Golden Globes Producer on Host Ricky Gervais: ‘I Think He Can Read the Room’

Michael Schneider

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While the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences once again ponders an Oscars telecast without a host, the Golden Globes is returning to one who completely changed the awards-hosting game.

The Globes had gone without a host for most of its history when it chose Ricky Gervais to emcee the 2010 show. He was unpredictable, he poked fun at the celebrities in attendance and he even saved some savage shots for the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. It was a hit, and he was brought back in 2011, 2012, 2016, and now, in 2020.

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“I believe that decision at that time certainly helped change the landscape of award show hosts,” says Barry Adelman, an executive producer on the Golden Globes telecast and executive vice president of television at Dick Clark Prods. “After that, everybody wanted hosts that were more irreverent and more ‘anything can happen.’ And of course, we kept inviting Ricky back when we could. Sometimes he was available, sometimes he wasn’t. This year, we thought, maybe it’s a great time to have Ricky back, and it turned out that he was interested too.”

It was Gervais’ hosting turn that boxed the Oscars into its current hosting conundrum, as the Academy searches for a unicorn: a well-known star who can balance the show’s pomp and circumstance with some edge. Sometimes it’s worked (Jimmy Kimmel) and sometimes it’s been a disaster (James Franco and Anne Hathaway). Last year, Kevin Hart was tapped for the gig but didn’t end up taking the stage after some of his old homophobic tweets resurfaced.

Gervais, of course, has also had his fair share of controversies, particularly after he made jokes about transgender people in his 2018 Netflix special “Humanity.” (A series of tweets on Dec. 20, commenting on author J.K. Rowling, who has also been accused of transphobia, prompted more backlash.) Adelman isn’t worried about Gervais crossing the line on the telecast, however.

“When Ricky hosts, you fasten your seat belt backstage,” he says. “You don’t know where he’s going to go, but I think he can read the room. I think he knows what’s going on in society. And he’s a professional. Wherever he may go, it’s always an adventure for me. But once I give him the keys to the car, I’m willing to let him drive.”

Adelman feels that every awards show has to decide what is right for them regarding a host. For the Golden Globes, the goal is still to create a “party” vibe.

“I think the people who come to it enjoy coming there,” he says. “There’s always nervous tension in an award show because everybody in the audience is nominated. It’s hard to sit and relax, but if there is an event like this where you can relax, it’s certainly the Golden Globes. The people that we have asked to host the Globes feel that way, and that’s why they take the assignment — I think they think it’s going to be a fun night.”

Understanding this vibe is key for both the host and the audience. And Gervais certainly seems to be impervious to the critiques and bashing on social media that scare away other celebrities from hosting.

“He’s got a pretty tough hide,” Adelman says. “And I think that by now, the audience at home and in the room get the joke. Ricky can take a joke, and he can take a critique, too. I think one of the great moments from the last time Ricky hosted is when Mel Gibson, after getting pretty roughed up by Ricky said, ‘You know, I always look forward to Ricky Gervais hosting the show — like a colonoscopy.’”

In the years since Gervais, the Globes managed to continue its string of solid hosts with Amy Poehler and Tina Fey; Jimmy Fallon; Seth Meyers; and last year, the combo of Sandra Oh and Andy Samberg. But Adelman says Gervais “is always at the top of our list for potential hosts. And so, when he’s available, we jump on it.”

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