If Hollywood were some dysfunctional family unit, then Ricky Gervais is the crazy drunk uncle who comes to your house and tells inappropriate jokes that horrify and crack everybody up in equal measure. You don’t know whether to throw him out or tolerate him, until he crosses the line and says something about grandma’s nasty bathroom habits, and when he gets called on it, he’s had too much to drink already, and he storms off to the nearest hotel to sleep it off. Then, the next year, you all assume he should never be re-invited, but the memories have dimmed of the off-color jokes and all you remember is how much fun you had. […]
In our Hollywood family, Billy Crystal, in contrast to Ricky Gervais, is the really funny older brother or family friend who tells great stories, knows a couple of magic tricks for the kids, can lead with “Happy Birthday” or “Hava Nagila” when called upon and, when the kids are out of earshot, is renowned for his annual telling of some off-color joke that is perfectly calibrated to shock but not really offend anyone. You know he won’t cross the line, really, because he’s a good guest — he’s come to the last eight dinners and each one was a warm memory, even if you can’t quite remember one from the other. They all kind of blend together but he’s so nice and, besides, he’ll show up even if you ask him late because that cute guy from the office can’t make it after all. He’s Jay Leno-safe, except that he can also sing and dance. […]
The humanitarian crisis in Haiti hung thick in the air, mentioned occasionally by winners and presenters and PSA’s, the tragic elephant in the designer-bedecked room. Real life tragedies often impinge on the proceedings at these annual self-aggrandizing soirees; it’s challenging for attendees to strike the right balance and tone. Some may remember the Emmys were scheduled to occur right after 9-11 and pushed back. And right after Martin Luther King was shot, the Academy Awards were delayed a couple of days. Real life and disasters happen on their own time; the most gracious and moving acceptance speeches take eloquent note of this awkward situation.