Ricky Gervais was in a philosophical mood during his recent appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, offering his opinions on taboo subjects, the relationship between comic and audience, and how “smart people” are less likely to be offended by satire.
“I deal with taboo subjects because I want to take the audience to a place it hasn’t been before,” Gervais said. “There is a tension.”
As examples, he cited, “famine, AIDS, cancer, Hitler,” and suggested that the success of these kind of jokes has to do with the intelligence of the crowd. “I think people get offended when they mistake the subject of a joke with the actual target,” he said, “and smart people know you can deal with anything. Particularly when you’re dealing with something like irony.”
Gervais does not seem to be suggesting that people should get over obviously bigoted jokes, or that smart people are attracted to mean humor. He explained that in his kind of edgy comedy,” You laugh at the ‘wrong’ thing because you know what the ‘right’ thing is.”
“You’re part of the game,” Colbert chimed in. “You the audience are in on the game.”
Gervais also defended the need for humor in a bleak and brutal world. “Humour gets us over bad stuff. That’s why I laugh about terrifying bad things. That’s why comedians are obsessed with death… it’s an inoculation to the real things that are going to happen.”
Gervais is promoting his new Netflix special SuperNature, which is taken from the 2018, 2019, and 2021 “SuperNature” tour, and which debuts May 24th. In December, he predicted that “the younger generation will “not be woke enough for the next generation.”