Friday, 21 October 2011

When Nicky 'met' Ricky


Today Ricky Gervais phoned me to explain his use of the word "mong" on Twitter. 
He didn't have to or answer any of the questions I subsequently asked him on Twitter.
Here is the "Twinterview" The 140 character limit explains the short replies.

Ricky Gervais-A very public thank you for your kind, rational and understanding words in private.

NC-Thank you for getting in touch. Do you mind if I ask you a couple of things? Nik

Ricky Gervais-Ask away.

NC-I now understand that you didn't and wouldn't intentionally hurt anyone. Do you understand why people got upset by it ?

Ricky Gervais-I do now. Never dreamed that idiots still use that word aimed at people with Down's Syndrome. Still find it hard to believe

NC-How has the response to your use of it online and in the press made you feel ?

Ricky Gervais-A mixture of confusion, anger, terror and disappointment. But mostly naive. Never meant the word like that and never word.

NC-Some of your followers have attacked people like me for criticising you over this do you condone this behaviour?

Ricky Gervais-Definitely not - reason I contacted you to be honest. The hate mail I had was psychotic and wouldn't wish that on anyone.

Ricky Gervais-What do you think of how the press have portrayed me, out of interest?

NC-I think that had I not spoken to you,I would have believed that you were a bully.The tweets seemed out of step with your work 

Ricky Gervais-Cheers. Understandable Using that word to mean DS WOULD be bullying. I'm glad people now realise I'm an idiot instead. Ha ha

NC-Many people have been confused by your tweets to anyone who has been hurt by them what would you say?

Ricky Gervais-Well all I can do is apologise and hope they don't confuse those people's views with mine. (meeting now back in an hour)

Ricky Gervais-This is better than Frost and Nixon by the way. Speak later


Ricky Gervais-And we're back. (Sweaty, but raring to go)

NC-hello again.Aside from the words you were using you also posted photo's pulling faces.Was that supposed to be someone disabled?

Ricky Gervais-No. The point is to look as hideous as possible without the use of props. Not a great art form I'll admit. Ha ha

Ricky Gervais-Interestingly chat shows and newspapers have shown them many times. but comedy is about timing I guess. Whoops.

NC-You have adopted a new word in place of your old one people might worry that it's similar to mongol.How do you respond?

Ricky Gervais-Yes it seems even a brand new made up word with no history can cause offence. I wanted to show that a word needs intent.

NC-I've seen the youtube clips of your character Derek Noakes. Is he supposed to be a man with a learning disability?

Ricky Gervais-Hello sorry. Long bath watching "Pointless" Can I answer this question on email then you can post it? I don't know how. Ha

Ricky Gervais-Can't do it in 140 characters. Writing now

Image-Ricky Gervis in "Derek"  photograph: C4
Ricky Gervais emailed response:
"I've never thought of Derek as disabled per se. Definitely nothing specific. Not Down's Syndrome, Autistic or someone with mental health problems.
He's certainly "different". But when does a bit weird become an official disability? it's ambiguous and he's certainly an outsider. He's based on some of the strange people that collect autographs or train spot (Oh dear now I'm really in trouble) but not in a sneery way. I love Derek. He's funny, happy, empowered and absolutely charming.
I guess I've crossed a nerd with a child.
i think in the present climate people will assume this has to be cruel because he's not the "smartest tool in the box" but it's not at all. We could go back and question many comedy characters. What's Mr Bean for christ sake? DP Gumby? Everyone in The League of Gentleman? They're "weird" sure but "weird" people can't help who they are any more than any one with any form of learning disabilities."


  1. I think he's playing the naive card after playing the "I know what's what and you're wrong, 'mental' or 'haters' if you disagree" card for days.
    Fair play for engaging constructively with you, but I remain unconvinced, especially as a lot of his humour around disability has been deliberately centred at misconceptions/prejudices that people have.
    As for Derek, again I think he's (somewhat cleverly) playing the "naive" card again. For anyone who has known disabled people either personally or as professional carers, he's clearly based on stereotypes of people with a mild learning disabilities.
    To claim, "well he's like weird people you meet", is disingenuous and well, lazy. Why does he think there's all these 'different' people; chance, coincidence? If you're going to parody; gently or unkindly, then take the time to look into your subject matter. For me, I think he knows now and he knew then.

