Ricky Gervais defends controversial joke about terminally ill children and tells his critics ‘good luck’ at getting it removed from his comedy special as he hits out at the ‘faux offended’
Ricky Gervais has defended making a joke about terminally ill children, telling his critics he wishes them ‘luck’ in getting it removed from his Netflix special, Armageddon.
The comedian, 62, has come under fire after the clip started circulating on social media, showing the star branding sick children ‘baldies’ and asking those who requested to meet him via the Make-A-Wish Foundation: ‘Why don’t you wish to get better?’
Yet speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live’s Nihal Arthanayake about the backlash, the comic insisted the joke had been taken out of context as he hit back at claims of ‘ableism.’
He revealed: ‘In the actual skit, I say “I’ve been doing a lot of video messages lately for terminally ill children. Only if they request it. I don’t burst into hospitals and say, wake up baldy”.’
‘I’m literally saying in the joke that I don’t do that. But people have a reaction. They don’t analyse it. They feel something – that’s what offense is. It’s a feeling.’
Ricky Gervais has defended making a joke about terminally ill children, telling his critics he wishes them ‘luck’ in getting it removed from his Netflix special, Armageddon
Ricky continued: ‘That’s why “I’m offended” is quite meaningless. What do you want me to change?’
The star’s joke prompted a petition calling on Netflix to remove the skit from his comedy special and when asked if had seen the specific wording of the petition, Ricky replied: ‘Good luck. That’s what I say to them. Good luck. I’ll even retweet it’.
Ricky then revealed how he he deals with criticism of some of his comedy routines, explaining: ‘Ninety-nine percent of it is faux offense. They’re not really offended. They just want to be heard.
‘I’ll explain “no, you’ve mistaken the subject of the joke with the actual target.”
‘Of all the millions of people that watched it and loved it, only a few don’t like it. If I give them special attention and try and placate them, I’ve annoyed the other millions of people that got the joke.
‘They go “no, you’ve ruined it for us!” So, I’ve got a duty to the people that like it and get it.
‘I wouldn’t sit down with a heckler, would I? If I’m playing to twenty thousand people, I wouldn’t stop the show and explain to them. I ignore them.’
Ricky then spoke about whether his comedy was representative of his actual views on controversial issues, saying: ‘Particularly with irony and satire, I’m often playing a character.
‘But some people get confused and think that a joke is a window to the comedian’s true soul.
‘It’s just not true. It’s a joke. No one does this with puns, do they? Two blokes didn’t really walk into a pub.’
The comedian, 62, has come under fire after the clip started circulating on social media, showing the star branding sick children ‘baldies’
Among those hitting out at the comic for his joke were British disability charity Scope.
During his joke about Make-A-Wish requests, Ricky said ‘I always say yes [to their requests]. And I always start the video the same way. I go “why didn’t you wish to get better? What, you f***ing retarded as well?”‘
Ricky continues: ‘I don’t do that either, okay. These are all jokes, alright. I don’t even use that word in real life. The R word.
‘I used it in a joke, that’s not real life is it. I’m playing a role.’
Yet Scope warned that ‘language like this has consequences’, stating: ‘We wish we were surprised by reports that Ricky Gervais has used ableist slurs in his new Netflix special.
‘Language like this has consequences and we’re just not accepting the explanation that Gervais uses to try and justify this language.’
‘He argues that he wouldn’t use this language in ‘real-life’. But his stand-up routine doesn’t exist in a parallel universe. The stage is real. Netflix is real. The people this kind of language impacts are real.’
Two days later, Scope said it had been forced to turn off its replies on Twitter after receiving hateful messages, while adding that ‘we aren’t here to dictate what anyone should or should not find funny.’
‘Comedians using the R-slur emboldens others to use it. We’ve seen this first hand this week, with disabled people being abused directly in the replies to our post. This is real life, whether or not Gervais would use the slur himself outside of his routine.’
The charity added: ‘We aren’t here to dictate what anyone should or should not find funny. But we can’t pretend that this comedy exists in a vacuum. This week has proven that.’
Sess Cova, a mother who says her child Katy ‘bravely battled cancer’, also launched a petition urging Netflix to remove the ‘offensive skit from its platform’. It has since received more than 5,000 signatures.
Sess Cova, a mother who says her child Katy ‘bravely battled cancer’, launched a petition urging Netflix to remove the ‘offensive skit from its platform’
Former Ex on the Beach star Ashley Cain also hit out at Ricky for making jokes about terminally ill children.
Ashley’s daughter Azaylia died when she lost her battle with acute myeloid leukaemia in April 2021, when she was just eight-months-old.
Reality star Ashley, 33, and his partner Safiyya Vorajee have spoken openly about their heartache over their loss and have been raising funds in their late daughter’s name to help other children who are battling cancer.
He posted on his Instagram Stories: ‘I was actually a fan of Ricky Gervais but I had to turn off his stand-up the other day as I was watching it with family and there were multiple jokes about terminally ill children and especially kids with cancer.
‘Some things are just not funny. Especially to those parents who are left behind.
‘You can get cancelled for so many things these days but it’s ok to make a mockery of dying children.
‘I’m actually so mad about this.’
Ashley hinted he was struggling to remain calm while composing his message, writing that he was ‘trying to remain as professional’ as possible, adding: ‘I know Ricky makes jokes about having so much money that he doesn’t care about what us people think.’
He continued: ‘But someday he will learn and he best hope it’s not me that has to teach him that lesson. Because I don’t play when it comes to certain things. And that is definitely one of those things.’
Ashley said that he had spent time with other grieving fathers earlier the same day: ‘The maddest thing is, it was only today that I played in a charity match for Good Morning Britain alongside a group of great gentlemen that are part of a charity for bereaved fathers.
‘Each man I stood next to shared each other’s excruciating pain from the loss of a child.
‘Brilliant men, with beautiful children who were taken from this earth too soon. Left with a hole in their lives that is truly impossible to fill.’
Ashley Cain also hit out at Ricky for making jokes about terminally ill children. His daughter Azaylia died from acute myeloid leukaemia in April 2021 at just eight months old
Ricky is no stranger to backlash over his jokes. Last year, the comedian hit back at critics after Twitter’s ‘woke brigade’ turned on Ricky for mocking cancel culture with jokes about transgender people, Adolf Hitler and AIDS in his SuperNature Netflix special.
He kicks off the show with a warning about irony as he describes the concept of comedy to the audience as ‘basically a bloke talking’, before purposely failing to recall any ‘funny female comedians’.
In SuperNature, Ricky wastes no time singling out the ‘virtue-signalling’ and ‘dominant mobs’ who are quick to criticise just to ‘bring people down to raise their own status’.
But his jokes were later described as ‘dangerous’ material by an American LGBT rights group, while Stonewall accused him of ‘making fun of trans people’.
In response, Ricky told The Spectator at the time: ‘My target wasn’t trans folk, but trans activist ideology. I’ve always confronted dogma that oppresses people and limits freedom of expression.’
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