Ricky Gervais' Most Controversial Moments Ever

Ricky Gervais doesn't have a lot of sympathy for people who don't like his jokes, nor does he ever explain his material. "What's the point? Why should I expect everyone in the world to get my joke? That's arrogant," he told The Spectator in 2019. "I don't want to go so low and obvious and anodyne that everyone gets it. Now I challenge people to tell me a joke that's not offensive and I can find something offensive in it. 'Why did the chicken cross the road?' F**k you, my chicken died yesterday.'"

Love him or hate him, the comedian has stuck around, and if we didn't have Gervais, we wouldn't have "The Office," or a seemingly endless host of the Golden Globes. (He's done it five times, to be specific.) He's also created the Netflix series "After Life," melding both heartbreak and hope in a way that only Gervais can do.

But Gervais never seems far from controversy. He got flack from people on Twitter when he joked that he wouldn't care if "The Office" got canceled since he's already been paid. It also seemed like Gervais couldn't resist poking fun of the epic Will Smith slap at the Oscars. You know if something wild happens, Gervais isn't far away with a joke about it. But sometimes, his jokes toe the line, and occasionally, they go too far. In fact, Gervais has a pretty long list of controversial moments.

He managed to tie in plastic surgery and genitalia

Ricky Gervais has a gift for melding two very unlikely topics. He showed this skill in 2010, while hosting the 67th Annual Golden Globes. Gervais was quick to roast the audience first. "Looking at all the faces here today reminds me of the great work that's been done this year — by cosmetic surgeons," he began. Then he took it a level farther and said, "I've had a little bit of work done ... I've had a penis reduction. Just got the one now. And it is very tiny. But so are my hands, so when I'm holding it, it looks pretty big." Oh, boy.

His wild jokes aren't just flung out in the spur of the moment. Gervais spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the considerable amount of work that's involved. "As soon as NBC called and said, 'Do you want to do it?' I thought, 'Well, that's Christmas ruined because I've got to work,'" he explained. "People think that I'd go out there and I'd get drunk and say off-the-cuff [things]. I don't. I write jokes."

But these jokes do go through a legal vetting. "[When] I do [the show], I say, 'I'm gonna say what I want, I don't have to rehearse,' and they say, 'That's fine.' But I do have to tell a lawyer [the jokes] just before I go on," Gervais said on "The Graham Norton Show." "I know what I can get away with," Gervais added, saying the lawyer won't make him change anything.

He loves roasting Mel Gibson

It seems there's no one Ricky Gervais loves teasing more than Mel Gibson. In 2010, when he was hosting the Golden Globes, he poked fun at Gibson's controversial past, involving a drunk driving episode and anti-semitic comments to a police officer. "I hope I haven't offended anyone," Gervais began, then picking up his beer, he said: "It's not my fault ... I like a drink as much as the next man. Unless the next man is Mel Gibson."

Things got awkward in 2016 at the Golden Globes, when Gervais had to welcome Gibson to the stage. "Now I find myself in the awkward position of having to introduce [Gibson] again," Gervais began. "Listen, I'm sure it's embarrassing for both of us, and I blame NBC for this terrible situation. Mel blames — we know who Mel blames," Gervais said. "Listen, I still feel a bit bad for it. Mel's forgotten all about it apparently, that's what drinking does. I want to say something nice about Mel before he comes out. So... I'd rather have a drink with him in his hotel room tonight than with Bill Cosby."

Gibson put on a smile and after the ceremony said, "Everything is fantastic" but later spoke with The Sydney Morning Herald and said: "​​I remember after the last experience with Ricky, I wanted to strangle him." Clearly, Gibson was furious about being the butt of Gervais' jokes.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

No mercy for Charlie Sheen

Ricky Gervais went after Charlie Sheen in a pretty epic way. Does the comedian ever worry about rocking the boat a little too much? In a sit down on "The Graham Norton Show," Gervais said: "People say, 'Why do you go to so much trouble to offend people?' and I say, 'It's no trouble. It's easy."

Well, it certainly seemed easy when he brought up some details about Sheen's past. "It's going to be a night of partying and heavy drinking — or, as Charlie Sheen calls it, breakfast," Gervais began at the 2011 Golden Globes. "Wow, so let's get this straight, what he did was, he picked up a porn star, paid her to have dinner with him, introduced her to his ex-wife — as you do — went to a hotel, got drunk, got naked, trashed the place while she was locked in a cupboard, and that was a Monday. What does he do [on] New Year's Eve?"

Gervais was referring to an incident that Sheen had at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, according to the New York Post, where he brought a sex worker to the room in which he was staying at, and later she was found screaming in a closet while his then-wife, Denise Richards, was staying in a different suite at the same hotel. Sheen, who was newly out of rehab, destroyed $7,000 worth of property in the room after drinking and doing cocaine.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Ricky Gervais goes after Caitlyn Jenner

In 2016, at the Golden Globes, Ricky Gervais made some jokes at Caitlyn Jenner's expense. "I'm going to be nice tonight," Gervais began. "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," he went on. "She didn't do a lot for women drivers. But you can't have everything, can you? Not at the same time."