  2. common sense. Drop it now nik you are looking like someone wanting thier 5 mins of fame

  3. Glad RG has stopped acting the defiant toddler over this and taking an adult stance. I don't think anyone was being knee-jerk PC, just totally shocked that a professional comedian should encourage use of a word that would make vulnerable children (and adults) that much more open to abuse out there in the real world. Even more that, when called on it, he seemed more conceerned to defend himself than the vulnerable. Offence was never the issue, pain (including physical pain) was. Hope this is the last we hear of it.

  4. MONG isn't Mongol any more than ham is hamster.

    Pulling faces doesnt mean you are mocking the disabled.

    People need to see that Mr Gervais was just fucking about on twitter, he is just a bloke at the end of the day. Some of the shit I've read on twitter is fucking mental, racism, sexism and god knows what else but because Mr Gervais is a celebrity he gets hung out to dry for fuck all. Go after the real offenders on twitter, not someone using a word that's meaning has changed beyond all recognition to the point that until this bullshit kicked up I had no idea of the down syndrome connotation of the word MONG. I'm 33 years old.

    Fuck it, most sane fucking people know you meant no offence by it Mr Gervais, to anyone who is offended by the word then I have this o say to you; fuck off you fucking MONGS.

  5. A clear and honest exchange of views on the issues that Ricky has brought to the fore this week. Both sides come out well and Gervais' enthusiasm to take part reflects well on him

  6. Glad to see I am not the only one that thinks the world is going mad.
    Political correctness is George Orwells Newspeak.

  7. I didnt realise the connotation to downs until the furore that was kicked up by the press over the past week or so following Rickys tweets. Personally I wouldnt wipe my arse with the tabloid press anyway and this is another example of pure sensationalism at every turn.

    Anyway well done to both Gervais and Clark for hopefully ending this bullshit once and for all.


  8. When I look at the world, the 3rd world, war, oppression, arming countries, blitzing them when the cheque clears, maiming children etc I see there is a lot to be offended by in human behaviour. Most of this is occurring while we sit at our computer screens drinking coffee in the comfort of our nice little homes, getting all offended about this word and that word while 3 year olds starve and lose arms to bombs dropped on them with our taxes. Offence is relative to your experience. There will always be someone offended by something, I'll guarantee those running from bombs right now couldn't care less what they are called, their threshold is different. At home you can stop unenlightened, uneducated people from using 'bad' words but they still remain unenlightened and uneducated if the intent was to hurt someone. If they feel hated towards DS people, banning a word won't make any difference - it is futile. You won't have to endure that word but the attitude is still present. The best solution is for the media to stop sensationalizing offence fast-food style and to start to nourish people's minds to a greater knowledge of our interconnectivity. That if we all look after each other rather than fight the world will be a better place. What a dumb set of people we really are, far more 'mong' than any DS people.

  9. I want this to be enough, I really do, but it's going to take a lot more to undo the hurt that happens to people with disability when commenters like the first in this post say the things they do with no regard for or respect to the people who they hurt most. There is no 'PC brigade.' Only people who are confused. I am at a remove from it and it hurts me. I cannot begin to fathom how hurt my son would be. Luckily for him he's only four. How could he not realise this? I can't trust this reply, and I expect a lot more to counterbalance it. Johnny Knoxville gives good example here with Eddie Barbanell. You might learn from it, Mr Gervais.

  10. If I tweeted the word 'Mong', i'm sure the press wouldn't care or bat an eyelid. Just because Ricky Gervais is famous doesn't give them the right to crucify him. The most offensive thing out of all of this is the bullying that they've bestowed upon a man who used a word that most people including himself had no idea the meaning of.
    Just because he's in the public eye and uses arrogance as part of his act (doesn't make him actually arrogant), doesn't mean he has no feelings.
    I'm offended by the downright bullying of the press and have no doubt in my mind that this exchange on this blog will garner no attention from the press. After all, why would they post something positive?! (Twats)

  11. Thank goodness Ricky has clarified his standing on this. When you love someone with DS you can't help but feelhurt andconfused when people justify using this word. Thanks for your blog Nicky i've really enjoyed what you have to say and the way you say it.

