Hollywood braced for another dose of Golden Gervais

Love him, or hate him as many A-listers do, the Globes host is back tonight to bait the stars

Spare a thought for the great and the good of Hollywood. It may be the dead of night in LA as you read this, but the film industry's elite are not easy abed. For this evening, at the Golden Globe awards, George Clooney (Best Actor, The Descendants), Kate Winslet (Best Comedy Actress, Carnage) and many others will face their nemesis: a giggling former London University assistant events manager.

Since first hosting the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's ceremony in 2010, Ricky Gervais has single-handedly turned a second-rate gong-fest into a second-rate gong-fest with very unhappy A-list guests.

He limbered up two years ago: "A glimpse of a Hollywood star... makes you feel better. You can be a little Asian child, with no possessions – but you see a picture of Angelina Jolie and you think 'Mummy!'"

Aside from the jibes, nominees are also showing signs of red-carpet fatigue. Frazzled film types will be trotted out for at least 32 award ceremonies around the world between now and the Oscars in six weeks. So tempers may be hard to control if, as last year, Gervais has a go at the stars.

He teased Bruce Willis, calling him Ashton Kutcher's dad; sent up Hugh Hefner and his latest bride; had a pop at a famous Scientologist; and Jolie, smiling wanly in the audience, got it in the neck again. All of which left Robert Downey Jr muttering that the night had been "hugely mean-spirited with sinister undertones".

And yet, despite his employers' feigned misgivings, Gervais is back. The gig epitomises all that makes his career compelling: a love-hate relationship with celebrity, an unwavering self-conviction and a wit as cruel as it is unembarrassable. The question is, where will the graph go after tomorrow's headlines?