Ricky Gervais has big boots.

The Golden Globes Awards in January of this year were greeted by press headlines about how the host, Ricky Gervais, had torn into the celebrities. He always does, so why the headlines? Or rather he always did, because he made the point several times in his opening speech that this was the last time.

Unless there’s a very good reason of topicality I tend not to be led by headlines, preferring to allow the dust to settle before I comment. Seven months is enough.

Up to 7:50 is Gervais’ opening speech, and the rest is a series of chained-together snippets from between awards.

The “Roast” is a very American custom, with usually a single guest/target. I have watched very many, but seldom, (if ever) covered them in the blog. They are usually very good, very funny, but so steeped in in-jokes that there’s nothing for me to say. This is different. Gervais is roasting a large room full of over-paid performing fleas, and holding little back. Any viewer who watches movies understands the jokes, as does anyone who is abreast of the news.

Consider his available ammunition: the reputation that Hollywood – indeed California – has for being absurdly over-woke and addicted to virtue signalling, the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the Jeffrey Epstein scandal, the private-jetting around the world to preach about the environment, the list is endless. Gervais overlooks nothing.

‘Cancel culture’ has too many tiptoeing around the truth. The problem with tiptoeing is that you are easily knocked over. Gervais has big boots on, is unapologetic, and doesn’t care – even says so repeatedly.

He also understands something else that is particularly crucial. Actors as a general rule are not very bright. There are a few honourable exceptions, but they tend to be the ones that restrict their activities to the arts pages and keep their own counsel over other matters. They allow their professional performances to do their speaking for them. They tend to rise above, and stay away from, gatherings like this. Actors tend also to be desperately insecure, needing to be oft seen and photographed lest they be forgotten. So they clamour to be allowed to come here and be insulted.

Gervais is pretty skilled and holds his audience where he wants it, but he’s not infallible. I advise my trainees never to pause on a punchline, and he almost never does. Watch at 4:20, where he has a little routine ending at 4:27. He pauses at the end of it, and dies just a little. Compare that to 7:10 –

Most of you spent less time at school than Greta Thunberg

He piles straight on, and is rewarded with a nice little laugh which he ignores and goes for the big one which is bleeped, but we already know what’s coming. So does the audience which goes wild.

Are we sure that was really the last time? How much are they going to offer him to insult them again?

Titania McGrath – Queen of Woke

Comedy Unleashed very seldom hosts serious talks. In November it hosted a lecture from best-selling author, social media activist (her Twitter following is nearly half-a-million), and Queen of Woke, Titania McGrath. Among other things she was promoting her latest book, Woke.

Comedy Unleashed is run by Andrew Doyle, who also has a hand in Titania McGrath.

An opening pause is a well-tested device for conveying confidence and settling an audience. The Lord Hague of Richmond often does it, though I don’t think I’ve known his last more than twenty seconds or conclude with a sigh.

However, gestures (see 0:47) involving a hand on the back of the head is a nerve symptom. Psychologists tell us that it signifies stress or tiredness and that it is hard-wired into us. Even new-born babies do it. McGrath habitually flicks her hair with this gesture, suggesting to me that her hands are used to fiddling with the back of the head.

At 4:30 she moves stage right, and into darkness. My immediate reaction is to castigate her for such a basic error, but it quickly turns out that the stage management has failed to cue a lighting change to accommodate this move unmasking the centre-stage screen. Though the lights do eventually change she liberates an ill-mannered comment on the subject, and the lighting engineer takes revenge by pulling his fader back down. Lighting engineers enjoy pulling their faders up and down.

Now that the screen is unmasked we see a series of very moving slides. I found it deeply moving.

Andrew Doyle and Woke

At The National Liberal Club in London, on 13 October 2019, Sovereign Nations held a conference entitled Speaking Truth to Social Justice. One speaker was Andrew Doyle.

I was keen to watch this speech because few have done more to satirise the wearisome Woke movement than Doyle (except, arguably, the Woke movement itself). Among other things, and I’m going out of my way to highlight this because in his speech he doesn’t do so, he co-founded and runs Comedy Unleashed, where comedians may perform without having to conform to the bigotry of Woke restrictions. This means free speech and, in a civilised society, should be the norm. The Woke establishment (and be sure that the Establishment is Woke) hates it and labels it ‘Far Right’, which is Wokese for the holding of non-Woke opinions.

I cannot believe that he’s reading a script! What has possessed him? He’s hacking great chunks out of the impact of what he is saying by regurgitating something he wrote earlier. It’s not all the time: sometimes his eyes mercifully lift from that wretched paper and he addresses the audience in spontaneous terms. Then the eyes go back down and the speech immediately deflates to an appalling degree. If you don’t believe me, close your eyes and listen. It’s certain that you will know when he is looking at the audience and when at the paper. This is exacerbated by the script being in written-, as distinct from spoken-, English; but he shouldn’t have the bloody script in the first place.

I know for an absolute cast-iron certainty that he doesn’t need it. This is not just because I’ve proved it to countless trainees over the decades, but because I have actual evidence from the man himself. Watch this and see if there’s a script.

What he is doing there is monumentally difficult. It looks easy when it’s done that well, but it is without question the most skilful form of public speaking. He’s fallen into the trap of thinking that Public Speaking is in some way different – a formalised medium. It isn’t. It’s just structured talking, and he has shown he can do that phenomenally well.

The speech is brilliant and could and should have been brilliantly delivered. Because it’s personal no one on this planet could deliver it better than he if he did but dare bin the paper. It’s punchy, funny, clever, everything you want it to be. And it’s important.

One tiny caveat concerning paperless speaking. He often quotes people by reading what they said or wrote. On those occasions he is right to do so, because by being seen to read a quote you transmit a subliminal signal that you are not paraphrasing, but quoting faithfully.