  12. Ricky Gervais is a mong my list of favourite comedians.

  13. An apology from the press and the 'offended' would be welcome.

    Firstly: RESEARCH POINT FOR POOR JOURNALISM - The faces he pulls have been around for years. Sent to his friends, please note Idiot Abroad Season 1. Some of them were labelled things like; 'Glaswegian drunk' 'Night bus' etc.

    The press rooted through pictures and allocated the 'Down Syndrome' slur to ones that fitted. That is disgusting behaviour.

    Secondly: I am a young man (22) and I was under the impression that the word mean't idiot. Now, it would have been easier if Gervias never said anything (obviously) but YOU insisted the word mean't DS THE PRESS wanted to change the word back, THE OFFENDED resisted the evolution of the word. If Gervais wants to help re-define an offensive word - for god sake let it happen! The word was changing, it was as good as evolved until 'the offended' insisted it means DS.

    Thirdly: You have wrapped the word up in such an untouchable, offensive, dangerous taboo that has made it irresistible to the most malicious and ignorant in our society. Congratulations on arming bullies around the country.


  14. Ricky Gervais called a poor downs syndrome person "a mong". Why would he do that?....

    What a spastic!

  15. Ricky Gervais walks into a pub, barman says "why the mong face"?    

  16. The trouble with living in a world like we're in today is that it's so difficult to say anything without causing someone somewhere offence, and whilst I understand why some people might misconstrue Ricky's sillyness to be offensive, when you see the rest of his tongue-in-cheek humour it all becomes abundantly clear.

    I don't think Chris Rock or Harry Hill are funny AT ALL, humour is a matter of taste and Ricky is as loveable as Marmite. I personally love him. Yes, he is off the wall but a very genuine and caring person at the same time.

    The press all jumped on the band wagon and started with an onslaught of abuse... but hey, with Life's Too Short about to come out and an Idiot Abroad on our screens right now this is priceless publicity!

    Anyone mocking people with DS should be reprimanded duly, but it's time to disassociate the word mong with the disability, those who still use it in that context are few and far between... and let's face it, they're not really likely to be in the public eye either, are they??!!!

  17. Genghis Khan...

    What a Mong.

  18. Ricky was not crucified.He used a word that offended some disabled people and was pulled up on it,Not bu the mythicalPC Brigade but by people sensetive to others.I believe it was without intent but nevertheless those in power should punch up not down.He seemed to get a bit 'hollywood' about it (and I must admit I lost a bit of respect and admiration for him )til eventually he had the grace to actually listen to those affected realised what he had done and how he upset some disabled and not disable people.A little humility earlier would have gome a long way .

  19. I'm also 33 and have used the word Mong all my life I have never associated with any form of disability. I also use the word in different ways as in " I'm monging out " or to tell a mate or usually my brother he's a Mong . I'm totally behind Ricky think the world is going mad people who are having a go are just jumping on the band wagon and it's getting silly ! Reet I'm of to watch the worlds biggest Mong mr Karl pilkington in an idiot abroad !!'

  20. Ricky is right there are many weird characters in comedy and we all love them. I thought the League of Gentlemen was really sick when I first watched it but somehow it was compulsive viewing and I got addicted to it and loved it. Father Jack in Father Ted was a bit weird but it wouldn't have been the same without him. If you want to see weird in action watch Party Political Broadcasts. You know what Ricky should send the press? Bullshit Man - he'd sort them out. FFS you can't say anything these days, if you called somebody a charming intellect there would be somebody who objected to it. The worlds gone mad!!

  21. Where I'm from monged means stoned, like you some a joint and you say " I'm fucking monged!"

  22. @Hebburndelboy love it how you use the word Fuck and then use the polite form 'Mr' to refer to Ricky!

  23. Wow, people are so easily won over. The man's a prick who has used this whole situation to get himself some media attention.

