Comedian James Acaster explains why he called out ‘brave little cis boys’ making anti-trans jokes

James Acaster has the best response to comics making transphobic jokes

James Acaster has said that it’s “important” that comedians challenge other comics who constantly “punch down” at trans people.

Last year, Acaster was applauded for footage of his 2019 show, Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999, in which he took aim at “edgy” comedians reliant on “slagging off transgender people”, including Ricky Gervais.

“If people on the internet get upset about it, the comedian’s always like: ‘Bad luck! That’s my job. I’m a stand-up comedian, I’m meant to challenge people,'” Acaster said in a widely-shared clip. “If you don’t like being challenged, don’t watch my shows. What’s the matter guys, too challenging for you?”

“Because you know who’s long been overdue a challenge? The trans community! They’ve had their guard down for too long, if you ask me. They’ll be checking their privilege on the way home now thanks to you, ya brave little cis boy!”

Acaster specifically called out Ricky Gervais, who has a long history of making jokes about trans people for cheap laughs – a tactic he returns to in his latest special, SuperNature, released to Netflix on Tuesday (24 May).

Acaster said: “I used to name one of the comedians that was about in the routine, but it always got really awkward in the room.

“Apparently, in 2019, most people are still more than happy to laugh at transgender people – not as comfortable laughing at Ricky Gervais yet, I discovered.”

Acaster discussed the need to challenge anti-trans comedy in a recent interview with Metro.

“It was important to me to do it,” Acaster said. “First of all, it started, like a lot of comedy routines do, if you see something that’s ridiculous or silly, then you want to make a joke about it.

“I think the attitude of comedians saying that they’re challenging people with their comedy and then punching down is just completely nonsensical because that’s not how challenging people works.

“That was the first thing that made me want to do a routine about it and then I guess I carried on doing the routine because if, in your place of work, people are behaving in a way that’s not appropriate or acceptable, or that you’re opposed to, it’s probably on you to speak out about it.

Ricky Gervais gestures while performing on stage

Ricky Gervais at his 2018 comedy special, Humanity. (Netflix)

“I wouldn’t say I was speaking out about it but it was other comedians doing that sort of stuff so I thought I’d rather not totally keep my mouth shut about it.”

Acaster is not alone. Other comics such as Frankie Boyle and Nish Kumar have criticised Gervais for leaning so much on tired, anti-trans jokes.

Instead of telling actual jokes, Gervais has instead deadnamed and misgendered trans people like Caitlyn Jenner and said he “self-identifies as a chimpanzee” for laughs.

In SuperNature, Gervais hit back at critics by telling cheap joke after cheap joke about trans women, such as saying if he grew up today he would “self-ID” as a “butch lesbian” because it is “trendy”.

“I love the new women. They’re great, aren’t they?” he says. “The new ones we’ve been seeing lately. The ones with beards and c**ks. They’re as good as gold, I love them.”.