What caused real grief at NBC, the network that broadcasts the Globes, and among those of the organisers who leaked that Gervais had "crossed a line" was the presenter's final quip as he exited.
"Thanks for everyone in the room for being good sports, to NBC and the Hollywood foreign press, thank you for watching at home," he said. "And thank you, God, for making me an atheist."
The US has 210 television market areas, or regions. By the Monday morning NBC bosses had had their ears bent by managers from dozens, ranging from the liberal Bangor, in Maine, to the deeply conservative Corpus Christi, in Texas. The problem was Gervais's final flourish, and they questioned why NBC had not "bleeped" it out as it would swearing. ...
Gervais is not the first British comic to run into this invisible wall. Last year Eddie Izzard hosted the Independent Spirit awards for non-studio filmmakers in Los Angeles. He experienced unusual moments of silence and audience disconnection. The next morning, bloggers crowed that his "attacks on organised religion" cost him the audience.
Old hands were not surprised. "Religion in America is far more taboo than sex, drugs or Eddie's cross-dressing," said one sympathetic critic. ...
NBC is now seeking to put the 2011 Globes behind it, although its "standards and practices" lawyers are likely to crush any religious jokes scripted in advance next year. Not that that would stop a runaway Gervais.
Early reports suggest that in 2012 the microphone may be handed to Joel McHale, a half-Italian comedian who mocks teary reality-show contestants and bumbling news announcers on a weekly cable TV show called The Soup. Picking on the hapless is rewarding fun, the smirking comic has found.
More critically, in seven years on The Soup, the host, a Catholic, has never challenged a powerful deity of any stripe.
God, apparently, cannot take a joke in America. - John Harlow
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