The British star regurgitated the gag from Ricky’s 2018 special Humanity almost word for word during his opening monologue for Monday night’s The Late Late Show.
The joke had been slightly tweaked to address Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover, with James telling viewers: “When you see Elon Musk talk about Twitter, he does this thing where he goes, ‘Well, it’s the town square.’”
“But it isn’t. Because if someone puts up a poster in a town square that says ‘guitar lessons available,’ you don’t get people in the town going, ‘I don’t want to play the guitar! I want to play the piano, you piece of shit!’” he went on.
“Well that sign wasn’t for you; it was for someone else. You don’t have to get mad about all of it!” James concluded to roars of laughter from the live studio audience.
But when the clip was shared on The Late Late Show’s Twitter page, fans quickly realized that it was incredibly familiar to them.
Before long, social media users had spliced the video of James telling the joke with clips from Ricky’s original performance four years ago — highlighting that they were almost exactly the same, right down to the mention of “guitar lessons.”
Ricky was among the Twitter users to notice, and he retweeted The Late Late Show’s video and sarcastically added, “The bit about the town square advert for guitar lessons is brilliant,” alongside a crying with laughter emoji.
But as the pile-on against James continued to grow, the comic appeared to feel bad about adding fuel to the fire and quickly deleted what he’d written.
When a fan asked why the comment had disappeared from his page, Ricky replied, “Started to feel sorry for him,” in reference to James.
But another tweet addressing the situation remains live on Ricky’s profile, with the comic confirming that James hadn’t asked his permission to use the joke before theorizing that it was actually stolen by somebody working in the CBS show’s writer’s room.
A fan tweeted Ricky, “Didn't deliver it like you though. I assume he asked to use that joke?” Ricky replied: “No. I reckon one of the writers 'came up with it' for him. I doubt he would knowingly just copy such a famous stand up routine word for word like that.”
Ricky also liked a series of shady messages about James, where he appeared to double down on his belief that the host was purposefully stitched up by somebody working on The Late Late Show.
Tweets that received Ricky’s online seal of approval include: “I truly believe that Corden must have pissed off one of his writers who then gave him a section of a hugely watched Ricky Gervais stand-up routine - So that Corden himself would get the flack for doing so…”
“His staff writers must really hate him!” another liked tweet reads. One more says: “It's almost as if a writer sabotaged him. EVERYONE knows that bit. He's going to have to apologize and fire the writer.”
Ricky also appeared to agree with some brutal jibes about James, including one person’s opinion that read: “Not only does he steal your joke, he somehow made it less funny. Remarkable talent.”
Another joked: “You don’t mind influencing other comedians ..he’s not a comedian.”
Ricky also expressed his agreement with a tweet that read: “Shocking that Corden used @rickygervais’ joke and couldn’t even be bothered to change the instrument.”
And he poked fun at James’s recent feud with Balthazar restaurateur Keith McNally as he liked a tweet that read: “Hey @rickygervais I hope James Corden didn't find a hair in that joke you served him?”
But despite the gags, Ricky ultimately appears to have forgiven James for the unfortunate blunder and showed solidarity as he retweeted The Late Late Show’s follow-up tweet from James that addressed the furor directly.
“Inadvertently told a brilliant Ricky Gervais joke on the show last night, obviously not knowing it came from him,” James acknowledged. “It’s brilliant, because it’s a Ricky Gervais joke. You can watch all Ricky’s excellent specials on Netflix. J x”
BuzzFeed News has contacted James’s representative for comment.
Keith, the restaurant’s owner, also called James a “tiny cretin of a man” as he called him out for two separate instances.
In the first report, James was accused of being “extremely nasty” to staff after he found a hair in his food before demanding rounds of drinks as he threatened to write the New York City establishment a negative Yelp review.
The second example was dated Oct. 9, less than two weeks prior to Keith’s social media post.
Here, Keith said that James was “yelling like crazy to the server” and making condescending comments that left the server “shaken” after his wife was given the wrong meal.
Keith’s post went viral at the time, and many people began to recirculate past allegations about James’s behavior on Twitter while others made their own claims against him.
Just six hours later, Keith returned to Instagram and said that James had called him up and “apologized profusely” for his behavior. But the messy feud exploded once again when James publicly responded to Keith’s Instagram post in a New York Times interview.
Here, James claimed that he hadn’t “done anything wrong, on any level” before dismissing the situation as “beneath” him.
Keith once again lashed out on Instagram as he called James out for “denying being abusive to [his] servers.”
“I wish James Corden would live up to his Almighty initials and come clean. If the supremely talented actor wants to retrieve the respect he had from all his fans (all 4 of them) before this incident, then he should at least admit he did wrong,” Keith continued.
And James acknowledged the Balthazar backlash on The Late Late Show last week, where he admitted that he made a “rude comment” to the server.
He went on to claim that his wife, Julia Carey, was served food that she is allergic to, which is why they sent it back. But when she was given the wrong meal for a third time James said that he “made a sarcastic, rude comment about cooking it myself.”
“It is a comment I deeply regret, I understand the difficulties of being a server — I worked shifts at restaurants for years. I have such respect and I value anyone that does such a job,” he added.
James also said that he originally felt as though he hadn’t done anything wrong. “Because I didn’t shout or scream, I didn’t get up out of my seat, I didn’t call anyone names or use derogatory language, I’ve been walking around thinking that I haven’t done anything wrong,” he explained. “But the truth is, I have. I made a rude comment, and it was wrong. It was an unnecessary comment, it was ungracious to the server.”
He went on to vow that he’ll apologize to the server in person the next time that he is in New York.
But James appeared to contradict what he’d said on his show in a new interview with the Times, where he argued: "I mean, it’s so odd. I never screamed at anyone, I didn’t shout, didn’t call anyone a name or swear or use derogatory language … How is it remotely a thing? And that be OK? And now it’s fact, and that’s that. When that person who posted the story wasn’t even there. Just so odd."
Keith responded by calling James a liar and claiming that his TV monologue was “contrived and phony,” before concluding: “I’ve given up on James Corden. For Good.”