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Ricky Gervais responds to petition calling him to remove joke about terminally ill children from Netflix special

Ricky Gervais responds to petition calling him to remove joke about terminally ill children from Netflix special

The comedian has come under fire for a controversial joke in his Armageddon comedy special, which arrives on Netflix on Christmas Day.

Ricky Gervais has broken his silence on a petition that has been launched calling for Netflix to remove a controversial joke from his upcoming comedy special.

The funnyman, 62, has been steadily promoting his new show Armageddon which drops on the streaming platform on Christmas Day, but people were left less than impressed after watching one of the previews.

In one skit, The Office star jokes about being busy making videos for terminally ill children as part of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, saying that he only makes the clips if kids ask for them - rather than "bursting into hospitals and going 'wake up baldy'."

Gervais said he always starts the videos to sick youngsters by saying: "Why didn't you wish to get better?"

He then clarified that he was definitely joking and that he didn't use the same language in his jokes as he would in real life, but a lot of people didn't see the funny side of the sensitive content in his routine.

The comedian went on to perform a conversation where he played himself and a critic of his language, comparing people who were angered by his wisecracks to those who would presume Sir Anthony Hopkins is a cannibal because he played one in Silence of the Lambs.

Gervais has warned potential viewers he discusses 'sex, death, paedophilia, race, religion, disability, free speech, global warming, the holocaust, and Elton John' in Armageddon - and if they 'don't approve of jokes about any of these things, then please don't watch.'

Thousands of people have signed a petition demanding Netflix remove Ricky Gervais' upcoming skit.
Vera Anderson/WireImage

"You wont enjoy it and you’ll get upset," the Derek star wrote in a post on X (formerly Twitter).

The sneak peek of the one-hour stand up special has already managed to outrage thousands of people though, prompting one parent whose child had cancer to launch a petition to get the skit removed.

It slammed Gervais for being 'not only distasteful but also heartless' while criticising the 'derogatory language' he used and asked 'how a writer or anyone at Netflix could green light such appalling content'.

Ashley Cain, who sadly lost his daughter Azaylia to cancer in 2021, said he'd previously been a fan of Gervais but 'making a mockery of dying children' had caused him to get 'so mad at this'.

The comedian has now responded to claims of 'ableism' and the petition targeting his Armageddon routine, saying that he would even 'retweet' the appeal to Netflix.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Lives’ Nihal Arthanayake, he said: "In the actual skit, I say ‘I’ve been doing a lot of video messages lately for terminally ill children. Only if they request it. I don’t burst into hospitals and say, ‘wake up baldy’.”

"I’m literally saying in the joke that I don’t do that. But people have a reaction. They don’t analyse it. They feel something – that’s what offence is. It’s a feeling. That’s why ‘I’m offended’ is quite meaningless. What do you want me to change?"

The comedian has hit back at critics of his Armageddon routine.
Ray Burmiston

The host then asked if Gervais had seen the specific wording of the petition, to which he replied: "Good luck. That’s what I say to them. Good luck. I’ll even retweet it."

He then said he believes 'ninety-nine percent of it [the backlash] is faux offence'.

"They’re not really offended. They just want to be heard," Gervais said. "I’ll explain ‘no, you’ve mistaken the subject of the joke with the actual target’. Of all the millions of people that watched it and loved it, only a few don't like it.

"If I give them special attention and try and placate them, I've annoyed the other millions of people that got the joke. They go 'no, you've ruined it for us!'

"So, I've got a duty to the people that like it and get it. I wouldn't sit down with a heckler, would I? If I'm playing to twenty thousand people, I wouldn't stop the show and explain to them. I ignore them."

Gervais added that he was 'often playing a character' when using irony and satire in his comedy sketches.

"But some people get confused and think that a joke is a window to the comedian's true soul," he said. "It's just not true. It's a joke. No one does this with puns, do they? Two blokes didn't really walk into a pub."

Featured Image Credit: Netflix

Topics: Ricky Gervais, Netflix, Celebrity, TV and Film, Health