Ricky Gervais caused a minor media stir recently, when a grieving couple decried his routine about a hypothetical dead baby. Tweeting afterwards about offence, the comic struck me as theoretically correct but insensitive – surely discretion should be the better part of valour and he could spare them the distress of continuing the argument beyond the stage. Yet the incident, which went unmentioned in this Glasgow show, neatly illustrates Humanity’s core preoccupation and George Carlin’s maxim that it’s the comedian’s duty to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately.
Ricky Gervais: Humanity ****
Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow
Gervais has spoken at length about the perils of celebrity, and his ruminations on social media’s role in the rise of ignorant populism might sound superficial. But this, his first stand-up show in seven years, is also his most personal and his best yet, displaying a greater thoughtfulness and self-awareness to go with the deliberate button-pushing. From an early routine about the reaction to his Caitlyn Jenner jokes hosting the Golden Globes, he capably has his cake and eats it, showing an evolving understanding of transgender issues while cocking a snook at the former Olympian and killer driver, for the most part justifiably playing the (wo)man rather than the balls. It seems odd to think of Gervais as a developing talent, not least as Eddie Izzard beat him to a lifejacket whistle routine by 20 years and the idea of the IRA retrospectively seeming like “gentleman” bombers is ancient hat. But with his passionate advocacy of animal rights and an encore about his formative years, he offers compelling insight into himself while justifying the paedophile quips.