The last time comedian Ricky Gervais was a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, they spent quite a bit of time debating their religious differences. At one point, the atheist Gervais even told the devout Catholic Colbert, “You don’t believe in 2,999 gods. And I don’t believe in just one more.”
When Gervais appeared on the show last night to promote his stand-up comedy tour, you knew they would go right back at it. Gervais didn’t even do much of the heavy lifting this time. He mostly asked Colbert leading questions about his Catholicism… and let the answers speak for themselves.
After all, if you weren’t already familiar with Catholicism 101, there’s no way you would suddenly start believing it now.
COLBERT: … We had a very interesting conversation last time.
GERVAIS: We did, didn’t we? We did.
COLBERT: We debated the existence of God… and I smoked you.
GERVAIS: And where did it get us? Nowhere. So what’s the point?
COLBERT: Well, Hell in the end, I suppose.
GERVAIS: You’ll be alright. I’m going to Hell because I don’t believe in it.
COLBERT: I’m going to Hell because I do believe in it. Just because you believe in Hell doesn’t mean you won’t go there. You probably will because I’m a sinner.
GERVAIS: Yeah, but we’re all sinners, aren’t we, according to your lot?
COLBERT: Right, right. And we’re only saved by the grace of God. But, you know, we don’t deserve it. We don’t deserve it, Ricky. I got no guarantee I’m going to Heaven. Only one person’s ever been guaranteed entrance into Heaven.
GERVAIS: Who’s that?
COLBERT: The good thief, who was hanging next to Christ. He said, “on this very day, shall you be with me in paradise.” That’s what He said to him. Christ Himself gave him the — boom — gave him the stamp and validated his parking.GERVAIS: But wasn’t Christ God in a different form?
COLBERT: He was both God and Man, yeah. Fully.
GERVAIS: Yeah… But God was Jesus, wasn’t He?
COLBERT: Three persons in one God, yeah.
COLBERT: The bedrock of Western civilization.
GERVAIS: So He knew He was sending Himself to Earth to die for our sins and then go to Heaven?
COLBERT: Yeah… ’cause He sees all the time at once.
GERVAIS: Sounds a bit far-fetched to me.
There are a lot of awkward pauses and laugh breaks in that conversation, and Colbert half-heartedly mocked his own views later (“Everybody else’s religious story is a cult”).
The best part, however, came near the end.
Gervais said that he wasn’t a fan of Lord of the Rings author J. R. R. Tolkien because he wrote “nonsense.” Colbert, who’s a die-hard fan of everything Tolkien, retorted, “It’s fantasy!… Does everything have to be true to you?”
Gervais shot back, “Okay, I’m a Catholic.”
Gervais comes off as cocky, but that’s also part of his persona. It’s entertaining, in a way, to see an atheist like him so unapologetic about his godlessness. He knows he’s right, so he just gives Colbert enough rope to hang himself, while he just sits back and smiles. Colbert gamely attempts to debate him, knowing full well that nothing he says will convince Gervais to change his mind, but that’s the fun in doing this in such a public forum. It’s not about your opponent. It’s about the viewing audience.
I’d totally watch a longer version of this conversation.