Gervais got a lot of pushback for this joke but typical of his stance, the comedian defended his jokes. Shortly after, Gervais jumped on Twitter in January 2016: "Suggesting a joke about Caitlin Jenner is automatically transphobic is like suggesting a joke about Bill Cosby is automatically racist."

Years later, Gervais defended his range of jokes. "It's a good thing to not be racist and sexist and homophobic," Gervais told The Hollywood Reporter in January 2020. "But it's not a good thing to not be allowed to make jokes about those things, because you can tell a joke about race without being racist. I'm happy to play by the rules. It's just that the 200 million people watching have different rules." Gervais added that the concept of offense is subjective.

His jokes about Jeffrey Epstein

When Ricky Gervais hosted the 2020 Golden Globes, he made a dig both at Hollywood and at the late Jeffrey Epstein. "You can binge watch the entire first season of 'Afterlife,'" Gervais began, referring to his own show on Netflix. "That's a show about a man who wants to kill himself because his wife dies of cancer ... Season 2 is on the way, so in the end, he obviously doesn't kill himself — just like Jeffrey Epstein. Shut up, I know he was your friend, but I don't care."

Gervais seems to have limited patience with Hollywood in general. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Gervais explained that he avoids dragging individual people down without a larger theme to the story. "I think I'll go after the general community," Gervais said. "I'd go after cinema and I'd go after television and I'd go after actors and I'll go after pretension and hypocrisy. You know what I mean? I'd go after those big, nebulous things where they can all feel I'm not picking on any one person."

When Gervais brought up Epstein, he was referring to the many high profile individuals who came up in court documents as linked to the man who organized the sex trafficking of minors, according to Newsweek. Needless to say, the joke was one of Gervais' more reckless ones.

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His dig at Harvey Weinstein

Ricky Gervais' disdain for aspects of Hollywood was no more evident than the night he roasted disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein along with other members of the community. "In this room are some of the most important TV and film executives in the world, people from every background," Gervais said at the 2020 Golden Globes. "But they all have one thing in common — they're all terrified of Ronan Farrow. He's coming for you!" Gervais was, of course, referring to the American journalist who broke the news of Weinstein's sexual misconduct in The New Yorker in 2017, according to NPR.

Later in the same evening, Gervais added: "Our next presenter starred in Netflix's 'Bird Box,' a movie where people survive by acting like they don't see a thing — sort of like working for Harvey Weinstein."

As news later broke, many people in Hollywood allegedly knew about Weinstein's history of sexual abuse, according to an earlier publication by People. The list included people such as Jane Fonda, Brad Pitt, and Quentin Tarantino, who all reported hearing stories about Weinstein's predatory behavior. "Riverdale's" Skeet Ulrich told Cosmopolitan that he knew. "Most people knew. I had dinner with someone who is one of the most famous women on the planet — I won't say who it is — who has not come out, who told me similar things." So this one joke of Gervais' was on the nose.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

He loves teasing Angelina Jolie

Ricky Gervais took aim at Angelina Jolie twice during his years as host of the Golden Globes. In 2010, Gervais teased the actor for her adoptions. "Actors aren't just loved here in Hollywood, they are loved the world over," he said at the award ceremony. "You could be in the third world and get a glimpse of a Hollywood star and it makes you feel a little better. You could be a little Asian child with no possessions and no money. But you could see a picture of Angelina Jolie and you'd think, 'Mummy!'"

Jolie didn't get spared the next year either. At the 2011 Golden Globes, Gervais decided to roast "The Tourist" by dissing her and Johnny Depp's acting. "It was a big year for 3D movies," Gervais said, listing several. "Seems like everything this year was three-dimensional, except the characters in 'The Tourist'," Gervais added. "I feel bad about that joke, I'm jumping on the bandwagon because I haven't even seen 'The Tourist.' Who has? But it must be good, because it was nominated, so shut up, okay?"

Then Gervais roasted the Golden Globes at large, joking that they can be swayed by a little incentive. "And I'd like to crush this ridiculous rumor going around that the only reason 'The Tourist' was nominated was so that the Hollywood Foreign Press could hang out with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie," Gervais went on. "That is not the only reason — they also accepted bribes." Yikes!

He doesn't have a lot of respect for Hollywood in general

Ricky Gervais and his contempt for Hollywood elites seems palpable during his routines. To be fair, very few are spared his scathing critiques, but when hosting the Golden Globes for all those years, the stars of Hollywood got an extra roasting.

At the 2020 award ceremony, Gervais said to the seated audience: "You say you're woke, but the companies you work for are unbelievable. Apple, Amazon, Disney — If ISIS started a streaming service you'd call your agent wouldn't you." Gervais had some scathing instructions for the crowd. "So if you do win an award tonight, don't use it as a platform to make a political speech. You're in no position to lecture the public about anything," he added. "You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg." He just couldn't let it rest there. "So if you win, come up, accept your little award, thank your agent and your god and then f**k off," Gervais ended.

