are beautiful and do impressive charity work and have six kids with a hot guy, but your last movie sucked.

Sure, Robert Downey, Jr., you were “the dude playin’ the dude, disguised as another dude” in Tropic Thunder, but you used to be a drug addict and a screw-up.

You get the idea. If an actor can’t take a healthy dose of reality, even in the form of a joke, they need to get out of the business.

In a conference call with reporters on Dec. 8, Gervais explained that his intent is never to seriously offend anyone. Interesting comedy, he added, should surprise the audience and give them the opportunity to laugh at even the un-funniest subjects.

“I want [comedy] to resonate. You can see a stand-up and he does a thousand brilliant puns, great. You’ll laugh for an hour. You’ll be looking at your watch after about half an hour and you won’t remember one of them,” he said. “The reason we have humor in our evolution is to get us through adversity. We use it as a sword and a shield and as a medicine.”

So no, I do not feel sorry to those actors at the Golden Globes who haven’t yet learned that a true star is someone who can laugh at his own faults. For a remedy, I recommend a healthy dose of Ricky Gervais to bring any wayward celeb back down to earth.

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