If the Golden Globes people checked out Ricky Gervais last night at Carnegie Hall to see what to expect out of him as their host…well…buckle your televisions! Can you buckle a television? I don't know. Here's what I do know.
In the past year, Ricky Gervais has praised Louis CK as the best stand-up comedian currently working. Last night, we certainly saw how CK has influenced Gervais, as the British star got more than a little bit "off-color" in his first performance at Carnegie Hall. That despite an encore musical duet with Elmo! How could this be? Let me tell you how this be.
This is a fan's photo of Gervais in tuxedo singing "New York, New York" with Elmo. I saw many fans pulling out their phones and cameras at the end to capture this. But did they fully comprehend what came before that? Instant flashback!
I arrived midway through the proceedings (having the Comedy Central Presents tapings a few blocks away is convenient, except totally not — Sophie's Choice of comedy, people!), and saw Gervais delivering a deconstruction of an illustrated book for kids about Noah and the Ark, complete with picture pages from the book on the big screen behind him onstage. Considering I had just seen the comedy world celebrate Bill Cosby the other night and reminisce about his classic "Noah and the Ark" routine, I cannot say that I L'd to the OL'd. But plenty of those in attendance laughed along, and Gervais certainly was witty enough responding to the book's text and pictures.
He also presented his view on mermaids — "If I was going to have a girl/fish combo, that's the way I'd have it." Of course, he added, his conversational nemesis Karl Pilkington had other ideas.
Gervais then went "off-color," as he acknowledged, after talking about famous quotes by Oscar Wilde — riffing off of one quote into a routine about customs, and then, on countering the logic of gay marriage, explaining how it's illegal for gays to marry but perfectly fine for a man to perform handjobs on groups of men. As Gervais then demonstrated with an act-out. "I never thought one day I'd be doing that here," Gervais confessed to the crowd. "How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Well, you jack off 15 blokes!" He followed that up by taking a closer look at another illustrated book, this one by a guy who claims that the animal kingdom also has specific homosexual communities, with slides on the big screen depicting sex between squirrel monkeys, dolphins and lesbian marmots?!
"I hope I haven't offended anyone," he said afterward from the stage. "But I don't apologize."
Gervais clarified that he'd never tell an off-color joke about children to pedophiles. His philosophy on stand-up comedy: "There's a social contract between the two parties that neither of us are really like that."
Of course, this all made his quick costume change into black-tie for the duet with Elmo all the more jarring. Elmo's Muppet master couldn't stop giggling behind the grand piano — which as Gervais acknowledged, served only one very specific purpose. And that wasn't as a piano. "They spent thousands for this piano, and it's just to hide something!" he said. He asked Elmo: "Do you want to sing a song anyhow, Elmo?" "Is it PG?" "Yes, it's PG." It was "New York, New York."
Related: Ricky Gervais appears with Elmo this month on Sesame Street to celebrate the show's 40th anniversary. Roll that!