| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES Hold onto your award-winning seats Hollywood. Ricky Gervais will return as host of the upcoming Golden Globe Awards.
The British comedian, whose caustic jokes for the 2011 film and television honors ruffled feathers not only of A-list stars but of the very organization that hired him, will return in 2012 for his third straight year as host, organizers said.
"Yes, Ricky's Back!" the Hollywood Foreign Press Association posted on its website. "After weeks of rumors it's finally official -- Ricky Gervais will be back to host the Golden Globes for a third year."
The Golden Globe Awards annually are among Hollywood's top film and television honors, and they bring out numerous stars who are nominated in categories such as best actors, actresses, directors and writers.
The gala affair, which is televised worldwide, is typically a boozy night of self-congratulation, but last year the acid-tongued British comedian turned in a performance that raised more eyebrows in the audience than laughter.
He made biting jokes about the likes of Robert Downey, Jr., Charlie Sheen and the critically-panned movie "The Tourist," which was nominated for best film comedy or musical despite being panned by critics and flopping at box offices.
On stage, Gervais said he heard a "ridiculous rumor" that the only reason "The Tourist" was nominated was so members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) could hang out with its stars Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie.
"That is rubbish. That is not the only reason," Gervais said. "They also accepted bribes."
LAWSUIT AND LAUGHTER
Gervais went after Golden Globe organizers and Hollywood's studios with biting comments linked to an ongoing lawsuit in which the HFPA is accused of taking payments in return for nominations.
He noted the lawsuit claims some members of the HFPA were flown, at movie studio expense, to see "Burlesque" film star Cher perform in Las Vegas. "How the hell is that a bribe?" Gervais asked. "Really? Do you want to go and see Cher? No! Why Not? 'Cuz it's not 1975."
After the show, Gervais defended himself from criticism, telling TV interviewer Piers Morgan "I'm confronting the elephant in the room. They hired me -- like I'm going to go out there and not talk about the issues in their industry.
The HFPA, a group of about 90 journalists who wield power in Hollywood because their show airs at a time when movie studios vie for Oscars, has defended itself against the lawsuit, calling it "without merit." After the 2011 Golden Globes, then-president Philip Berk said there was "no truth" to speculation Gervais might return.
But that was then.
On Wednesday, the group said its members had voted to bring back Gervais after a meeting with an official from NBC, the TV network that broadcasts the show.
"While many welcome Gervais's return, not everyone is happy with the decision because last year his blunt one-liners targeting big-name celebrities caused anger and resentment in some quarters. After the show, Gervais dismissed the possibility of coming back for a third time, but he gradually warmed to the idea and last month met with (current) HFPA President Dr. Aida Takla-O'Reilly in Paris to discuss it," the HFPA said on its website.
The upcoming Golden Globe awards will take place on January 15, 2012, in Beverly Hills.
(Editing by Jill Serjeant)