Demystying the Celebrity: The Benefits of Humility and a Sense of Humor

Good Lord! Who knew that Ricky Gervais would be generating controversy, when he hosted Sunday night’s Golden Globes, because he basically, you know, TOLD THE TRUTH in the most biting, catty, satirical way that only the Brits know how to deliver.  I personally was ROTFLMAO over many of his jokes, they were so bold. I mean, really, you got to give it to anyone who would tell Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie – to their faces no less! – that their movie, The Tourist, sucked.

Or how about introducing Robert Downey, Jr. by referring to his many stints at the Betty Ford Clinic and the Los Angeles jails. Ouch! Just… yowza!

Of course, I’m from a community where we regularly “play the dozens,” and the appropriate response to such cheeky humor is to give as good you get.  So, instead of Downey getting all huffy and complaining about the “mean-spirited” nature of the event, he should have had a witty response: “Gee, Ricky.  Was that you in the adjoining cell across from me?”

But such a response requires having a dose of humlity and a sense of humor. Something David clearly has for himself and one that, while I used to think was a hindrance to his sense of celebrity, I now see as instrumental to his sense of artistry.

In short, some semblance of self-deprecation and a sense of humor was in order at the Globes.  That’s why I prefer comic actors to the serious ones myself.  Like during the Oscars when Chris Rock hosted, and Sean Penn got all huffy and “offended” because Chris Rock made fun of Jude Law (a British actor who I personally think would have been laughing his cute little ass off too, were he present at the awards show), Chris had a snarky comeback to Sean Penn’s “serious actor” comments.  If Chris Rock had been bold like Ricky Gervais was at the Globes Sunday night, he might have retorted with: “Ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to say with all graciousness and humility that Sean Penn is one of the greatest actors of our generation.  Giving us such brilliant classics as Shanghai Surprise and Fast Times at Ridgmont High” [insert the best imitation of Sean Penn’s “stoner surfer dude” character].

But Chris Rock, unlike Ricky Gervais, needs to keep working in Hollywood, so I understand the comedian’s restraint.

Only the real comedians at the Globes – Steve Carrell, Tim Allen, and Tom Hanks (who started his career as a comic actor) – matched Ricky’s wit in kind, while the more self-aware actors, like Robert DeNiro, were crying from laughing so hard.  The rest of the crowd simply looked … terrified! And all I have to say to that is (in my best Joker imitation): “Why so seeeerious?”

As the EW commenters remind us in response to the Gervais controversy: “Remember, folks, celebrities are not your superiors.”

And this right there is the issue, isn’t it? Except this message needs to be delivered more to the celebrities themselves rather than to us mere mortals, who have witnessed enough of the celerities’ flaws – magnified by TMZ and other tabloids and gossip sites – to know this basic fact.  We should all remember that we “worship” at the altar of celebrity, not because we love the actual person (for whom we  mostly know nothing about except for the public image offered to us by media and publicists) but because we love the mad, mad talent they present to us (whether it’s The Voice of a David Archuleta or the dance moves of MJ or the mad guitar skills of Jimi Hendrix or Slash, or the deep songwriting skills of a musician who truly moves us or the great comic timing of a comedian, or the great climactic moment of the dramatic actor who told our most intimate stories on the big screen).  That’s what we worship! Everything else is surface.

To believe we worship the actual person is to be deluded (as a fan) and self-deluded (as a celebrity).

As I said before, this silly brouahaha over a British satirist holding up the mirror to self-congratulatory celebrities is just … silly.  And they sound like they need a dose of David’s humility and sense of humor to balance the craziness of celebrity worship. 

But then again, maybe that’s the problem: too many of today’s celebrities innately know that they don’t have the talent to back up the hype when someone smashes the illusions of their false celebrity personas.  It’s hard to laugh at yourself when that self has no real foundation of true artistry to fall back on, isn’t it?

All I know is: David, unlike the Bieber, would have found it terribly funny when someone inferred that he may not have been born when the first Toy Story was made. He might even have retorted with: “Actually, I was five years old!” 

There are benefits to having a sense of humility and, above all, a sense of humor.

Posted on January 18, 2011, in public image. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. But then again, maybe that’s the problem: too many of today’s celebrities innately know that they don’t have the talent to back up the hype when someone smashes the illusions of their false celebrity personas. It’s hard to laugh at yourself when that self has no real foundation of true artistry to fall back on, isn’t it?

    Amen to that. Beautifully put, IMO.

    I didn’t watch the Golden Globes, but judging from this recent interview with Conan, Ricky Gervais has a friendly sense of humor (his humor has a friendly undertone, that is).

