Ricky Gervais slams The X Factor for exploiting the “mentally ill”

And he says viewers are to blame, too

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Ricky Gervais isn’t one to mince his words, and the comedian has let rip at shows such as The X Factor and Big Brother for exploiting the “mentally ill” and people having “nervous breakdowns”.

But the star of The Office, 56, added that viewers were partly to blame for wanting to see such stuff.

During a talk at the Oxford Union, he said: “From The X Factor in the preliminary rounds when they wheel out the mentally ill to be sniggered at by millionaires – we’re a part of that.

“People having proper nervous breakdowns on Big Brother – we’re all part of that.”

“We don’t want to watch 12 people sitting around having a nice conversation. We want a fist fight.

“It appeals to the worst of our instincts, I think.”

While it doesn’t usually come to blows on shows like The X Factor, it’s certainly appeared to come close on occasions.

However, Ricky is cynical about the authenticity of the drama unfolding on our screens.

Read more: Simon Cowell’s son melts viewers’ hearts with X Factor cameo

He claimed: “It’s not even reality any more, it’s so contrived. Now they condense it, they contrive situations.

“It’s aimed to appeal at our voyeuristic tendencies, and we’re all guilty of it.”

Ricky also took the opportunity to have a pop at social-media sites such as Twitter – even though he’s a regular tweeter himself.

He said: “I’ve lived through the best 50 years of humanity and now it’s going the other way.

“Twitter was the one which sort of started popularity being more important than being right.

“People have picked up symptoms of that in all walks of life because it’s all about likes, retweets, blocking someone who doesn’t agree with you so that you create your own echo chamber.”

Ricky’s own show Derek has been criticised for mocking people with learning disabilities, something he has vehemently denied.

Read more: Nicole Scherzinger storms off The X Factor following clash with audience

“He’s different, but then so are a lot of people,” he told disability rights campaigner Nicky Clark.

“He’s not the smartest tool in the box but he’s cleverer than Father Dougal [from Father Ted], and not as different as Mr Bean.

“He’s based on those people you meet who are on the margins of society. Nerds, loners, under-achievers.”

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