During his infrequent stints as the Golden Globe jokemeister/commentator, Ricky Gervais skirted the line between delightfully wicked and boorishly cruel. He went with the taboo-ignoring, see-how-far-you-can-go sensibility of a roast. Coarse, obviously, but he was only speaking to the way things are out there and the things we dare not say. And every so often we heard the crack of a slugger’s bat.

The richest jokes are always flecked with brutality. And Gervais kept the energy up — you have to give him that. But I wonder what happened backstage? After the monologue he didn’t hake the mike as often as you might expect. Was that a simple time-clock issue or…?

I think he went as far as he did because of Mike Russell’s lawsuit. We’ve always known about the HFPA’s character, but Russell’s charges were bannered in trade headlines only two or three days ago, and for Gervais, I’m guessing, this required a commensurate response. He probably figured if he didn’t tear down the temple walls his comedian credibility would be sullied. The radical part was Gervais’ decision that once the floodgates were open in terms of HFPA material, he might as well thrown caution to the wind all around.

He was reflecting, I think, the sensibility of 2011 celebrity culture as much as the material used by Oscar emcee Bob Hope in the ’50s and early ’60s reflected the undercurrents and boundaries of that world.

Here’s Caryn Jamesreview on Indiewire:

“The jokes might have been more daring than funny, but the risk felt exhilarating because Gervais wasn’t being outrageous for its own sake. He was targeting the hypocrisy of Hollywood and the inanity and self-importance of awards themselves. The idea of rewarding excellence in film and TV is a crazy, politicized business, which makes these awards shows full of smoke-and-mirrors pretense. It’s as if no one is meant to notice the Wizard behind the curtain, orchestrating the big-money campaigns, and Gervais’ specialty is pulling that curtain back.”