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Ricky Gervais has defended his right to tell "taboo" jokes after Stonewall criticised his stand-up routine on transgender issues and homosexuality in a Netflix special.
The comedian makes a series of gags in his show SuperNature on subjects including trans people and Aids.
Stonewall accused the comedian of "making fun of trans people", and said "punching down is never funny".
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, a campaign group based in the US, posted on its Twitter page:
We watched the Ricky Gervais 'comedy' special on Netflix so you don’t have to. It’s full of graphic, dangerous, anti-trans rants masquerading as jokes. He also spouts anti-gay rhetoric & spreads inaccurate information about HIV. 1/4
— GLAAD (@glaad) May 24, 2022
In a comment to The Spectator, Gervais said: "My target wasn’t trans folk, but trans activist ideology. I’ve always confronted dogma that oppresses people and limits freedom of expression."
Speaking on the BBC's The One Show, Gervais said comedy should help people "get us over taboo subjects so they're not scary any more". He added that joking about a difficult subject did not mean you had hostile views or opposed certain rights.
"I think that's what comedy is for, really - to get us through stuff, and I deal in taboo subjects because I want to take the audience to a place it hasn't been before, even for a split second," he said.
"Most offence comes from when people mistake the subject of a joke with the actual target."
Gervais has previously explained that his jokes which appear to target particular groups are in fact making fun of those who hold prejudicial views towards those groups.
In one of his jokes in the show, Gervais said he loves the "new women" around today who have "beards and cocks".
He also acts out an imaginary conversation between a trans rights activist and a woman who does not want to share a lavatory with a trans woman.
The woman questions whether the trans woman should be allowed in because of "his penis", to which the activist responds: "Her penis, you f------ bigot."
Another joke compares previous attitudes towards Aids with the modern day. Gervais says gay men used to make life or death decisions about whether to have oral sex with each other.
"Now it’s 'give it here. I’ll take pills for the rest of my life'," says Gervais.
The row comes after Jimmy Carr was criticised earlier this year for his jokes in a Netflix special. It included material about the murders of people from traveller communities in Europe during the Holocaust.
The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust said it was "absolutely appalled" by the comedy routine, and Netflix came under pressure to remove the show.
Netflix and representatives for Gervais were contacted for comment.