Despite the controversy and the conflict, Gervais seems to enjoy himself immensely when he gets to host. He told The Hollywood Reporter in 2020, "To me, doing the Globes is like playing golf. It's not work." For the conflict-avoidant, Gervais' gig might be the most unappealing thing imaginable, but for him, it's a piece of cake.

He insulted the royal family

If Hollywood thought they were the only target for Ricky Gervais' ruthless sense of humor, they can relax for a moment and know that they're not the only bunch to suffer a roast. While Gervais was never offered a knighthood by the royal family, he jumped on Twitter in December 2018 to explain why he wouldn't have wanted one anyway.

"Dear The Royal Family, I am the son of an immigrant [laborer] who didn't have a pot to p*** in till I was 40," Gervais wrote. "Now I'm Britain's most successful international comedian and I p*** in anything I want. You can shove the knighthood though. How about a lordship? Love your work. Ricky." Obviously, any kind of accolades aren't coming his way after that post!

Gervais marveled later on The Graham Norton Show what it means to have a prince in the audience, after the two royal brothers came to one of his shows. "At one of the last shows I did Madonna, Paul McCartney and Princes William and Harry were on the guest list," he said (via Hello!) "And, once you add a Prince to the guest list you also get seven people with guns get in for free — it's unbelievable!" Clearly, Gervais doesn't seem overly impressed with the hype and ritual around the royals.

His loathing of the Catholic Church

Ricky Gervais, an outspoken atheist, didn't spare the Catholic Church in his jokes. At the 2016 Golden Globes, he spoke about the film "Spotlight," in which Boston journalists reveal the story of rampant sexual abuse from Catholic clergy. He also wove in a jab at director Roman Polanski, who drugged and raped a minor, per The Guardian. "The excellent 'Spotlight' has been nominated," Gervais said. "Yeah. The Catholic Church [is] furious about the film as it exposes the fact that 5 percent of all their priests have repeatedly molested children and been allowed to continue to work without punishment." Then the host added, "Roman Polanski called it 'the best date movie ever.'"

Gervais has a long history of outspoken condemnation of the Church. On Twitter in 2012, he wrote: "The Catholic Church has condemned Jimmy Savile. It better not be for being self righteous, wearing silly outfits or abusing kids though." Savile was a British radio personality who was accused of molesting minors, according to a later publication by The Guardian, for decades.

In 2013, Gervais tweeted about the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. "Heard a rumor that the Pope was fired," Gervais wrote. "DEFINITELY untrue. What the f**k could you possibly do to get fired from the catholic church?" If there's anything Gervais loves to call out, it's hypocrisy.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Ricky Gervais' unfortunate HBO moment

In 2011, Ricky Gervais sat down with Louis C.K., Chris Rock, and Jerry Seinfeld for the HBO special "Talking Funny." In the video, there was an exchange that initially began with C.K. and Rock. "When a black guy gets rich, it's [a] countdown to when he's poor again," C.K. said. Rock said of C.K.: "He is the blackest white guy I f***ing know. And all the negative things we think about black people, this f***er..." C.K. interrupted and asked, "You're saying I'm a n****r?" Rock responded, "Yes. You are the n***rest f***ing white man I have ever [met]."

Seinfeld was visibly uncomfortable during the conversation and said that he never uses that word under any circumstances. Gervais chimed in, pointing to himself and Seinfeld and said, "We can pair up in different ways, but that's definitely a pairing. Who says n****r on stage? We don't." Since Gervais said it out loud, C.K. joked that he likely says it in private.

Jemele Hill, writer for The Atlantic, jumped on Twitter to say, "Note how proud Ricky Gervais was of the fact he used the n-word. And Louis CK basically said he's one because black folks ain't shit. Chris Rock is getting crucified, but those other two deserve massive smoke." The HBO clip gained a lot of traction again following the contentious slap from Will Smith while Rock was presenting at the Oscars in 2022. Certainly not a proud moment for Gervais.

Ricky Gervais accused of transphobic tweets

Ricky Gervais, an avid Twitter user, was accused of transphobic tweets in December 2019. "Those awful biological women can never understand what it must be like for you becoming a lovely lady so late in life," Gervais tweeted. "They take their girly privileges for granted. Winning at female sports and having their own toilets. Well, enough is enough." When another Twitter user told Gervais to be kind, he replied: "Exactly. We need to protect the rights of women. Not erode them because some men have found a new cunning way to dominate and demonise an entire sex."

When another user said that Gervais was finding levity in these tweets, the comedian replied, "I do. I also make jokes about AIDS, Cancer, Famine and The Holocaust. Those things do a bit of harm too. But jokes don't. Have a nice day."

Later, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Gervais addressed the accusations of transphobia in his social media output. Gervais adamantly said that he's not transphobic and said that dealing with certain subjects is guaranteed to cause a reaction. "I think offense is the collateral damage of free speech, and it's no reason not to have free speech," Gervais said. "That's what I'd say — it's the lesser of two evils. Having free speech and some people getting upset by it is the lesser of two evils because not having free speech is horrendous." So if we know anything about Gervais, we know he's not slow to defend himself.