Smart people know you can joke about any taboo subject - Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais has again insisted that comedians should be able to joke about any dark topic and that smart people can appreciate that.

In a chat with Stephen Colbert for The Late Show in the US, the comedian discussed why his comedy often deals with topics like "famine, AIDS, cancer and Hitler".

"I deal with taboo subjects because I want to take the audience to a place it hasn't been before," Gervais said.

"I think people get offended when they mistake the subject of a joke with the actual target. Smart people know you can deal with anything."

The creator and star of The Office was promoting his new stand-up comedy tour, in which he makes jokes about shocking, taboo subjects, as is his style.

Gervais said at the start of his new show he goes so far as to explain to the audience what irony means - as a joke - to give reassurance about the dark humour that is to follow.

"[Irony is when] I say something I don't really mean for comic effect, then you as an audience laugh at the 'wrong thing' because you know what the 'right thing' is," Gervais told Colbert.

"Humour gets us over bad stuff. That's why I laugh about terrifying, bad things. That's why comedians are obsessed with death. It gets us through, it's an inoculation to the real things that are going to happen.

"I think I celebrate all the best and worst things in humanity. I say we're all idiots, so it's okay."

Gervais's comedy tour had been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but he said it hasn't dated because his material about "famine, AIDS, cancer and Hitler" is evergreen.