I adore indulging myself in dark comedy as I do with dark chocolate ice cream; it is one of my guilty pleasures, and it’s always a delight to experience. Some of my favorite dark comedies span from films like ‘Knives Out’ to shows that are similar to ‘Barry’. But, overall, using the technique of comedy in any type of media does utterly capture my heart in some sense. However, with this said, as much as I appreciate any form of comedy, there are some instances where I will admit that it can feel as though that sense of comedy has been a tad overused, or the dark comedy has been possibly taken a bit too far.
Sadly, an example of such does pertain to Ricky Gervais’ recent Netflix stand-up special ‘SuperNature’. With jokes that appear as though they are jabs that he has already made in the past, or that he is following a previous formula of how to tell a joke; but not truly an effective one. This isn’t to mention the rather harsh jokes that he makes towards those in the LGBTQ+ community and racism. While said jokes have been disclaimed as being “ironic”, I do feel as though the way these elements were formed weren’t necessary to get a laugh out of the audience–especially those who may be unfamiliar with his already established sense of comedy.
In the end, though, I personally don’t see any true malice behind these segments on Gervais’ special. It’s understandable to see what he was going for, but I find that there could’ve been a bit more thought put behind said jokes. However, more on this later.
The Gist Of The Super-Natured
Being his second stand-up special on Netflix, ‘SuperNature’ centers around Gervais’ well-known use of dark humor to the overall focus on the rules of comedy and the wonders of nature. In terms of why the special itself is called ‘SuperNature’, Gervais poses a light-hearted question to the audience on whether or not they’ve ever seen a ghost hunter actually catch a ghost. In other words, he finds the supernatural to not be all that super; and instead, wants to focus on the interesting and “super” parts of natural reality.
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Now, before we fully dive into this stand-up special, I want to quickly give a summary of who Ricky Gervais is and what he’s largely known for; I feel as though it will give a better understanding of why this special feels both so rather lackluster and takes things in a direction that can step on some people’s toes if you’re not previously familiar.
Ricky Gervais is mainly known for the iconic original (and U.K.) series of ‘The Office’, and it is from his development of the sitcom that his notable sense of dark humor was formed. Gervais has gone on to star, and create, a wide variety of more shows as time has gone on–such as his Netflix original ‘After Life’. From Gervais’ cementation into the world of comedy, he has become one of the prime examples of how comedy in the United Kingdom tends to edge towards being a bit darker as compared to the slightly less bright American comedy. Ultimately, it is fair to say that Gervais is a notable figure within the comedian (and the comedy genre) community overall.
With ‘SuperNature’, this isn’t Gervais’ first rodeo with a stand-up comedy routine. In terms of stand-up on Netflix, you can also find his stand-up special ‘Humanity’ (which was his first special in seven years) on the platform as well. The main focus on ‘Humanity’ is quite similar to that in ‘SuperNature’, which is rather interesting to see. This gives way to the idea that Gervais still has a lot to say on the everchanging growth of our humanity; and how it’s only gotten more developed over these past few years.
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‘SuperNature’ – Seemingly Aware Yet Unaware
After that quick detour, let’s finally get into ‘SuperNature’ and simply what makes this stand-up special feel, well, admittedly not all that special.
As I mentioned before, I am quite the lover of dark comedy; and I do find beauty in any use of comedy in some sense since it’s rather a magical skill to have to evoke laughter in others. However, incorporating dark comedy includes danger in hurting others; especially when it seems to be at the expense of someone else. In this case, Gervais’ jokes seemed to revolve around marginalized communities; especially the transgender community. In my eyes, it was understandable to see how Gervais’ thought process of how to play out these segments appeared to him as though they would be worth telling (and he does preface that he doesn’t fully believe what he’s making fun of); however, at the same time, I find that there is utterly so much more to make fun of on how strange we are as humans nowadays rather than focusing on our identities and sexualities.
This also isn’t to mention how this special feels a bit recycled at times; as though Gervais is reusing his previous successful jokes to fill up time in ‘SuperNature’. This isn’t always necessarily a bad thing, but with how far Gervais has come as a comic (and an overall content creator) oddly, he would reuse content rather than sit down and form a brand new series of jokes for his fans to experience.
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Gervais’ Attempts To Be Super
Ultimately, I have to say that this wasn’t one of my favorite comedy specials. It is rather sad to say so due to Gervais’ iconic reputation as a dark humor comedian, and I know that he could incredibly do a lot better in terms of a stand-up routine, but this one feels as though it was there to put out content; along with the seeming attempt to offend people but still continuously defend himself in turn.
I typically love to find the good in things, but it was tragically hard for me to find any good in this special. This isn’t to say that Gervais can’t come out of this and redeem himself; but with the majority of his jokes being distastefully aimed at marginalized communities, it simply felt like it was heading in a direction that it didn’t need to go. Dark humor is difficult to craft, and ‘SuperNature’ is an example of when crafting such has a nice beginning but diminishes quite quickly.
I don’t want to discourage all of you from watching ‘SuperNature’; this is my personal view on the special overall, and I highly do encourage others to have their own opinions of creative work. But, I find that it is worth mentioning the issues that are rather prevalent in this special. By no means is this stand-up routine bad, but it is important to recognize the hurt that these jokes can impose onto those who have been made fun of; even if Gervais is well-aware of how hurtful those jokes can be. Especially when such a great comic seems to reuse jokes to possibly fill up the time.
Cast: Ricky Gervais
By Leah Donato
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