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  • Richard Conniff writes about behavior, in humans and other animals, on two, four, six, and eight legs, plus the occasional slither.

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Bless You and Your Embarrassing Kinfolk, Ricky Gervais

Posted by Richard Conniff on September 14, 2010

A while back, I wrote a piece in Smithsonian Magazine under the title “Genealogy is Bunk.”  Ricky Gervais seems to think so, too, and it makes a writer named Megan Smolenyak at Huff Po just so furious.  Take it, Megan:

It’s hard to get genealogists riled up, but Ricky Gervais has succeeded. Not that he intended to. Asked in a recent interview whether he would ever appear on the celebrity-roots series Who Do You Think You Are?, he replied in standard Gervais fashion, “No. Who cares who the f*** you are? Oh God, I love it when they cry when they find out their great-great-grandmother was a prostitute. Really? I mean, really, do you care? It’s all come flooding back now, hasn’t it? Oh, the terrible memories of 150 years ago.”

As a researcher for the U.S. version of this series, as well as author of the companion book, I have a slightly different perspective. And it turns out there are lots of folks who care about others’ frisky, fearless and felonious forebears as NBC just renewed the series for another season.

Well, o.k., she’s feeling threatened in her pocketbook, and I can understand that.  (Though maybe not the part where she thinks renewal by NBC vindicates anything.)  But get this, where she goes off about what maybe “really concerns Gervais”:

With his father’s French-Canadian ancestry, the odds are dangerously high that he’s cousins of some sort with his recent Marriage Ref panel-mate, Madonna – not to mention Celine, Ellen DeGeneres, Alanis Morissette and Hillary Clinton. All of which leaves me wondering: What is it about French-Canadian heritage that spawns take-charge women . . . and Ricky Gervais?

That’s it–related to Celine Dion, and probably has a small penis, too.   It just reinforces my belief that genealogy is almost entirely a matter of social oneupmanship.  You can read my original article here.

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