TV

Ricky Gervais defends right to joke about AIDS and trans people amid blistering backlash

Josh Milton May 25, 2022
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Ricky Gervais has responded to Frankie Boyle's criticism of his "lazy" reliance on transphobic jokes

Ricky Gervais. (Getty)

Ricky Gervais has defended his right to joke about “taboo” topics like trans women and AIDS as his Netflix special continues to draw heat.

The British comedian has faced fresh criticism over his over-reliance on anti-trans jokes after his show Ricky Gervais: Supernature dropped Tuesday (24 May).

The special had little to do with the supernatural and instead saw the 60-year-old make repeated punch-downs against trans women and make light of the AIDS epidemic.

GLAAD, an American LGBTQ+ media watchdog, decried Gervais’ jokes as nothing more than “graphic, dangerous, anti-trans rants” in a statement.

But Gervais brushed off the backlash, telling BBC One’s The One Show that comedy is about “getting us over taboo subjects”.

Ricky Gervais: ‘These are just jokes’

“I think that’s what comedy is for, – 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 told hosts Jermaine Jenas and Alex Jones on Tuesday.

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

“It starts and they go, what’s he going to say? I tell the joke. Phew, they laugh.”

“It’s like a parachute jump,” Ricky Gervais added, “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 anymore.

“So I deal with everything. And I think we second guess the audience too much.”

“These are just jokes,” he continued, “they don’t mean anything. They’re just for you to laugh for an hour or so. So, that’s why ideally taboo subjects.”

Ricky Gervais in his 2018 Netflix special, Humanity. (Netflix)

Gervais spent the first 15 minutes of Supernature digging at trans women, whom he said are not “old-fashioned women … the ones with wombs”.

“No, I love the new women. They’re great, aren’t they?” he says. “The new ones we’ve been seeing lately. The ones with beards and c**ks.”

He also conflated trans women with rapists, joked he was going to transition to “Vicky Gervais” and called on trans women to “lose their c**ks”.

On the AIDS epidemic, he said the disease was “in its heyday, f***ing amazing” before joking that God sent AIDS to “Africa” because “they’re dying anyway”.

While Gervais stressed in the set that his jokes are “ironic”, LGBTQ+ groups such as GLAAD disagreed. Especially as the programme came months after Dave Chapelle’s Netflix special was slammed when the comic resorted to anti-trans jokes.

GLAAD slammed Gervais for joking about the AIDS epidemic: “He also spouts anti-gay rhetoric and spreads inaccurate information about HIV.”

“Attention Ricky and Netflix: people living with HIV today, when on effective treatment, lead long and healthy lives and cannot transmit HIV to others. U=U.”

More: netflix, ricky gervais, Trans

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