Ricky Gervais Under Fire for Making Jokes About Terminally Sick Children in Netflix Special

Comedian Ricky Gervais’ Dark Humor in New Show ‘Armageddon’ Draws Criticism

The British comedian, Ricky Gervais, 62, has recently found himself in hot water due to some controversial remarks in his upcoming Netflix stand-up show, titled ‘Armageddon.’ A part of his skit, which he shared on his social media profiles last week, includes jests directed at critically ill children that many have deemed inappropriate.

In this jest-filled portion of his act, Gervais details his experience of recording video messages for seriously ill children as part of the charitable ‘Make-A-Wish Foundation.’ The comedian says, ‘I’ve been spending quite some time making video messages for children facing terminal illnesses,’ then quickly clarifies jestingly, ‘only when they ask for it.’

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Stretching his humor, he quips ‘I don’t burst into hospitals unexpectedly, announcing, ‘Hey, wake up, you hairless little one, Catch my TikTok dance moves.’ His self-introduction to these children often starts with a provocative question, ‘Why not wish for a recovery?’

The reaction from the audience was a blend of laughter and unease when Gervais, co-creator of ‘The Office,’ sharpened his jest, asking rhetorically, ‘What, you are mentally challenged as too?’ The comedian went on to reassure his audience that these remarks were all meant as jokes and not to be taken seriously.

Gervais, known for his role in ‘The Invention of Lying,’ was quick to clarify further, ‘I don’t even use such terminology offline, particularly the term ‘retarded.’ He defended his use of potentially offensive language, explaining that he was essentially ‘playing a role’ like any actor in film or theatre.

The host of Golden Globes multiple times mentioned that his convincing portrayal was simply because he’s skilled as an actor. He compared his stand-up act to dramatic roles in filmmaking, pointing to Sir Anthony Hopkins’ role as a cannibal in ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ as an example. He asserted that no one would accuse Hopkins of being a cannibal in real life.

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For all his explanations, parents of terminally ill children, who came across his controversial skit, largely did not share in the laughter. The punchline, which trivializes the pain of children and parents wishing for the impossible – a cure, was seen as more hurtful than humorous.

One of these comments belonged to Ashley Cain, 33, a former soccer star, who voiced his disgust in the comment section of the Instagram post, ‘As someone who once admired Ricky Gervais, I couldn’t continue watching his act after hearing several disparaging jokes about terminally ill children, particularly those dealing with cancer.’

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Ashley, who himself had suffered the loss of his eight-month-old daughter, Azaylia Diamond, from leukemia last year, felt aggrieved by Gervais’ remarks, adding ‘Certain things are beyond humor, and this seems especially true for parents who have had to deal with the loss of their child. Ridiculing dying children appears to be acceptable, while other lesser matters can get one cancelled. This makes me angry!’

Thoughts were also shared by Katherine Litchen, mother of a four-year-old with neuroblastoma. She stated Gervais’ jests made her feel ‘as if I had been punched in the gut. The moment I heard his words, ‘Why don’t you wish to get better?’ I was choked up and tears welled up in my eyes.’

She lamented that the punch line of his jest was the hopelessness of parents and children yearning for a cure that remains elusive. She was especially perturbed by Gervais’ usage of a discriminating term to describe terminally ill children.

Litchen elaborated, ‘This term has been historically used to mock those born with or who later develop a disability. By using it in a globally streamed stand-up act, Gervais is inadvertently keeping its discriminatory usage socially acceptable.’

Gervais’ ‘Armageddon’ is set for release on Netflix on Christmas Day. However, with growing criticism around his controversial act, Litchen wishes that a part of the proceeds will be donated towards scientific research dedicated to finding new treatments for pediatric cancers.


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