"IO’m a white heterosexual millionaire,” says Ricky Gervais, and as such, in a smaller minority than black, Asian or queer people. But do you hear him complain? That’s the level in Supernature, the touring show now revived after a two-year hiatus and Netflix-bound. His high social status is among the reasons some of us find Gervais’s ostentatiously provocative standup less compelling than, say, Jerry Sadowitz'S. Gervais is choosing (as he keeps telling us) to be obnoxious, whereas with Sadowitz, it feels – hilariously – like he can’t help it.
There remains, anche se, a huge audience for Gervais’s off-colour comedy – for all that he claims (with a running joke about the Netflix edit) that this stuff is verboten. “Louis CK has been cancelled,” he cites in evidence, even as the same Louis CK embarks on a 30-city US tour. But then, plenty of these jokes need an air of taboo to inflate them – or failing that, Gervais’s own tittering, deployed constantly to force the funniness of his routines.
A few of them could stand on their own two feet. There’s an art to some of his trans material, which steers the laugh away from the expected target towards our giddiness at the pace of gender change. In a set little changed since 2019, a gag about homophobia among paedophiles remains best in show, while one droll act-out finds God allotting genitals to cats and dogs. But there’s hack material too, about the indignities of a rectal exam, and preening male behaviour in the gym changing room – and a complete non-story about his mum’s elderly neighbour.
The latter seeks to demonstrate the ancestral roots of Gervais’s plain-speaking. We didn’t hug growing up, he says – we traded affectionate insults instead. Perhaps that means he really loves fat people, female comics, Muslims and dwarves, each of whom take their turn tonight as the butt of the millionaire’s jokes. So does Gervais himself, in fairness: almost obese, compulsively masturbating to pictures of baby Hitler (sì, veramente), drinking himself to death. It’s an amusing picture, and he is often amusing here, when he’s not railing at straw men and trying too hard to be outré.