Cultural Commentary - By clive on Sunday, May 27, 2012 9:47 - 0 Comments - Post a Comment - Report Abuse
Dear Ricky Gervais:
Your response to my first “open letter” to you was recently published in the UK media, and I was glad to see you take the time to respond to me. I know you are a good man, and I know you value your career in show business, and you are good at it, too. But in your letter to me, titled “Why it’s kosher to joke about Anne Frank,” I feel you miss the point and that there is still a disconnect going on in your mind. Maybe the disconnect is with me? It’s possible. But let’s wait and see, since the jury is still out on this one. Maybe all this can be a learning experience for everyone involved, on both sides of the Atlantic.
Ricky, let’s be honest. You wrote: “I have had that [Anne Frank joke] routine for nearly 10 years now. It is about the misunderstanding and ignorance of what is clearly a tragic and horrific situation. My comic persona is that of a man who speaks with great arrogance and authority but who along the way reveals his immense stupidity.”
But Ricky, you know and I know, and every comedian worth his salt knows, as does every newspaper drama and TV critic, that your Anne Frank schtick is a scripted, rehearsed, staged “joke” that your stage persona tries to pass off as comedy, taking Karl Pilkington in with you, too, as part of the game. You know as well as I do, Ricky, that Karl is not stupid or dumb and he knows full well the real history of the Holocaust and the real backstory of the Anne Frank family. So the “they just wanted to avoid paying rent” joke does not work sir. Unless your intent is to encourage antisemitism and Jew-hatred, which I am sure is not your intent.
I am sure some of your best friends are Jews in Britain, and in the USA, too. Jon Stewart, your good friend in New York, is Jewish. So I am sure you have no animosity towards Jews and that your staged and scripted Anne Frank jokes routine, which you recently repeated on Jon’s TV show in New York, much to his uneasiness when you fobbed off the “rent” joke as part of your sidekick Karl’s stupidity.
Ricky, face facts, mate. Stop pretending. Grow up, sir.
Ricky, you are not stupid and you are not ignorant of history, and I appreciate your response to me in the UK media.
“I can see if you took this routine at face value as my real opinion on this profound and heroic tragedy, it could be deemed highly offensive,” you sincerely wrote — or your savvy PR person wrote for you. “However, this is obviously an absurd comic position with the audience well in on the joke, fully aware that I am saying the exact opposite of what every right-minded person thinks.”
Ricky, you must be careful when you joke about the Holocaust. Go to google and see how many people who still hate Jews and feel the Holocaust didn’t go far enough lap up your Anne Frank jokes as more ammunition to use against Jewish people today! Wake up, mate!
Ricky, a friend of mine in New York, Rudy Shur, a veteran book publisher and the son of Holocaust survivors, read your letter to me and said: “Ricky misses the point. Perhaps he wouldn’t think it’s so funny if it were his parents being pursued by the Nazis or having almost all of his family shot and killed or dying in concentration camps — such as my own mother’s family and my father’s family. I was born in 1946 in an American-run Displaced Person’s Camp outside of Munich, Germany. I grew up never quite seeing the humorous side of the Nazis. In terms of comedy, I myself often get accused of finding comedy in places where no comedy is to be found. And I feel you can make a joke about anything. It just depends on what the joke is. Comedy comes from a good or a bad place, and the problem is in its interpretation, with some people confusing the subject of a joke with the joke’s real target. The target of these Ricky Gervais ‘rent’ jokes and ‘typewriting in the attic’ jokes about Anne Frank is Mr. Gervais’ ignorance.”
Rudy goes on to say: “The fact is that stupidity in some cases is an excuse for insensitive or lame jokes, however not in this case of the Ann Frank jokes told me Gervais and Pilkington. Why not crack a joke about African-Americans being hung from trees in the American South or gay teenagers being murdered in Britain or America or of children in India dying of AIDS. Maybe Mr Gervais’ stupidity knows no bounds? That’s why they pay him the big bucks, right? Or maybe an apology might be in order to the millions of relatives whose families wound up being slaughtered by the ‘stupid’ Nazis?
Danielle Berrin, writing on this topic in a newspaper in Los Angeles the other day, commented also on how uncomfortable Jon Stewart was with your Anne Frank routine.
“What I think Stewart detected in Gervais’s comedy was blatant dispassion towards the Holocaust, a cool, impassive detachment,” Berrin wrote. “This does not, by any means, mean Gervais would have been a Nazi, but it does make you wonder if he might have been a bystander.
“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those, who in times of moral crisis, do nothing,” the Italian poet Dante Alighieri once wrote, Berrin reminds us. “Ignorance leads to indifference which permits moral atrocity to go on unchallenged.”
So Ricky, mate, I feel you still don’t get it. One more time, sir, please think about this, off in a corner, without your public relations crew around to keep you calm and collected. Ponder all this one more time, and read what my friend Rudy said above.
You don’t owe me an apology at all, since we hardly know each other. You might, however, offer an apology to Anne Frank and her family. And at the same time, Ricky, you might also offer an apology to Jon Stewart in New York, not just in writing but maybe face to face, mano a mano, on his Daily Show stage in Manhattan for all the world to see. How about it?
Then we can call it a day.
Danny BloomTags: anne frank, antisemitic, Cultural Commentary, david mitchell, joan rivers, karl pilington, ricky gervais
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