Comedian Ricky Gervais has hired bodyguards at a cost believed to be £10,000 a night for stand-up gigs after being accused of poking fun at transgender people.
The Office star caused uproar with comments he made in a Netflix one-off special SuperNature last week.
Now Gervais, 59, has recruited 10 security staff who were given their first job at a low-key warm-up appearance this week for a potential series of gigs.
A source said he couldn’t “take any chances” following a stage attack on US comic Dave Chapelle, 48, last month at the Hollywood Bowl after his own Netflix special last year was accused of being transphobic.
Chapelle was knocked to the floor on stage by a man armed with a replica gun fitted with a knife, but was uninjured.
The Gervais team appeared in black suits wearing earpieces at star’s show at London’s Leicester Square Theatre. The guards, located in the aisles and flanking him on stage, scanned the audience throughout his performance.
Organisers had ordered that all the audience's bags to be searched and no-one was allowed bottles in their seats.
One member of staff said: “There’s concern there might be trouble from trans activists. If I were him, you can’t be too careful. Especially not at the moment.”
Gervais joked to the audience: “I have some new thoughts – I can’t help it, they just arrive. I say it and then Netflix put it out and none of it’s my fault.
“SuperNature dropped on Netflix only a week ago and there’s this big backlash and got all people arguing but I like to keep out of it.
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“Everyone was really cross with me with people saying you can’t say that – but I can, I did. Yes, I did. And then it became the most-watched special of the year, so I’ve learnt my lesson.”
He added, to much laughter: “I’m like that guy in a Western who starts a fight and then crawls out of the bar.”
The comedian defended his trans jokes in SuperNature in an interview with The Spectator. He said: “My target wasn’t trans folk, but trans activist ideology.
“I’ve always confronted dogma that oppresses people and limits freedom of expression.” He added, “It was probably the most current, most talked about, taboo subject of the last couple of years. I deal in taboo subjects and have to confront the elephant in the room.”
A new Gervais Netflix special is expected to be released early next year.
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