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Saturday, July 20, 2024

Comedian faces backlash for controversial jokes about terminally ill children

Renowned comedian Ricky Gervais is once again at the center of controversy ahead of the release of his new Netflix special, "Armageddon."

Renowned comedian Ricky Gervais is once again at the center of controversy ahead of the release of his new Netflix special, “Armageddon.” In a teaser clip, Gervais made jokes about terminally ill children, using insensitive language and sparking outrage from viewers. The backlash has led to a Change.org petition demanding Netflix remove the controversial content, with over 12,000 signatures as of now.

Controversial Joke

In the teaser clip, Gervais humorously referred to terminally ill children as “baldy” and used the R-slur, immediately following up with a disclaimer that these are just jokes and part of his comedic persona. The controversial nature of the content has ignited a heated debate about the boundaries of humor and the responsibility of comedians when addressing sensitive topics.

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Gervais Responds

In an interview with Nihal Arthanayake on BBC Radio 5 Live’s “Headliners” podcast, Gervais defended his material, calling the outrage “faux” and likening petitioners to “hecklers.” He asserted that critics haven’t even heard the entire joke and emphasized that he was playing a role on stage. Gervais dismissed the online petition as irrelevant to his comedic process, stating that he thrives on being ignored and refusing to let it affect his performance.

Change.org Petition

Organized by Anna Villa, a parent whose child battled cancer, the petition argues that Gervais’ jokes are not only disrespectful but deeply hurtful. Villa contends that the jokes mock the courage and resilience of terminally ill children, branding them as heartless and a slap in the face to both the young fighters and their families. The petition demands the immediate removal of the offensive skit from Netflix, asserting that comedy should never come at the expense of someone else’s pain.

Gervais’ Content Warning

In anticipation of the controversy surrounding his new special, Gervais took to Twitter to issue a content warning. He listed various sensitive topics covered in the show, including sex, death, paedophilia, race, religion, disability, free speech, global warming, the Holocaust, and Elton John. Gervais advised those who disapprove of jokes about these subjects to refrain from watching, emphasizing that the show may not be enjoyable for everyone.

Previous Backlash and Netflix’s Response

This isn’t the first time Gervais has faced criticism for his Netflix specials. “SuperNature” drew ire for jokes mocking trans people, leading to accusations of “anti-trans rants masquerading as jokes.” Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos defended both Gervais and Dave Chappelle, who faced similar backlash for transphobic content in “The Closer,” stating that comedians occasionally “cross the line.”

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As the release of Ricky Gervais’ “Armageddon” approaches, the comedian remains steadfast in his commitment to pushing boundaries and challenging societal norms through comedy. The controversy surrounding his jokes about terminally ill children raises important questions about the role of comedians in addressing sensitive subjects and the fine line between humor and offensiveness. While Gervais stands by his material, the ongoing debate highlights the need for a nuanced conversation about the responsibilities and limits of comedy in today’s diverse and interconnected world.