British comedian Ricky Gervais has declared no topic is off limits after controversy erupted over a joke about dead babies.
The funnyman was performing his Humanity tour show in Belfast, Northern Ireland earlier this week when a gag caused some in the audience to walk out and complain.
Specifics are unknown but the joke, involving dead babies, caused upset among bereaved parents, AP reported.
Ryan and Suzi Gourley’s son Eli was stillborn last year and told Belfast Live they were dumbfounded by the inclusion of such a sensitive topic.
“I just think ‘Why? What is the need?’ This is our life — we have no choice but to live with this,” Ms Gourley said.
“I know people take things differently and I know our emotions are raw, but why joke about a baby being dead? It’s just wrong.”
.It was her first night out since the couple’s tragic loss, she said.
“Some people might read this and think we’re oversensitive and maybe we are — but it’s just not funny,” she said.
“We went and hoped to have a bit of a laugh. It was our first night out together — I’d heard of this comedian but I’d never seen him. I didn’t know what his jokes were like but I wouldn’t have expected that in a million years from anybody.”
Non-profit group Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Support shared a warning about Gervais’ show on Facebook, warning grieving parents about the dead baby joke.
“Going out after a loss can be a difficult thing to do — there are feelings of doubt, thoughts that you shouldn’t be enjoying yourself as it’s somehow disrespectful to your child’s memory,” they wrote.
Ironically, Gervais took to Twitter after the gig in question to praise the “unshockable” crowd, obviously unaware of the walkouts.
But when the controversy emerged, he defended his material and described questions surrounding it “ridiculous”.
Offence was “collateral damage of free speech”, he Tweeted.
In a string of messages posted on the website last night, Gervais said “feelings are personal” and was unrepentant.
“I wish I had a pound for every time I offended someone. Wait, I do,” he wrote.
Offence often occurs when people mistake the subject of a joke with the actual target. They're not always the same.— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) March 30, 2017
It’s not the first time one of Gervais’ jokes has upset people. While hosting the Golden Globe Awards in 2016, he made fun of transgender advocate Caitlyn Jenner and sparked a backlash.
In the aftermath, he once again took to social media to defend himself.
“Suggesting a joke about Caitlin Jenner [sic] is automatically transphobic is like suggesting a joke about Bill Cosby is automatically racist,” he wrote.