  24. I really do feel (like rillyroos) that the world has gone mad! Ricky gervais is a comedian and his brand off humour is what has struck a chord with people of today.

    Nobody has the right to bully someone and In this case Ricky CLEARLY hasn't. If people don't like what people say then they shouldn't read their twitter feeds or blogs. Society these days is far too quick to be "offended" this day and age. Nothing actually happens when one is offended, they are just OFFENDED!!! You don't suddenly gain some form of illness when you get offended, so what's the problem? I really don't get why people let it bother them that much??

    Bullying and slandering are totally disgusting and inexcusable on every level and I'm sure that a real bully would soon find that it would fast move them outside of social circles and resort them to a pointless ebb of self Hatrid and loathing.

    People need to really think about and realise that words, the way we think and what we find acceptable, evolve on a day to day basis.

    Sometimes it is wise to take a step back and really evaluate what we are regarding as offence. After all it is a comedians job to push the boundaries and take us (as audiences) to new places and find the funnies of a situation.

    I'd also like to point out that these people who are so quick to slap the label of "bully" on to the likes of Ricky Gervais to maybe think that the amount of Hatrid they are preaching towards the likes of him are in turn resorting to a form of bullying themselves!

    We really just need to go with the flow and accept that if you don't like what is available to you in this digital age, simply don't subscribe or buy into it.

    Much love,

    Mr. Teacakes

  25. We've got this right mong at work and we all take the piss rotten cos he doesn't realise. You know the sort, big face, rotten teeth, bad complexion etc, a proper window licker. We always ask him about his sexual exploits, knowing he's almost certainly a virgin. You know, things like "Have you ever done anal?'' or ''Have you ever plated out your girlfriends mum?'' etc...well the other day I asked him if he'd ever felt a tit. He laughed and said "Yeah when I fell off me bike."

  26. All I am trying to do is make a living driving my 36 wheeler, I appreciate I'm slow and I hold up traffic and Irate motorists shout "Hurry up you fucking mong", or "Get the fuck out of the way you spaz", but apart from the abuse, being a Tesco trolley wally Is the best job I've ever had.

  27. Two children are talking in the playground about their names.

    "My dad christened me Moon Unit."

    "Wow! Is your dad Frank Zappa?"

    "No, he's a fucking mong."    

  28. Calling it "Little Chef" is false advertising, isn't it?

    I think "Mong with a Microwave" would be more fitting.

  29. I grew up using the word mong,being called mong and hearing people use the word to mean dozy or whatever.

    This has got completely out of hand and people have jumped all over it. We all know what he meant.

  30. I find the term 'mong' extremely offensive, as I have a friend from Mongolia.

    He prefers to call himself 'downs syndrome'.

  31. I think he's playing the naive card after playing the "I know what's what and you're wrong, 'mental' or 'haters' if you disagree" card for days.
    Fair play for engaging constructively with you, but I remain unconvinced, especially as a lot of his humour around disability has been deliberately centred at misconceptions/prejudices that people have.
    As for Derek, again I think he's (somewhat cleverly) playing the "naive" card again. For anyone who has known disabled people either personally or as professional carers, he's clearly based on stereotypes of people with a mild learning disabilities.
    To claim, "well he's like weird people you meet", is disingenuous and well, lazy. Why does he think there's all these 'different' people; chance, coincidence? If you're going to parody; gently or unkindly, then take the time to look into your subject matter. For me, I think he knows now and he knew then.

  32. Why I would love to meet Ricky Gervais - just not in person..

    Wow. The events of the last few days have been quite thought provoking. I'm not very articulate, and fairly private, but I really felt the need to write this. Hopefully it will help someone, even if it's just me.

    I've been a long time fan and admirer of Ricky Gervais. Not the I-want-to-have-your-babies type, but a real aficionado. I just think he is an amazing talent whose managed to hang on to the wonder and creativity that most of us lost from our childhoods and I'm always looking forward to what he'll do next. The Office was brilliant. So was Extras. The XFM shows and his podcasts have made me cry with laughter - literally. And I totally get that his relationship with Karl Pilkington is not bullying and love An Idiot Abroad.

