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Ricky Gervais is back with another live special : Humanity is his fifth in a series of consistently well crafted stand up shows. We last attended one of Ricky’s musing lectures back in 2010 with the release of Science. Lets see what his Netflix special has to offer…
I first encountered Gervais’ slick and caustic wordplay when he did a stint on The 11 o’clock show back in 2000. His act has remained largely unchained since then – a formula consisting of overly sincere narcissism and shock remarks. A formula he has peddled over and over in each of his live specials. And it works. His delivery being the workhorse of his act.
With that said – the Humanity special is nothing revolutionary from the comic. He opens with what has become his signature move, the Gervais tried and tested manoeuvre :
“whats that?” he strains to hear the audience remarks in faux parody.
With that he bats the comment away with an amiable grin. You are now watching a Ricky Gervais live show. Welcome.
His schtick is tedious at best but that’s very much one of Gervais’ greatest weapons, something that made his David Brent character likeable in the worst way possible. He is entertainingly annoying. His routine is however greatly accessible and when you get past the ego of the joke to the joke itself – you see the craft at work. His comedy is very much Marmite – love it or hate it.
As if to set the tone for the show he delivers an aids joke within the first two minutes and the subject matter spirals downward from there. Ricky really seems to hit his stride about ten minutes in with his Caitlin/Bruce Jenner material being both noteworthy and savage in equal measure.
Gervais gives us a rare insight into his life as a celebrity. I’d like to compare him to another artist : not an obvious comparison and one i will strain to make – but much like Eminem’s output over the years – Ricky seems to have strayed from the art. Eminem’s quality lay in his autobiographical striving for the dream. His music began with an almost Blues-based theme of disenfranchisement. He came from nothing, had nothing and was fighting to get somewhere. Eminem’s output over more recent years has relied heavily on his laments over being famous and having too much and what a drag it all is. Ricky’s latest delivery is thematically akin. He’s famous now, and it’s boring. And it’s boring for us too.
The shows material drives through towns that seem to be populated by bits cut from his other live shows, much like a smattering of deleted scenes and cutting room floor material. Much of it plays out like edits from his Animals tour.
He even goes as far to almost-very-nearly apologise for his pushy atheist rants on social media but manages to fall short.
His lampooning of social justice and snowflake culture of offence is what saves this show but his sincerity wavers when even he admits that it’s too easy to wind these people up.
He closes the special with a serious discussion about animal cruelty which, given the setting, sticks out like a sore thumb and ends with very little pay off.
After a disappointing outing as a revisited David Brent in Life on the road this should have reaffirmed my love for the comedian, but sadly it did not.
If you’re a fan of the “tubby funster” you’ll enjoy this special….. but you probably should’nt.