Ricky Gervais truly does not care if he’s offended you. “That’s on you,” he’ll say with his trademark cackle. Same goes for critics. Since the breakout success of The Office and its fatuous, boss-from-hell hero David Brent, Gervais’ work has been all over the critical map — adored, despised, put on a pedestal and torn to shreds. Jokes in his stand-up routine about the disabled have drawn harsh rebukes; so have the barbs he’s thrown at Jennifer Lawrence and Caitlyn Jenner during his four turns as host of the Golden Globes. (Asked if he’d return for a fifth time, he says, “If not next year, then one day, sure.”)
But the actor, writer, producer, director and comedian is fine with all that. “I’m not the person who thinks, ‘Now I’m famous. I shouldn’t say anything,’ ” says Gervais, 54. He is more than happy, he insists, to rile up social media in exchange for the freedom to do as he pleases.
Which is exactly what he gets from Netflix, the home of Gervais’ latest film, Special Correspondents, which dropped April 29. His relationship with the streaming service began several years ago, when Gervais emailed Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos. “Hi,” the note read, “I believe Netflix is the future. I want to do my next show for you.”
In the half-decade or so since, Netflix has taken several, including Correspondents. Written and directed in Gervais’ famously satirical style, the story is about a radio correspondent (Eric Bana) and an audio engineer (Gervais) who fake an Ecuadorean war from an apartment in New York. Many of the early reviews have not been kind, but Gervais has nothing if not the courage of his convictions. Here, he opens fire on the political and media landscape that his film lampoons, including how he helped pave the way for Donald Trump and what can be done about people who refuse to get the joke.
The sharp-tongued Brit made his fortune playing “delusional, middle-aged men” who run their mouths, but this comic acknowledges the GOP frontrunner has surpassed even his bloviating characters: “Comedians tell a joke and they get in trouble; Donald Trump says a terrible thing … and he gets elected.”