    As an animal rescuer and advocate, I love his passion for animals. And like him, I'm an atheist who believes that you have an obligation to yourself to be a good and decent human being.

    That's not to say he's perfect - none of us are. And I don't like or agree with everything he does. Risk-taking is a funny thing. It's the energy source for almost every amazing thing that humans do, but it can also be incredibly destructive. And quite often, the input of others is needed in order to tell the difference. But when that input is criticism, it's really hard to hear.

    I know that it takes a TREMENDOUS amount of effort on my part to take criticism well. Not one of my better traits. And I'm not sure that I ever really take it "well" even when I agree with it. I have a feeling that Ricky has the same problem. But luckily for me, I don't have 400,000 people telling me that I fart rainbows and that any criticism towards me is horrible and unjustified, because I'm pretty sure I'd go with it. And if I suddenly found I had an army to mobilize against my critics in my defense, would I do it? Well, yeah, quite possibly. And it's making me cringe just to write that.

    Would saner voices ultimately prevail? I sure as hell hope so! And it would happen much sooner for me because the saner voices in my life wouldn't have to penetrate a chorus of a half million people.

    With a few words someone can reduce the whole of a person to nothing but a few characteristics. It happens all the time and most often, those characteristics are negative or different. In defining someone this way, you never get to know who they really are, deep down inside, or what they've faced or been through. Or the very real impact of those words.

    The only way I know how to do it is to share how they have effected me. Because I don't think it's about being offended, it's about being hurt.
    (continued in part 2)

  33. (part 2)
    Before I go any further, let me say that I'm well aware that 99.9% of the world's population would trade their lives for my shitty childhood in a nano second. And many people have had it WAY worse. And honestly, while I would never choose to go through it again, I'm glad I did - most of it anyway. The qualities I like in myself were born from that devastation. It taught me compassion, empathy, and gave me the ability and drive to fight for those who can't fight back. Learning how to fight for myself has been way more difficult.

    I am the eldest daughter of a schizophrenic mother and a violent, perpetually pissed off father.
    At age 4, I was changing diapers & fixing bottles for my baby sister. When I was 5, at the direction of voices only she could hear, my mother tried to kill me. To be fair, she didn't really mean to harm me. The master plan was to bring me back to life and prove to her naysayers that she had the power over life and death. Fortunately, one of those "naysayers" knew CPR...

    At age 10, my father left and a year later, my mother brought home one of the scariest people I've ever encountered: my sadistic, substance abusing stepfather. This man ramped up the level of abuse and horror until I finally broke.

    I've shared that bit of history because while I can now remember most of my childhood without flinching, the words that were hurled at me (by both adults and school bullies) still make me cringe: dog. pig. useless. no good. crazy. freak. wasted sperm cell (my personal fave) and the typical barrage of swear words. Most of those words don't sound that bad out of context. But combined with everything else, they were devasting. Tormented at home, tormented at school. The physical abuse was bad, but was the emotional abuse that literally sucked the will to live right out of me.

    At age 16, after a suicide attempt that left me hospitalized for 3 days, I was FINALLY removed from my home by authorities. I had tried everything I could do to get out of there for years but no one listened or intervened.

    I hit adulthood shaking with anger, and crippled by depression & PTSD. It's taken many, many years to reclaim my life. And I'm still shaky in areas. But I try very, very hard to be a decent & kind person. And I believe that those of us who have a voice have an obligation to speak and act for those who don't. I've seen many wonderful examples of that over the last few days.

    One of my shaky areas brings me to why I could never meet Ricky in person.

    I'm fat.

    His stand up is hysterically funny - until he starts with the fat jokes. Jokes I've heard all my life as my weight has rollercoastered since I was ten. I know that being overweight is my fault and for the most part, I think fat jokes are really funny. There's humor in everything if you look hard enough. And you should look. But jokes aren't funny when they feel personal. I'm very happy for Ricky that he's solved his weight problem. But it's not that simple for many people. Especially when they have emotional or physical issues contributing to the problem.

