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Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth

The Problem With Ricky Gervais's Jokes Isn't Just That They're Bigoted--They're Also Not Funny

It's possible to be funny on just about any topic imaginable; Gervais's sexist and anti-trans jokes just aren't.

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Netflix has platformed yet another anti-trans comedian, as their financial and good samaritan stock continues to tumble. Last time, it was Dave Chappelle spewing transphobia during his special The Closer, which triggered a walkout of Netflix’s LGBTQ+ staff. This time, it’s a little twat named Ricky Gervais, who suffers from the unfortunate ratio of being 100% asshole and 0% funny. Nevertheless, Gervais is back on the stage in a new comedy special to swing a baseball bat at the trans community and call it “comedy.”

The streaming service’s new comedy special, titled Ricky Gervais: SuperNature, runs for all of two minutes before the material runs head first into mocking trans people. As Gervais pokes at the old stereotype that women aren’t funny (good one, bruv), he says he actually can name many funny women—only to look up and pause, as if he can’t think of any. Then he realizes he can name Dame Edna Everage, an Australian housewife and exaggerated female character played by male comedian Barry Humphries. He can also name Eddie Izzard, a trans woman comedian.

Get it? They’re only funny because they are actually men. That’s the joke—just some lazy-ass low-hanging fruit punching down at a group of people who are under attack across the world and experiencing disproportionate rates of suicide.

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We’re not trying to police comedy here. We just want it to be funny. As Jezebel’s Lindy West wrote in the viral piece “How to Tell a Rape Joke”:

The world is full of terrible things, including rape, and it is okay to joke about them. But the best comics use their art to call bullshit on those terrible parts of life and make them better, not worse. The key—unless you want to be called a garbage-flavored dick on the internet by me and other humans with souls and brains—is to be a responsible person when you construct your jokes.

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Indeed, there’s a way to satirize people’s hatred and fear of trans people—to joke about the people who are panicking about unisex bathrooms rather than the trans people themselves—and that could be really funny! There’s endless amounts of potential material there. But no, Gervais uses the whole bathroom controversy to—again—mock trans people, themselves, and those who support trans people’s right to exist.

“Ugh women...not all women. I mean the old-fashioned women, you know the ones with wombs. Those fucking dinosaurs. I love the new women, the new ones we’ve been seeing lately, the ones with beards and cocks. I love them…And now the old-fashioned go, “Ooh, they want to use our toilets!” Why shouldn’t they use their toilets? “For ladies?” They are ladies, look at their pronouns. What about this person isn’t a lady? “Well, his penis.” HER penis you fucking bigot! “What if he rapes me?” What if SHE rapes you, you fucking TERF whore!”

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Implying that a trans woman using the woman’s bathroom (because she is entitled to shit in peace like a human being) might rape a cisgender woman is, you guessed it, not at all funny, because it makes trans women the butt of a joke. That is less comedic social commentary or irony than it is a legitimate conservative talking point. Instead, why not mock the pearl clutchers and “TERF whores” who are seriously so vapid as to be scrambling up on the potty seat to avoid being spotted by trans women who LITERALLY JUST WANT TO SHIT IN PEACE.

After the first ten minutes of the special, Gervais has made fun of the criminalization of trans people, mocked their body parts, joked about disabled kids, called himself a minority (“I’m a white heterosexual multimillionaire, there’s less than 1% of us”), and even compared himself to Rosa Parks (“I’m like Rosa Parks, except I fought for the right to never have to take a seat on the bus”). To be clear, he’s doing this “comedy” at a moment in history where Black Americans are being disproportionately targeted in hate crimes and the trans community is fighting for their lives. Specifically, trans people are facing increasing mortality rates amid hateful bathroom bans and bans from high school sports. No wonder the man has angered... just about everyone!

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At a certain point, we have to stop and ask why a brand as gargantuan as Netflix would allow the special to air at all. Why do we keep subjecting trans people to this? Better yet, why is Netflix handing the microphone to comedians who can’t even construct a basic joke without nibbling on the low-hanging apples? Dude, seriously, hop on a fucking giraffe and reach higher—I’m sure there’s some juicy plums up there that don’t taste like your small town white girl sipping a caramel frappuccino aka BASIC ASS JOKES. If Netflix wants to be home of the historic comedy special, they’re going to have to do better than paying a cunty Bri-ish man to poke fun at minorities and trans people, which I’m sorry to say isn’t even original.