Ricky Gervais Responds to Petition Asking Netflix to Remove Jokes From His New Special: ‘It’s Quite Meaningless’

Ricky Gervais Responds to Petition Asking Netflix to Remove Jokes From His New Special: ‘It’s Quite Meaningless’

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Ricky Gervais has stirred up another controversy with a joke in his new Netflix special “Armageddon,” which hasn’t even come out yet.

In a teaser clip released by the comedian, Gervais jokes about terminally ill children, calling them “baldy” and the R-slur. Now, more than 12,000 people have signed a Change.org petition demanding Netflix remove the joke from Gervais’ upcoming stand-up special, which hits the platform on Dec. 25.

Immediately after the controversial “Armageddon” joke, Gervais says to the audience, “These are all jokes, all right? I don’t even use that word in real life, the R-word. … I’m playing a role.”

In an interview with Nihal Arthanayake on BBC Radio 5 Live’s “Headliners” podcast, Gervais called out “faux” outrage against him, and compared the petitioners to “hecklers.”

“I can play to a million people, I won’t get a complaint,” Gervais said. “As soon as it goes on Netflix or as soon as someone writes up a joke that says this is offensive, people go, ‘Oh, that’s offensive.’ They haven’t even heard the joke. They weren’t there. Ignore them. They don’t count. They have no effect on me. They don’t count. They’re hecklers.”

The petition against Gervais and Netflix is organized by Anna Villa, who writes in the description that she is a parent whose child “bravely battled cancer.”

“The recent skit by Ricky Gervais on Netflix, where he refers to terminally ill children as ‘baldy,’ is not just disrespectful but also deeply hurtful,” Villa writes. “It mocks the courage and resilience of these young fighters who face their illness with grace and beauty despite their baldness.”

Villa adds that “Gervais’ jokes were not only distasteful but also heartless,” and “a slap in the face to not only the children battling these serious illnesses but also their parents and families who stand by them through this difficult journey.”

“Our children are not a punchline, their lives aren’t a joke,” Villa writes. “This is why we demand that Netflix remove this offensive skit from its platform immediately. We believe that comedy should never come at the expense of someone else’s pain or suffering — especially when it involves innocent children battling life-threatening illnesses.”

Speaking to BBC, Gervais ceded that offending people is an “occupational hazard” for a comedian, but social media has enabled heckling akin to “shouting out of a window.”

“They just want a reaction … being ignored has the same psychological effect as being slapped in the face. So I really, really enjoy ignoring people,” Gervais said.

He added that he stays out of politics, but on stage he will embody a left-wing or right-wing persona, depending on what suits the joke. “Some people think that a joke is a window to the comedian’s true soul,” Gervais said. “It’s just not true. It’s a joke.”

Speaking about critics of his new special, he said, “They’re allowed to hate it. They’re allowed to not come to the show, but it’s not going to stop me doing what I love, and I’m not going to stop it at the expense of all the other people who love it. No one has to watch this.”

Gervais also took to X/Twitter earlier this week to offer his own kind of content warning regarding his new stand-up special. “In this show, I talk about sex, death, paedophilia, race, religion, disability, free speech, global warming, the Holocaust and Elton John,” Gervais wrote. “If you don’t approve of jokes about any of these things, then please don’t watch. You won’t enjoy it and you’ll get upset.”

Gervais’ previous Netflix special, “SuperNature,” similarly drew criticism for its jokes mocking trans people, with the LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD calling the comedy hour “dangerous” and saying it consists of “anti-trans rants masquerading as jokes.”

Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos defended Gervais and Dave Chappelle, who also took aim at trans people in his 2021 show “The Closer,” saying that comedians “[cross] the line every once in a while.”

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