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Ricky Gervais defends “taboo” jokes after Netflix special backlash

"I deal in taboo subjects because I want to take the audience to a place it hasn't been before"

By Hollie Geraghty

Ricky Gervais wears a black t-shirt on BBC's 'The One Show'
Ricky Gervais on 'The One Show' (Picture: YouTube).

Ricky Gervais has defended making jokes about “taboo subjects” following the criticism of his new Netflix special.

The comedian faced backlash over jokes in his new show SuperNature about trans people, which was released on Tuesday (May 24).

US LGBT rights group GLAAD has since described the show as “full of graphic, dangerous, anti-trans rants masquerading as jokes”.

However, Gervais defended his material on BBC The One Show. “I think that’s what comedy is for, really – to get us through stuff, and I deal in taboo subjects because I want to take the audience to a place it hasn’t been before, even for a split second,” he said.

“Most offence comes from when people mistake the subject of a joke with the actual target.”

He also spoke the audience reaction when they hear a controversial joke. “It starts and they go, what’s he going to say? I tell the joke. Phew, they laugh.

“It’s like a parachute jump – it’s scary, but then you land and it’s all OK.

“I think that’s what comedy is for – getting us over taboo subjects so they’re not scary any more. So I deal with everything. And I think we second guess the audience too much.”

GLAAD also said in a statement that Netflix “refuses” to enforce its own policy whereby content that is “designed to incite hate or violence” is not allowed on the platform.

In the special, he offers more context to the jokes, where he said that he chooses the funniest angle, “without prejudice”.

“Full disclosure: In real life, of course I support trans rights,” he said. “I support all human rights and trans rights are human rights. Live your best life.

“Use your preferred pronouns. Be the gender that you feel you are. But meet me halfway, ladies. Lose the cock. That’s all I’m saying.”

The comedian also said “it’s mad to think that joking about something means you’re anti-it”.

Last month, Gervais weighed in on the Will Smith Oscars slap controversy, defending Chris Rock in the process.

“That was like the tamest joke I would’ve ever told,” Gervais said in reference to Rock’s dig at Jada Pinkett-Smith’s shaved head.