Comedian Ricky Gervais Criticizes Hollywood for Ethical Compromise, Political Lecturing, in Golden Globes Speech

Comedian Ricky Gervais Criticizes Hollywood for Ethical Compromise, Political Lecturing, in Golden Globes Speech
Ricky Gervais speaks onstage during the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Jan. 5, 2020. (Paul Drinkwater/NBCUniversal Media, LLC via Getty Images)
Petr Svab

British comedian Ricky Gervais chastised Hollywood’s elites during his opening monologue at the Golden Globes award ceremony on Jan. 5 for compromising their professed beliefs by working for companies criticized for ethical issues.

He also called on the movie industry award winners to avoid political pontification in their acceptance speeches.

“You say you’re woke, but the companies you work for, I mean, unbelievable—Apple, Amazon, Disney. If ISIS started a streaming service, you’d call your agent, wouldn’t you?” he said, referring to the terrorist group.

He praised Apple’s contribution to the TV show production “The Morning Show,” but slammed the company.

“A superb drama about the importance of dignity and doing the right thing made by a company that runs sweatshops in China,” he said.

Gervais then made a recommendation:

“If you do win an award tonight, don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech, right? You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world.”

“Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg,” he said, referring to the Swedish teenage activist who spent much of last year traveling the world to talk about her concerns about the effects of humans on the world’s climate.

Some of the speakers and award recipients, including actors and actresses Russell Crowe, Patricia Arquette, and Michelle Williams, chose not to heed Gervais’s advice, and used their time to air political messages.

Williams voiced support for abortion rights; Crowe, who is in Australia and was represented by actress Jennifer Aniston, blamed the Australia wildfires on man-made emissions of carbon dioxide and argued for moving “our global workforce to renewable energy”; Arquette said the United States was “on the brink of war” with Iran and urged the audience to “vote in 2020.” She didn’t endorse a particular candidate.

Hollywood celebrities have previously faced criticism for giving speeches about social, political, and environmental issues, despite having limited expertise on the subjects and sometimes displaying behavior that runs counter to their stated ideals.

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who scored one nomination but didn’t win the award, has been known to call for limiting emissions of carbon dioxide, even as he travels via private jet, which, according to some estimates, boost a person’s carbon footprint by up to 10 times as much as conventional passenger aircraft.

Epstein Comments

In his speech, Gervais also made reference to skepticism about the death of Jeffrey Epstein, a well-connected financier arrested in July 2019 for allegedly running a child prostitution ring.

“Spoiler alert,” Gervais said about his character in the “After Life” TV show. “Season two is on the way, so in the end, he obviously didn’t kill himself—just like Jeffrey Epstein.”

Epstein was found dead in his New York jail cell in August 2019. The death was ruled a suicide, but has been broadly questioned by the public because of some unusual circumstances surrounding his death, along with suspicion that he possessed compromising information about his many powerful friends and acquaintances.

“Shut up. I know he’s your friend, but I don’t care,” Gervais responded to a loud “oh” from the audience.

“You liked to make your own way in your own plane, didn’t you?” he added, referring to many prominent figures who took flights in Epstein’s private jet dubbed the “Lolita Express.”

Gervais’s speech made waves online, with more than 750,000 tweets mentioning his name by noon of Jan. 6.

The response has been overwhelmingly positive, based on the video of the speech having some 89,000 “thumbs up” versus about 1,100 “thumbs down” on YouTube by noon on Jan. 6.

But some in the entertainment industry milieu have criticized Gervais.

“The mood was already sober thanks to an impeachment [proceeding against President Donald Trump], the threat of war with Iran and devastating bush fires in Australia” and Gervais should have been “brave enough to drop the tired agitator shtick and, for once, read the room,” wrote Lorraine Ali, television critic for the Los Angeles Times.
“No, he really shouldn’t have,” retorted Washington Examiner foreign policy commentator Tom Rogan, in an op-ed.