NEW YORK — It's a little early for baseball season, but Ricky Gervais didn't care.
Throwing all caution to the wind, he knocked it out of the park as host of Sunday's 68th Annual Golden Globes.
Back for a second year, Gervais set the tone early for this awards show recognized as much for its revelry as its prizes.
"It's going to be a night of partying and heavy drinking," Gervais began his monologue, sipping from a glass of what looked like beer. "Or, as Charlie Sheen calls it, breakfast."
He made a compound zinger at the expense of nominated film "The Tourist."
"I feel bad about that joke," he said after his first round. "I'm jumping on the bandwagon, because I haven't even seen 'The Tourist.'" (Beat.) "Who has?"
He was just warming up. He went on to tell the audience that "The Tourist" had not been nominated by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association just because its members wanted to hang out with the film's stars, Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie.
"That is not the only reason," Gervais insisted with a saucy smile. "They also accepted bribes." (A lawsuit filed last week claims the HFPA has engaged in payola schemes for nominations and awards.)
Gervais moved on to zap, apparently, one of Hollywood's biggest stars, Tom Cruise — although without naming him.
Turning to films that weren't nominated for Golden Globes this year, Gervais mentioned "I Love You, Philip Morris," featuring, as he put it, "two heterosexual actors pretending to be gay. Sort of the complete opposite of some famous Scientologist."
"Oooooooo," went the audience.
"My lawyers helped me with the wording of that joke," Gervais said.
In the audience, Alec Baldwin was seen wiping a tear from his eye at Gervais' wisecracks. Robert De Niro had dissolved in laughter.
Having already bitten the hand that was feeding him, Gervais soon bit the HFPA's other hand.
He announced that Eva Longoria would be on next with "the daunting task" of introducing Phillip Burke, the association's president.
"That's nothing," Gervais added. "I just had to help him off the toilet and pop his teeth in."
Unlike everyone else, Burke was unamused.
Before offering his greetings to the audience, Burke, wearing a tight smile, said, "Ricky, next time you want me to help you qualify your movie, go to another guy."
"Oooooooooo," went the audience again.
A bit later, Gervais had doffed his jacket. Look out now!
Introducing presenter Robert Downey Jr., Gervais listed a few of the actor's many film credits, then said, "But many of you in this room probably know him best from such facilities as the Betty Ford Clinic and Los Angeles County Jail."
Sauntering on stage, Downey took a little bow, then quipped, "Aside from the fact that it's been hugely mean-spirited, with mildly sinister undertones, I'd say the vibe of the show is pretty good so far, wouldn't you?"
Never mind the vibe. Gervais did his job and then some, making sure the Globes was a party.
EDITOR'S NOTE — Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at fmoore(at)ap.org
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