The idea that we want to be buds with the people we revere doesn’t apply to Ricky Gervais, who sold out the Theater at MSG last night. That’s because Gervais isn’t so much a comic as a clown, a fount, onscreen, of humiliation. Last night he displayed some of the unsettling characteristics of his most brilliantly pathetic creation, The Office character David Brent — the high-pitched squeal, bug-eyed punch-line delivery, running-his-hand-through-his-hair bit.
Not that the adulatory crowd seemed to mind. Gervais came out in a crown and cape — with mini-fireworks going off on each end of a giant, Diddy-like “Ricky” sign, and an announcer ticking off Gervais’s accomplishments — to big cheers. But after a lead-in about his charity work, he told ten minutes of cancer jokes and set the tone for an awkward, underwhelming evening of material. This was to be expected, perhaps: Gervais — unlike local opener Todd Barry, who killed in the half-empty, lit-up venue — doesn’t actually have a proper stand-up background. But though we sat through painfully unfunny bits about how obesity isn’t a disease and musical AIDS-consolation cards that play parody songs like “So You Had a Bad Gay,” we still like to think of Ricky as infallible (at least until his upcoming film projects prove us conclusively wrong). So we’ll leave you with last night’s best moment: “I don’t know who invented glory holes … I don’t know who said, ‘Ooh, I love cocks, but I hate faces!’” —Amos Barshad