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10th Jun 2023

Ricky Gervais says ‘smart people’ don’t get angry over jokes about Hitler, AIDS or cancer


‘Smart people know you can deal with anything, particularly when dealing with something like irony’

Ricky Gervais says smart people don’t get offended by jokes about ‘famine, AIDS, cancer, Hitler’ in his latest defence of using controversial material to get laughs from the crowd.

Appearing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in May last year, the comedian spoke about subjects that shouldn’t be joked about, and as expected, he didn’t think there were many – if any.

Smart people, Gervais said, understand two things, “irony” and that “humour gets us over bad stuff”.

Aside from joking that the aforementioned subjects “are evergreen” and “don’t date”, Gervais went on to explain that often “people get offended because they mistake the subject of a joke with the actual target”.

Gervais opined that taking the audience to new and uncomfortable spaces helps them face up to the scariness of reality.

He said he laughs about “terrifying, bad things” because “it gets us through – it’s an inoculation to the real things that are going to happen” and thinks that the general public is often sold short in terms of what they can handle, adding: “Of course, they can [take it] because real life’s worse, real life is scarier.”

Referencing the fan reaction to his most recent TV series, After Life, Gervais says that most people responded to the gloomy subject matter positively and insisted that it helped them through a tough time because, as he puts it: “People like to see things explored… they like to see themselves… and they want to see it done not compromised.”

He rounds things off by declaring, “that’s what comedy is for: it’s to make us feel good”, even when the things happening around us are impeding that happiness.

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