Ricky Gervais says anything goes when it comes to comedy, it just depends on the joke.
“There’s no subject you shouldn’t joke about. It depends on the joke. As a journalist, there’s nothing you wouldn’t write about. It depends on your angle, right?” he asks as part of an interview with WSJ Magazine. “I think a lot of this pious offence comes from people mistaking the target of the joke with the subject. You can joke about anything, but it depends on what the actual target is. If you use irony and people see that at face value and think you’re saying one thing but you’re actually saying the opposite.”
The “After Life” star says it’s all about the audience’s personal connection to the subject matter at hand.
“People laugh at 19 of the terrible subjects I joke about, but not the 20th because that affects them,” he says.
Some of those jokes Gervais has told that people have taken offence to come from the five times he hosted the Golden Globes ceremony.
“The first time I [hosted] the Golden Globes — I did it five times over 10 years — it was palpable. People were going, ‘Who does he think he is? How dare he insult the most important people in the world?'”
But Gervais says over the 10-year span of his hosting gigs, “the world changed,” as did the reaction to his jokes.
“By the last time I did it, it was very different. I kept doing my thing and now people were going, ‘Yeah, give it to them. We hate celebrities. We’re tired of being told what to do by people with everything. We’re tired of being told to recycle when we know they got there in their private jet or limo,'” he says.
Gervais admits to using Twitter not just as a distraction when he’s writing jokes, but as “market research for his comedy.”
“When I’m working on a new show, I’ll often do a sort of fishing tweet where I’ll say something like, ‘What’s the one thing you should never joke about?'” he explains. “And of course everyone says something different and everyone’s so sure that’s the one thing you should never joke about,” he says, adding, “And that becomes my setlist.”