Comedian Ricky Gervais is no stranger to controversy. Earlier this year, as host of the Golden Globe Awards, he hilariously ripped the representatives of woke Hollywood sitting in the same room as him, saying, "You're in no position to lecture the public about anything…You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg."
Now in a new interview with the British web magazine Metro, the star of the original British version of The Office and the Netflix series After Life tears into cancel culture with brio, insight, and honesty rare among intellectuals much less the entertainment types he spends so much time slagging. Along the way, he likens himself to Adolf Hitler to underscore what he sees as the inanity of social media censors coming for the jobs and livelihoods of other people:
If it is choosing not to watch a comedian because you don't like them, that's everyone's right. But when people are trying to get someone fired because they don't like their opinion about something that's nothing to do with their job, that's what I call cancel culture and that's not cool.
You turning off your own TV isn't censorship. You trying to get other people to turn off their TV, because you don't like something they're watching, that's different. Everyone's allowed to call you an asshole, everyone's allowed to stop watching your stuff, everyone's allowed to burn your DVDs, but you shouldn't have to go to court for saying a joke that someone didn't like. And that's what we get dangerously close to. If you don't agree to someone's right to say something you don't agree with, you don't agree with freedom of speech.
Gervais recounts a recent back and forth on Twitter that gets to the nuance and seriousness he says is lacking in contemporary discourse:
I did a tweet a month ago about freedom of speech, quoting Winston Churchill. Someone came back with, "You know he was a white supremacist?" And I wrote back, "Not in that tweet he isn't." It's like if someone did something once that's wrong, everything they did was wrong. You are allowed to have things in common with bad people as long it's not the bad things. I'm a vegetarian and I love dogs, like Hitler. But the only thing I have in common with Hitler are the good bits!
Here's his opening monologue from the 2020 Golden Globes, in which he proactively tells the star-studded audience to "have a laugh at your expense…Remember, they're just jokes. We're all gonna die soon and there's no sequel."