    So the end result is that as much as this fan would love to meet him, I could never get out of my head the belief that all he would see is a pathetic fat person who does her hair up nice and tries really hard but ought to put down the food and go for a run.

    My self-confidence issues are NOT Ricky's fault or responsibility. Nor is how his words make me feel. But they are his words and he should at least know the impact they have, even if it's just on me.


  34. Without wishing to further clutter this blog and perpetuate the mass hysteria (engendered entirely by the despicably sensationalist press) it seems to me that by definition, offense can and should only be taken when there is intent to offend behind the word or action. It follows that anyone intent on offense would presumably make clear their intent, and would thus not claim to have had no intent in the first place. In claiming to have had no intent, it thus stands to reason that Lord Gervais wished no offense on anyone, whether disabled or otherwise. Therefore, to anyone who feels compelled to take offense, don't slam Gervais. Slam those who would have him condemned, slam those who scrape the barrel for offense when there clearly is none to be had! Mr Gervais has no need for introspection. YOU do, you hysterical scaremongers! Stop mongering!

  35. Annonymous/mkw - it is off topic but I just want to say how well you express yourself, and how much courage it must have taken to write that. :)

  36. All rubbish, RG didn't mean any harm. Surely by him using the word to mean someone being dozy or stupid he's removing the negative link with it, people wouldn't be calling down syndrome people mongs anymore if they believed it was just a word for idiots, yet pc campaigners are just reinforcing the link between the word and being mentally disabled!!! Why are people attacking him for it, whether or not you believe he's doing it in an innocent manner (which is for the record I believe he is) he is helping to change the word for the better! Let it happen!

  37. I'm wondering would you call out any other Twitter user to the extent you have Mr. Gervais? If so, you're going to be exhausted. This proves my point that Twitter is dangerous for celebs and politicians and they should stay clear away from it. Ricky should have stayed with his first instincts.

  38. Hi Smitten by Britain. Yes so far I have challenged Vinnie Jones via his agent Davina McCall on Twitter, Caitlin Moran (both) Boris Jonson (via his office) Frankie Boyle (via broadcaster) Jeremy Clarkson (via broadcaster) and other broadcasters and programme makers.

  39. Some people need to get a sense of humour. The mongs here are the morons here getting offended and self righteous. Live and let live. F*cking mongs.

  40. I'm a mother with a disabled child and Nicky Clarke doesn't speak for me. She's just a highly strung attention seeking nutjob. I don't agree with people using any offensive terms towards anyone but I'll fight for their right to say it.

    Nicky Clarke should stay off twitter and use that time with her kids.

  41. You seem to have done all you can to set the record straight Ricky. Anyone with accurate background knowledge of you and reliable intuition will know that you never meant anything by it. I don't believe someone of obvious rationality, and capable of compassion towards animals, would also harbour a desire to direct insults at a specific group of people without reason.

    Certain people will always enjoy scandals and continue them simply for the sake of partaking in them, without any real underlying agenda. Just time to weather the storm I think mate.

  42. mkw - no one gives a fuck.

  43. mkw - too much information, no one cares.

    Mong was well on the way to evolving as a word to mean something completely different - in fact, I'd say it was pretty much there. Now you've 'claimed it back' as a word for people with DS. Well done for giving the bullies another weapon.

  44. Nicky I'm so glad that you found the courage to publicly address this. As a carer of a stroke survivor and a child with physical and learning disabilities, I've always been quick to judge when people use words that are linked with degradation of disabled people. However, as years have passed I've become more mellow in my outlook; it's so important to realise that many words have undergone semantic shifts and have become part of Britain's vernacular. Whilst I obviously don't condone direct, subjective, verbal abuse, I feel that Ricky's use of the word 'mong' in this instance was harmless albeit misinformed. I'm currently writing a blog applauding him for demolishing social taboos associated with disability (re: Life's Too Short - amongst other things) and feel the media outcry surrounding 'mong-gate' only served to direct attention to the social treatment of people with disabilities, so I'd like to thank him for giving learning disabilites much needed column inches!

    Keep up your great work x x