LOS ANGELES — If you thought English comedian Ricky Gervais played it a little bit safe when he hosted the Golden Globe Awards last January — marking the first time the glamorous soiree had had a central emcee since 1995 — Gervais agrees with you.
And although he's not quite ready to populate the show with the boundary-pushing material he favors for his stand-up tours, he is promising to turn up the heat just a touch on the celebrities gathered for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's big night.
Mel Gibson, consider yourself warned.
Question: You joked last year that you had nothing to lose because you weren't worried about being asked back. Were you surprised when you were invited to host the ceremony for the second time?
Answer: Yeah! Two things really, I thought, once I was out there, I could have gone further here (but) I didn't want to go out there (with) some of the jokes I do in my stand-up; it's just the wrong platform for it. There's no victory in shocking a Christian family in Idaho at 5 p.m. on NBC. That's too easy. Likewise, I didn't want to be totally safe and anodyne and boring, so I pushed it a bit. I think I could go a little bit further. Comedy comes from a good or a bad place, and I think with all the things I've said, I think people know that it's done with good intention, it's done with a twinkle in my eye and a smirk. I'm not trying to hurt anyone's feelings, really. It's gentle ribbing. I think I could even push it a little bit further now. The honest answer is I was glad they invited me back because I wanted to do a better job. It's not like me to be humble, is it? Shocking. It's a revelation: Ricky says he wasn't perfect once.
Q: Did you get a lot of good feedback after last year's telecast?
A: I did actually, yeah. More so than anything else. I went straight to New York afterward, and people walking down the street were saying, "Great job." I even got free puddings in restaurants. I try not to worry about that either way, but for something like that, which is quite lighthearted, it's not part of my body of work. It's not going to change my career either way. It's a fun day, and it's not my day; it's the people in the room that are being honored, the people at home who want to laugh. I do feel that I'm a bit of a hired hand. It would be a little bit gauche of me to go up there and try to rock the world and use it as a platform to do anything other than just do a good job, really. I'm much more militant about caring about opinion or reviews when I'm doing something that's wholly mine, if I'm being honest. In that case, I'm almost perverse. I quite like people hating what I do.
Q: Well, that means you've engendered a strong response.
A: It's a strong response, exactly that. I quite like the fact that everything I've done, 10 five-star reviews, 10 one-star reviews, I quite like the fact that some people hate me so much they don't sleep; they make themselves ill.
Q: I can't imagine that's a large number of people.
A: The bigger you get, the more there are, of course. I wouldn't have it any other way. I don't go out of my way to annoy people. I only try and justify it to myself. If you're doing anything that's of any worth, of any merit, that isn't totally watered down, then yeah. ... I've always thought that when someone wins an Oscar, and they say, "This is for all the fans," I'd go, "This is for all the people who hate me. Look! It's not working." The other thing, as well, when someone gets up there and they say to their spouse, they go, "Oh, this is for you; I couldn't have done it without you." I want one person to go up there and say, "Look at this. Now I'm leaving you. You've held me back all my life."
Q: Have you been scanning the nominations for material?
A: I sort of did one-liners of the people I was about to introduce, but I realized I can look around the room and just pick anyone out. I'll just think of the best, most fun targets. I wrote those jokes in about an hour, I think, the day before the thing. It's not rocket science, is it?
Q: Well, maybe not if Mel Gibson turns up again.
A: Exactly. That was a gift from the comedy god. Who's presenting an award? Mel Gibson? Perfect. Actually, I should pick the people I want to present awards, shouldn't I? OK, I want Mel again; I've got an absolute doozy. Charlie Sheen. O.J. Simpson — can he get a day out? Topical. I'm struggling now. I'm really struggling. Pol Pot, Stalin. ... Imagine if they did? Imagine if the Hollywood Foreign Press just went mental and they got in a few dictators, a couple of murderers; it would be amazing! I just realized I've been very blasé, but I just got an adrenaline rush because it's only a few weeks away and I haven't written a thing.