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Ricky Gervais’ New Netflix Special Just Dropped and is Already Drawing Withering Fire OVER His LGBTQ Jokes

This is from Ricky Gervais' new Netflix stand-up special, "SuperNature," which just came out today. In the middle of probably the strangest, most contentious time in American comedy since Lenny Bruce was literally being led away in handcuffs for telling jokes that contained the word "cocksucker."

Bill Burr gives a Bill Burr monologue on one of the first SNL shows of the pandemic, and gets vilified for joking about Cancel Culture. Dave Chapelle launches one of the most successful stand up specials Netflix has ever released, and employees demand that it get removed from the platform or censored as hate speech over stories he told about a trans friend of his who took her own life. Only to be told by management last week they can all go piss up a rope if they don't like it. Chris Rock gets slapped by an Oscar winner. Chappelle subsequently gets attacked. We're involved in a huge cultural debate over where the line between acceptable and unacceptable in comedy. 

And Gervais, like Chappelle, is one of those comics who wants to know exactly where the line is being drawn. So he can step over it. 

Quoting from that clip above:

“Oh, women! Not all women, I mean the old-fashioned ones. The old-fashioned women, the ones with wombs. Those fucking dinosaurs. I love the new women. They’re great, aren’t they? The new ones we’ve been seeing lately. The ones with beards and cocks. They’re as good as gold, I love them. 

And now the old-fashioned ones say, ‘Oh, they want to use our toilets!’ 

‘Why shouldn’t they use your 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!’”

And he closes the special with:

“Full disclosure: In real life of course I support trans rights. 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.”

I'm going to go by the wisest thing ever said about comedy. Which is that explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You can learn a lot, but it doesn't do much good for the frog. 

If you choose not to see the joke here and the underlying point he's making about the times we live in, and instead go straight to a default setting that says the subject is off limits for humor, that's your choice. And as that original Tweet suggests, a lot of people are making that choice:

And so here it is, the latest skirmish in an endless culture war that seems to have no end in sight. There have always be people are going to hear what a comic says through whatever socio-political filter they choose, instead of actually listing to their words. But these times we live in are something different entirely. And comics like these ones I've mentioned seem to be leaning into it. And I'll add Bill Maher to that list:

None of these multi-millionaires are paying me to support their brand of comedy. (I spend enough time defending my own. And believe me, in 90% of the stand up I do, the butt of the joke is that marginalized, vulnerable population known as me.) But as a general rule, I think when a comic is telling you straight up they believe in a person's rights while tossing in some observations about how confusing these times are and wrapping it all up in some dick jokes, they deserve the benefit of the doubt. 

Not every joke about any particular groups is hate speech. Any more than every joke is funny. We'll all be better off when we can understand the difference, which is damned near impossible in this climate. But I do believe that pendulum is swinging back toward the middle where more people will realize comedy is the great middle ground where everyone can all be accepted. 

I've said this before, but John Cleese tells a story about a friend who is a professional therapist who says the first sign a patient in the group is getting better is when they start to show the ability to laugh at themselves. That that is the surest sign of mental health. And I'll add that declaring some group you identify with is beyond being mentioned in a stand up special not only doesn't help anyone in the long run, it's just daring comics who are uncancellable to write even more jokes about it. The bottom line being that nothing should be offensive as long as it's funny.