Ricky Gervais addresses ‘lovely man’ Liam Neeson’s racism controversy during Netflix special SuperNature

‘Some people can’t separate the art form with the artist’s personal life,’ comic said

Isobel Lewis
Wednesday 25 May 2022 12:31
Ricky Gervais says ‘smart people’ can deal with irony

Ricky Gervais has spoken about his friend Liam Neeson’s racism controversy in his new stand-up special.

In 2019, Neeson infamously told The Independent about how, after his friend was raped, he went out with a cosh looking to “kill” a “Black b******”.

The admission created a major scandal and led to the cancellation of Neeson’s New York film premiere for Cold Pursuit.

After the story broke, Neeson apologised, while denying he was racist. Earlier this month, he cameoed in an episode of Donald Glover’s Atlanta, in which he unpacked the scandal and issued another apology.

Gervais’s new special SuperNature (which he toured in 2019) has since been released on Netflix. In it, the comedian discusses the interview and how Neeson “nearly got cancelled” for his comments.

“Now, I don’t know why he told this story, but he did, at a press junket, to a journalist,” Gervais said, before recalling Neeson’s anecdote.

“[He said], ‘So I got my cosh and I went out looking for the first Black guy.’ He said, ‘Nothing happened, I came to my senses.’ But the weird thing about that story is... who has a cosh?”

Gervais discussed the controversy in his new special

Gervais said that it was “touch and go” whether Neeson would be “cancelled” for his comments, explaining: “They cancelled the premiere that night because of the backlash, people wanted the film to be deleted. And I get it – some people can’t separate the art form with the artist’s personal life.

“Now, I know Liam, I’ve worked with him, he’s a lovely man. He’s definitely not racist, but when that broke, even I was like, ‘Will I ever be able to find Schindler’s List funny again?’”

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Gervais was referring to the Oscar-winning 1993 historical drama, in which Neeson starred as Oskar Schindler – a member of the Nazi party credited with saving the lives of 1,200 Jews by employing them at his factories in occupied Poland.

Gervais’s latest special has been met with backlash due to a series of jokes about transgender people.

LGBTQ+ advocacy organisation GLAAD called Gervais’s remarks “dangerous, anti-trans rants masquerading as jokes”.

However, the comic defended his “taboo material” in a new TV interview, saying: “Most offence comes from when people mistake the subject of a joke with the actual target. So it starts, they go, ‘What’s he gonna say?’ I tell the joke. Phew. They laugh.

“These are just jokes. They don’t mean anything. They’re just for you to laugh for an hour or so.”

You can read The Independent’s two-star review of SuperNature here.

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