Jul 12, 2020
Ricky Gervais has made a personal brand out of being unabashedly indifferent to cancel culture, from his foul-mouthed stints as the host of the Golden Globes to his controversial Twitter rants. In keeping with that ethos, Gervais recently looked back on his two-season BBC sitcom The Office, which inspired the massive hit NBC series after airing from 2001 through 2003, in an interview with Times of London Radio to discuss how outrage mentality would’ve affected the program.
“I think now it would suffer because people take things literally,” he said of the mockumentary sitcom. “There’s these outrage mobs who take things out of context. This was a show about everything. It was about difference, it was about sex, race, all the things that people fear to even be discussed or talked about now in case they say the wrong thing and they’re ‘canceled,’” Gervais said.
He added, “And the BBC have gotten more and more careful and people just want to keep their jobs. So people would worry about some of the subjects and some of the jokes, even though they were clearly ironic and we were laughing at this buffoon being uncomfortable around difference.”
Gervais also discussed how he believes that audiences are too quick to cancel a show like The Office, and that perhaps content has become too safe. “I think if [‘The Office’] was put out now, I think that some people have lost that sense of irony and context. And so, I think it would be — usually, this is what happens, right? It isn’t a case of what’s right or what’s wrong, it’s a case of how many letters do we have to write? I’ve talked people down off the ledge before,” Gervais said. “Throughout my career I’ve said, ‘Listen, I’ll write the letter.’ I’ve explained it to people and gone, ‘No, no, it’s OK, ’cause this…’ and they go, ‘Oh, OK.’ Sometimes they’re just scared, and they’re even more scared now because people don’t take an explanation for an answer, they just say, ‘Well, I don’t want to see it, so let’s ban it.’”
However, Gervais did iterate that he feels the concept of free speech has been taken out of context. “Some people think freedom of speech means, I should be able to say anything without consequences, and it doesn’t mean that.”
As to whether or not he is “cancel-proof,” Gervais said, “I’m not cancel-proof, I just don’t care. I’m cancel-proof in the sense that I’ve got enough money. If they started taking things back, then I’d worry.”