  2. The of the things I enjoy best in David is his sense of humor. At a VIP I asked David if he would take a photo of he and I shaking hands and facing each other. Everyone else just stool beside him. David laughed and said that he didn’t like his profile. I told him that I liked his profile David began teasing me and purposely did every pose except the profile one. He would say, “Like this?” and I would say, “No”. All the while still shaking my hand. We laughed a lot during that moment. The photographer snaped the camers just as he was facing me even though he was laughing.
    David can laugh at himself and does it frequently during interviews. On stage if he flubbs up he gets a little embarassed but then just laughs it off. I takes humility and David is a fine example of that.
    I didn’t watch the Golden Globe awards program but I watched the news where Robert Downing Jr. was introduced as a drug addict and a criminal. I didn’t think that it was in good taste to introduce someone by putting them down and reflect on their worse mistakes and then treat it lightly by joking about it. It wasn’t a celebrity roast. Robert Downing Jr is a brilliant actor ( the movie about Charlie Chaplin for example) and that why he was on the show. Not because he has had major setbacks in his life. But yes, I think that Robert Downing Jr. could have come back with something funny. Maybe he didn’t have time to think of something. IDK

    • Love that story about David. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

      Once again, he proves my point about not taking oneself too seriously.

    • David’s profile should be on a coin. It. Is. Flawless. For god’s sake, what is wrong with that boy’s eyesight?!?

  3. Good taste or bad taste, the point I wanted to make is that, sometimes you roll with the punches. And when one doesn’t take oneself too seriously, you can.

    Yes, the Betty Clinic/LA jail joke was below the belt, but it did call for a witty comeback. Not complaints behind-the-scenes to higher ups. JMHO.

    Seriously, Downey’s struggles in and out of rehab and jail is common knowledge, not some dirty secret – great actor or not.

  4. I watched Ricky Gervais’ opening monologue and some of his introductions on youtube and laughed my sitting muscles off. I’ve watched his stand-up shows many times and find him absolutely brilliant. He also makes a mockery of himself, not just others.

    Though I like Robert Downey jr as an actor, I find it odd that people get so upset when one points out the mistakes he has made. It’s like that one negative comment completely overshadows the great work he has done, when his success should be like a crutch to him – it should speak for itself and thus make the mocking comments seem childish and powerless. Have a little self-confidence Rob!

    As for David… well, that dude has proven millions of times he can laugh at himself (though he seldom laughs at others). I remember this interview, where the host played a tape full of rude comments about David TO DAVID. It had no effect on David. He just smiled and said “I DO sound like Kermit!”. Rude radio DJ’s are constantly amazed by David’s attitude. They can’t make him mad, they can’t get any gossip from him or stir up drama when he’s concerned. In the end they just surrender and applaudd (or make themselves look idiotic by bashing David).

    And that’s all I have to say about that. (Geez, how long IS this?!?)

    • Really? They played a tape of rude comments to him? How insulting! Glad David could take the high road, I think I would have smacked him.

      “In the end they just surrender and applaudd (or make themselves look idiotic by bashing David).”

      That really is the best way to look at it.

  5. I totally agree, HG. So many celebrities take themselves way too seriously. That’s why I can’t stomach these awards shows–I watched Gervais on youtube instead. I laughed at most of his jokes, and they would have been totally appropriate for, say, Conan.

    However, he was playing to the TV audience and not the audience in the room, which shows a lack of professionalism. I find that rude, as the host, he had the responsibility to help all the guests feel comfortable, which he did not do. That said, his targets could have been magnanimous and laughed it off, but they didn’t. Their lack of a sense of humor was actually a little amusing.

    I particularly didn’t appreciate his remarks about Downey. I don’t follow his career much, so I may be wrong, but didn’t all those problems happen a long time ago? That would be so irritating to have put those things behind you and you’ve gone on to do so much only to have that stuff dragged out once again.

    Anyway, that’s my 2 cents. Altho it looks more like 20 cents.

  6. I thought Ricky was so funny on the Globes. I really enjoyed him. Some of those celebrities take themselves way to seriously. David can laugh at himself.

  7. I didn’t catch the show but I just finished viewing some of the clips. I found Ricky to be hilarious and I agree that his humor does have a friendly undertone. There are comedians who probably would have been much harsher (e.g., Chelsea Handler).

    David can be very funny at times. Remember the blog about getting locked out of his home while trying to mail a letter in his pajamas? And one of my favs, the surprise kick he gave Cook during the AI tour:

  8. someone tweeted this:

    “Cage the Elephant (Jive) debuted at #2 on the album chart this week with a whopping total of 38K. The #1 album (also debut) only sold 42K.”

    Albums are debuting with 1/10 the sales of what they were 5-6 yrs ago. I don’t think all the record labels will be able to survive this.

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