Ricky Gervais Just Reignited His Comedy Cold War with James Corden
In his latest Netflix special, Armageddon, which he released on Christmas day with all the atheistic cheekiness for which he is known, Gervais took aim at the hypersensitivity of the modern media consumer, familiar territory for the self-professed provocateur. In the bit, Gervais described a website he stumbled upon that enables users to inquire about upsetting content, such as animal abuse, in films they’re interested in seeing so as to protect themselves from exposure to triggering material. Of course, Gervais mocked the way modern users utilize the tool, saying, “The later questions start reflecting the times we live in now, and they get more and more fragile and narcissistic.” Gervais cited one visitor to the site’s question about whether Schindler’s List had any fat jokes in it.
Gervais, on the other hand, has a more specific purpose for the film site — “I asked one question myself on this: Is James Corden in it?”
The joke in Gervais’ special is just the latest jab fired from a safe distance between the two Brits. Dating back to 2009, Corden and Gervais have been squabbling via satire ever since the former featured an unflattering impersonation of the latter’s lauded performance in The Office (U.K.) on Corden’s critically panned, one-season sketch series Horne & Corden. Then, when Gervais infamously went scorched earth on the Golden Globes attendees during his hosting duties at the 2010 ceremony, Corden spoke out against Gervais’ iconoclastic approach ahead of Corden’s hosting gig at the BRIT awards, saying, “I’m not going to go down the Ricky Gervais road. … I want to host the BRITs with as much warmth and sensitivity as possible.”
Next, when Corden was chosen to replace Craig Ferguson on The Late Late Show in 2015, Gervais not-so-subtly side-eyed the move during a SiriusXM interview, saying, “Someone (Corden) works really hard, and they become a comedian and they get a big show, then they get offered a chat show in America. They take that and then work their way down from a comedian to a bloke who’s looking for hits on YouTube the next day because no one watches late night.”
The two continued to trade barbs behind each other’s back, with Gervais famously calling Corden a “fat pussy” during the 2020 Golden Globes — “He was also in the movie Cats!” — and, when Corden was accused of joke theft during the later weeks of his Late Late Show tenure, Gervais counted himself among the robbed and jabbed at Corden in since-deleted tweets before walking back his criticism, saying, “I reckon one of the writers ‘came up with it’ for him. I doubt he would knowingly just copy such a famous stand-up routine word for word like that.”
Publicly, Gervais has denied any sort of acrimony between him and Corden despite their rich history of passive-aggression, saying in 2020, “There is no feud between myself and James nor has there ever been. … The Cats joke that I told at the Golden Globes is obviously a pun on his role in the film, and James’ impression of me in his sketch show was also friendly teasing, and I took no offense to that.” Despite the denial, Gervais’ distaste for Corden’s work was apparently strong enough to warrant a mention in his Netflix special.
Then again, maybe the Armageddon gag was just a bit of fun between colleagues, and both Gervais and Corden will, one day, laugh about the whole thing over dinner before Corden gets them both banned from the restaurant.